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Making the most of the college experience

Written by Brianna Vassallo

Advice for new students

Whether you are a freshman or a transfer student, I’m sure you are filled with numerous emotions: excitement, fear, anxiety, curiosity, anticipation. You might be missing your family, high school friends or even your pet. Don’t worry, though, because it’s normal to experience all of these emotions at the beginning of a semester in a new setting.

First, take deep breaths and try not to overthink as your to-do list piles up. Remember not to let emotions or worries stop you from enjoying this new adventure. You’re guaranteed to have both ups and downs, so don’t let the bad experiences stop you from appreciating the good ones.

Last year, this time was both exciting and challenging for me. I was constantly meeting new people. It was nerve-wracking to talk to strangers, but it got much easier with time and practice. While I got better at making conversation, it took a long time to find people I connected with.

Almost a month into the school year, I met my first really good friend through Road Trip, but freshmen can now participate in the new Spark retreat program. Because I stepped out of my comfort zone to go on that trip, my freshman year went from being lonely to one of the best years of my life.

For me, freshman year was filled with countless memories. In addition to the Road Trip, I went to Valley Forge, a Harry Potter Festival, the Eastern State Penitentiary and Washington D.C. I also saw two concerts, met one of my favorite singers and got dressed up for a Black and White Ball.

My most importantadvice is take advantage of campus activities. Go to events. Join some clubs. Once you do, you’ll be rewarded in more ways than you can imagine.

The next inevitable topic is classes. That’s what you’re here for, right? While the social aspect of college is important, staying diligent in your studies takes priority. That means showing up to every class, participating and doing the homework. The work can get  tedious sometimes, but that homework grade can really help you.

Another important part of classes is participation. Speaking up in class was tough for me, because I needed time to think of responses, and the topic would often switch before I got to say a word. In addition, I worried what my classmates thought of my answers. To solve these issues, I became more proactive in my input. As soon as I got a thought in my head, I raised my hand, so I had a better chance of being called on. Once I started talking, I stopped caring about what my peers thought because I realized they weren’t going to remember what I said later in the day.

These strategies helped me participate regularly and become more confident in myself.  Another thing I learned is try not to skip your early morning classes. I missed a few, and I had to put in more work to catch up later in the semester. Something else I discovered freshman year was the importance of going to my professors’ office hours. They want you to succeed, and they are more approachable than you think. If you put in the effort, not only will you do well, but thrive in your classes.

In the first semester of college, it sometimes seems impossible to keep up with schoolwork and also make time for activities and a social life. Don’t forget about sleeping—that’s crucial. But take it from me: it’s possible to get everything you need done and still have time for yourself. It’s all about time management and deciding what needs to get done now versus what can be done at another time.

My family tells me all the time that college will be the best four years of my life. Whether you decide to believe that or not is up to you. Whatever you choose to believe, enjoy your college experience because so many wonderful adventures await you.

About the author

Brianna Vassallo

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