Freshman Year: Four Ways to Conquer It
In honor of our 2-year anniversary, we are dusting off our writing chops and relaunching our blog! We missed you! Hopefully you incoming freshmen are excited to start college within the next few weeks (or right now!) and are preparing yourselves to do so. The preparation doesn’t have to be anything too crazy. It’s all a matter of getting yourself mentally ready to tackle a new challenge and getting some tips on how to make the most out of your college experience. Here, I’ll give you 4 things to make sure you do in your freshman year to set yourself apart from your classmates and lay a great foundation for success in the future.
Your first day of class (aka Syllabus Day) is foundational for your success in that particular class. If planners work for you, I’d recommend taking all of the important dates i.e. test days and assignment due dates and write in your planner. Do this for each class and you’ll have a comprehensive calendar with all of the important for the whole semester for your entire course load. This way everything is in one place so you won't have to flip through all of your syllabi looking for due dates all of the time. This also allows you to plan ahead. If you put all of your test dates and due dates on one calendar, you can see when certain times in your semester will be busier than others. You can use the calmer times in the semester to get ahead so that when things get a little hectic you won’t be as overwhelmed.
Read your Syllabi
This is super important. It may seem obvious but having a good understanding of the class structure and the professor’s expectations of the students is essential if you want to do well. But every professor is different. Some professors will go through the syllabus on the first day of class and never bring it back up again because it is the students’ responsibility to make sure they know what’s going on in the class. Other professors are a little more hand-holdy. Some of them will have you take a “syllabus test” so that they make sure that you read it thoroughly. Then there are the professors who are a little more ruthless. These professors pass out the syllabus or post it online on the first day but they jump straight into a lecture on day 1. No explanation and no reading it together as a class. They simply make it available to you and go on about their day. I experienced all three. Moral of the story is that it is your responsibility as the student to make sure you read and understand the syllabus so that you aren’t caught off guard. However, do not be afraid to ask the professor questions if you’re in need of more clarification.
Get to Know your Professors
If you go to a school with a huge student population this can be a challenge. When you’re in a class with 100+ students there is less opportunity for you and the professor to interact with each other but that doesn't make building relationships with faculty any less important. One way to stand out is to participate in class. If you’re in a class where opportunities for class participation are slim, then going to office hours is another good way to build those relationships. Office hours are times throughout the week when professors make themselves available to speak with students. They literally sit in their office on campus and wait for students to come talk to them. It’s sad when students don’t take advantage of that. You can find out when and where office hours are in your syllabus (wink, wink). Getting to know my professors was great for me because it led to me getting access to opportunities that I would not have had without doing that. Professors wrote letters of recommendation for me, invited me to conduct research with them (which looks great on a resume by the way), and allowed me to get internships that led to me getting job opportunities after I graduated. Professors love students who take initiative, so doing a little extra to build that relationship can go a long way.
One thing that I wish I had done more of my freshman year was to get involved in student organizations on campus. I was taking a full course load (15 credit hours–5 classes) and I was working part time but I didn’t involve myself in organizations until my sophomore year. Granted, things turned out just fine for me in the end, but I didn’t get to know too many people until I started joining orgs. College isn’t just about going to class and getting an A. College is also an experience that you’ll never forget if you take advantage of all that it has to offer. College is a diverse place with people from all walks of life, socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities, nationalities, etc. Getting involved will allow you to get to know people who are different from you. Challenge yourself to get to know people and hang out with people that maybe you wouldn’t normally hang out with. Ultimately, it will cause you to become a more socially aware, well-rounded person and professional. That is something you can’t learn in a classroom.
Written by Gabrielle Sims, Founder of Secondary Success and Beyond