Experts weigh in: Tips for freshman year  

We asked admissions experts from across the country for their advice on making the most of freshman year. The resounding message was that getting involved in campus life is crucial for student success and satisfaction. Hannah Stocks, Executive Director for Student Advising and Retention at Kennesaw State University says: “Get involved, get involved, get involved. College can definitely be overwhelming, but one of the best ways to acclimate is to try new things and find your people.”

» Read: 9 tips for going back to college

Another theme that emerged was the importance of asking for help when you need it. As the admissions team at Mount Vernon Nazarene University told us, “The transition from high school to college will be difficult – understand that and give yourself grace as you get used to this new way of life.” Whether you are struggling academically or are among the 44% of college students dealing with depression and anxiety, your college will offer support and resources to help you get back on track.

Finally, most respondents emphasized freshman year as a time to explore who you are and what matters to you. You don’t need to have your whole future planned out and declaring a major can wait until sophomore year. “I think the worst thing that a student can say is I didn’t try it out” wrote Stocks. “This is the time to figure out who you are and where your passions lie. Put yourself out there.”

The following is a sampling of responses we received from higher ed experts on making the most of freshman year.

Explore your new home! Becoming familiar with off-campus amenities and experiences is just as important as learning the lay of the land on campus.”

Admissions team at SUNY Polytechnic Institute 

“First, It’s okay to make mistakes, you are here to learn, that’s what education is all about.  Live, learn, make corrections, and grow. Second, understand that you are your greatest resource. Advocate for yourself, ask for help when you need it, and take the opportunity to get to know others around you. You have an opportunity to reinvent yourself within a new and supportive community, allow yourself to be vulnerable. It starts with saying ‘hi’! Third, as cliché as it sounds, get involved, explore your interests, start something new, and have fun!”

Justin Barton, Director of First Year Programs at Lindenwood University

“Try everything once! Also, know that this is your chance to start over! Start new healthy habits, get out of your comfort zone, and be the best version of yourself. If you’re nervous about making new friends, it’s okay! Everyone is! This is a unique moment in your life when everyone is open to making friends at the same time – so don’t be afraid to say hi to anyone and everyone!”

James Smith and Aubrey Bailey from the admissions team at Mount Vernon Nazarene University 

Get involved and step out of your comfort zone. Participating in extracurriculars will help you quickly make friends and maybe even identify some hidden interests and talents.

Don’t think you have to have it all figured out. General education courses will help you determine what interests you, and you may completely change your area of study, and that’s ok!

Budget your time. Get yourself a planner, paper or electronic, to help you manage time for class, studying, work, extracurriculars, and time for yourself!”

Dr. Tim Gossen, Senior Director of Admissions at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

“Take advantage of opportunities presented to you – whether it’s clubs and activities, social events, tutoring, extra help, or on-campus work opportunities. Get to know and connect with people – faculty, students, and administrative offices – making connections helps to make the transition easier and provides an integrated network of support.

Joseph Posillico, Ed.D., Vice President for Enrollment Management at The New York Institute of Technology

“Get involved! Being part of the learning community is important to your experience. Go to sporting events, plays, concerts, and art expos, as well as the other fun activities planned for you. If you cannot come to campus, join the online viewing parties, attend a social event in your location, or plan a trip to campus for the big events, such as Homecoming.”

Dr. Holly Gruhlke, Chief Enrollment Management and Communications Officer at Dickinson State University

“Make sure you have a calendar to track your class times, key due dates for each class assignment, and campus events you want to attend. Once you’re on campus, set up a tutoring schedule and get involved with a student organization. Studies show the more time students spend on campus, the more likely they are to do well academically. Check in with your academic advisor to see what your first year will entail, and what you’ll want to accomplish prior to sophomore year. It’s important to always plan ahead.”

Brian Hinshaw, Director of Pathway Advising and Dr. Eric Jessup-Anger, Director of Student Involvement at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

“Don’t wait until the first semester is almost over to find the resources available to you. Tutoring is available in virtually every subject, clubs welcome incoming first-year students, and jobs are available for work-study. The difference between high school and college is you might have to invest a little effort in seeking out such resources, but they are there! Work with your advisor, stop by our career connection office, talk to faculty and other students, and find what fits your niche.”

Laren Wenzell, Associate Director of Admission at Ohio Wesleyan University

“Be your authentic self and ‘show up’ wherever you are. The best part about starting college is embarking on a chapter of your life that is yet to be written. Along the way, you may be challenged. You may be asked to look inward at your true purpose. You may start to establish connections to different communities and forge friendships with a diverse array of individuals. The critical piece to all these experiences is to show up exactly how you are.”

Admissions Team at Old Dominion University

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