One’s freshman year of college could be a scary time. Everything is new- living on your own in a dorm, meeting new people, or commuting to school and trying to juggle a part-time job and school. College entails new responsibilities and it could seem overwhelming. Looking back on when I was a freshman, I wish I could tell myself things I didn’t know then, but only learned from experience. For this year’s freshmen, here some advice from a person who has been there, done there and felt that.
1. You’re NOT in high school anymore—Duh, what am obvious one, right? In high school you have teachers babying you and letting you slide if you hand in a late assignment. They told you directly what they wanted you to do for each assignment. Well, it is not quite that easy anymore in college.
Just because Monmouth has a smaller student to teacher ratio, doesn’t mean that every professor is going to be lenient because they know you better (not to say that some professors aren’t that way). Most professors will not accept late assignments, will not let you retake a test if you did poorly on it, and will not remind you of due dates. You are an adult now. No more babying by the teacher.
2. Get involved—I am sure you have had this one drilled into your heads enough. I can’t stress how important this one is. I did not do one campus activity my freshman year and sure, I was still extremely happy at Monmouth, but did I have any friends? Nope. Get involved in something you have an interest in. There are so many different fraternities/ sororities/clubs/sports/activities to get involved in on campus.
Student Services Assistant, Janet Dustman says, “First off, getting involved allows students to become connected to their school. For freshmen that have just left their parents and friends at home, it helps them discover new friends with similar interests. Joining clubs or organizations that they are interested in allows them to discover their passions and strengths. I feel that this will follow them all through life.”
Megan McGowan, Assistant Director of Student Activities, says, “The Student Activities Office’s job is to be a student’s resource for getting involved on campus. It is our [the office] responsibility to bridge the gap between a student and all of the diverse involvement opportunities that are available on campus. If you are confused, lost, or frustrated with finding your place on campus we can help give you direction on some things that might be a good fit for you to try or help you find what you are looking for. Some of the ways that we do this would be by hosting the Involvement Fair, holding new club interest meetings, sponsor the calendar of events, send out a weekly email of campus event opportunities, and organize club contact information.”
Dustman seems to have a similar idea: “We try to encourage students to join clubs that interest them. We try our best to encourage them to go outside of their comfort zones…try anything. One of the best things about college is having the opportunity to try new things.”
3. Don’t let this new freedom get the best of you– Freshmen, don’t let college life get the best of you…and your grades. Freedom is the most beautiful and terrifying part of college. You can eat at 2:00 a.m., let your laundry pile up in the corner of your room, sleep in past noon, whatever you want, you have no one to stop you.
The only problem that many of us have experienced with this freedom is that when school starts to not feel like school anymore, your grades tend to not look so golden anymore. Learn to have a balance with fun and when it’s time to crack down and study.
4. Don’t completely shut your parents out—Especially if you have a great relationship with them. I did not let my parents step foot on campus because I was sure it would be embarrassing. In reality, no one cares or is paying attention to you having your parents walk around campus with you. Don’t exclude your parents from your life when you go to college. If anything, keeping them up to date on your campus activities (PG only) will make them feel involved and will make them become less of a helicopter parent. Plus, it puts them at ease too; they love you and only want the best for you. Let them know how happy your are being a Hawk.
5. Your professor’s syllabus is God—Blasphemous, yes, but totally true. Live, eat and breathe those 14 pages. The second you get that syllabus, print it and write down all of those assignments due dates and exam dates in some sort of planner. Whether that planner is the one MU gives you or just your iPhone calendar, do it. Your future freshman self will thank you.
6. Don’t be afraid of office hours—Office hours can be intimidating. One-on-one with your professor could sound intimidating. Yet, office hours are so important in not only understanding the material, but in building a relationship with your professor. Going to office hours shows to the professor that you truly care about your grades in class and are striving to improve them. Even if you still don’t understand the course material after going to office hours, the professor may change that C to a B- because they appreciate your efforts.
7. It is okay to be undecided—I came into college as an undecided major and stressed myself out so much over choosing one that I ended up choosing something I did not want. I even ended up changing my major two more times after that. Choosing a major shouldn’t be as stressful as we make it out to be. It is totally fine to be undecided.
Dr. Chris Hirschler, Faculty Director of Study Abroad and First Year Seminar Professor, says, “Often times, freshmen do not use the concept of reverse engineering. Start with the goal in mind and work backwards. Want to go to medical school? What GPA do you need? What prerequisites must be taken? What strategies can be implemented to earn a 3.5 GPA or higher? When should an assignment be started to earn an A?”
Even if you are undecided, the concept of reverse engineering, as Dr. Hirschler suggests, is a great start. You can make these ideas shorter term. Starting with a positive and determined attitude is what leads you to making the right decisions. You have to think with your goal in mind; it doesn’t matter whether that goal is long-term or short-term, a goal is a goal.
8. Network—Plain and simple. Start networking with professors your freshman year. Building a relationship with a professor in your field of study is so important. Not only will you learn so much from them, it could help you down the line for internships and jobs.
Jaclyn Ferriso, a junior accounting student, said, “Getting friendly with your professors is so important because you never know when you might need their help, whether it be for a class assignment, a recommendation, or just for general life/career chats. They are such an important resource to us.”
9. Don’t hold back—College is your opportunity to truly be yourself. In college, people aren’t judging you for having purple hair or being obsessed with a boy band. Be yourself! That is the only way you will make friends that will last a lifetime.
10. Make friends in your classes—Don’t dread going to class. Meet people you like hanging out with. If anything, these new friends can be a lifeline to you: when you need an answer about an assignment in class and your professor is horrible with answering emails you are going to want a friend in the class to ask. These new friends can also be study buddies for midterms and finals.
11. Treat yourself every once in a while—Yeah, I said it. You aced your math exam, so buy yourself that new shirt or those sneakers. You deserve it. Don’t break the bank, but a little incentive can go a long way.
12. College is mentally draining—You could’ve guessed this regarding the workload, but I mean mentally draining in regard to being an adult. There are so many more social and personal aspects of college that you previously did not have to deal with.
Creating and managing a schedule that includes everything from doing laundry to doing homework is difficult. You truly have to act and be an adult now. And the responsibilities that come along with being an adult is mentally draining. That, on top of all of the difficult course work, is very challenging to juggle. Finding ways to deal with the stresses of adulthood can be difficult too. I wish I had prepared myself for such vast changes. Everyone is aware of this transition from teen to adult, but no one but yourself can truly prepare for this drastic change.
13. Relax—Freshman year is stressful enough with all of the incredible changes, don’t put so much pressure on yourself. I suggest all of these things, but the most important thing is your happiness. Do only what you can handle. Pressuring yourself to do too much and get perfect grades only creates problems and unhappiness. I think this piece of advice is something we all need to remember, regardless of class year. If we try to do too much we get overwhelmed and start second-guessing our choices. We need to find a balance.
The best thing I could have reminded myself freshman year is something that fictional science teacher Miss Frizzle from one of my favorite childhood shows, The Magic School Bus, always said: “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!”