Navigating Your Freshman year

You finally made it! You’re out on your own, living in a dorm and making your own choices! Congratulations! This is a life-changing year for you, and no matter what you do, you will remember this year for the rest of your life. In the midst of the fun and excitement, all college freshmen make a few mistakes. Remember these pieces of advice, and you’ll ensure that your slip-ups are small and don’t have a noticeable impact on your ability to start your career off smoothly

Remember that  your GPA matters. Go to class and do the work. There’s no way around this. You want the highest GPA possible, as employers DO care about GPAs in entry-level hiring. Too often we talk with seniors with a 2.7 GPA and the reason it is so low is that they did very poorly their freshmen year.  Don’t create that kind of problem for yourself. If you are struggling, seek help. Many professors have tutors, and most colleges have plenty of resources that offer counseling and academic support. You should also be proactive and ward off any potential struggles by getting to know your professors. Which brings us to…

Get to know your professors. Chat with them before or after class and go to their office hours during the first few weeks of class. Tell them you’d like to do well in their class and ask if they have any particular advice. As the semester continues, visit them to talk about your ideas for projects, and bring rough drafts of your writing to their office. With any luck, you’ll hit it off with a professor in an area of study that you find yourself interested in, and you just might have found an adviser.

Try out a few activities, and find one that gets you excited. Stretching out and exploring is a very important part of college – especially during your freshmen year.  Get involved in some activities that are a bit out of your comfort zone – but interesting to you.  Never done Fencing – consider it!  Think you might want to be a journalist – try writing for the newspaper.  You will have time to narrow this all down next year and get really engaged in a handful of activities where you really make a contribution – because that can be a fantastic resume builder.

Try out an “impractical” class. Or two! Odds are good that you could not take classes like “Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse: Catastrophes & Human Behavior” or “Philosophy of Star Trek” in high school. But you just might be able to at your college. If you don’t see a topic that grabs your attention, ask around to find out who the best professors on campus are. It does not matter so much what they are teaching – engaging, creative and passionate professors can, and will, change your life if you let them. Know when to say no.  The temptation to skip class is sometimes going to be strong. You stayed up to late, or someone asks a quick favor. College students tend to normalize skipping class, and act like it’s not a big deal. Don’t fall into this trap. Going to class is your job, so treat it as such. Activities, meetings, helping a friend get to the airport, going to a routine doctor’s appointment, talking to your sister on the phone, etc. all should be done during hours you’re not in class.

Have fun. Make lots of new friends, go to parties, and enjoy your freedom. Just make sure that your social life is under control. It may seem like everyone around you is partying all the time, but your classmates that are headed towards success are fitting in plenty of time to for schoolwork.