LAUNCH consultant Samantha Deleon shares her top 10 tips for making your freshman year a great success!
So you’re going to college. You’re excited for a new chapter in your life; to learn something new; and to develop yourself academically, professionally, socially, spiritually, and all the other -ly words that can fill your soul.
During this time you’ll be challenged in ways you never knew were possible. You will struggle with balancing school, maybe a job, extracurricular clubs, and friend groups. So here’s a top 10 List to help you thrive in your first year.
Top 10 Tips for Your First Year of College
1. Get to know your professors during office hours. They end up sitting in their offices or a Zoom meeting that was set aside for YOU. Don’t wait to show up until your grades are faltering. Come early on and let them know why you took the class and what you hope to accomplish. This can also build bridges for internships, research, or a letter of recommendation later on.
2. Know your academic advisor. different schools have different resources, so find out what's available to you. Some schools have an academic advisor for the college and some have academic advisors for your major. Let these advisors help you schedule courses and let them know your time restraints or goal to study abroad, etc. I was a first-generation college student who coordinated the Metra train from the suburbs with my sisters. So I let my academic advisors help me with my schedule so my classes could fall within a certain time in order to help me graduate within 4 years. I still remember my advisor in undergrad who would make these half sheets of paper with my tentative schedule of classes!
3. Take gen-eds that interest you! College is the time to explore, so take a foreign language class or learn something completely new. Some of the classes I remember to this day required field trips to the Art Institute of Chicago to look at artwork. It was great to take public transportation or walk around a city to get my homework done.
4. Consider non-traditional academic options. If you finished your gen-eds because you had dual enrollment, IB/AP, etc… see if a 4+1, 3+2, coterminal/accelerated masters program exists and if you are eligible for scholarships. Again, talk to your academic advisor for guidance on this to graduate with a masters as well!
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5. Go out of your comfort zone to meet people. Talk to someone in front of you, in back of you, to your right and to your left within the first week of classes. Say hi. It’s just that simple. Ask an open-ended question like, "What classes are you taking this semester?" or "What’s your major"? You never know when may meet a future long-time-bestie.
6. Read your emails about events on campus. The best ones are the events that have free food and opportunities to just meet people. Regardless if you’re an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, you’ll find at least one person to connect with.
7. Fix your resume in your first semester. Ask the career center to help you revise it and have multiple iterations for the job you want. This will give you a nice advantage when it's time for summer internships.
8. Find an on-campus job. Check with your career center or go to the admissions office and ask to be a student ambassador. Give tours, answer phone calls and emails, and talk to prospective students and families. Get paid and get to know the staff. It will help you build a nice network because they basically know everyone else on campus.
9. Plan for an experience that will allow you to grow professionally: an internship, a study abroad, research projects, or conferences. I did three internships that allowed me amazing experiences that I still talk about to this day.
10. Be curious. Explore, meet people, and ask questions. This is the time in your life to figure out what you want to do, who you want to spend time with, and where you want your life to go in terms of a career.
Above all, relax and have fun. With these 10 tips in mind, you'll be ready to ace your first year with a well-balanced social, academic, and professional freshman experience.
Samantha Deleon is an active member of International ACAC, Study Illinois, and is pursuing an MBA through the Illinois Institute of Technology. She always carves out time to Peloton or bike outdoors along Lake Michigan or around the Chicagoland area.