Thursday, September 11, 2014

Shaylene's Tip of the Week: What I Wish I Knew My First Year

I remember my freshman year on campus like it was yesterday. I was nervous, afraid I wouldn't be able to find my classes, and worried about adjusting to college life in general. However, within a week, those fears were gone. My freshman year at UMass was fantastic. I had interesting classes, made amazing friends, and had a wonderful year overall. However, looking back as an upperclassman, there are still a few things that I wish I knew.
Here is some advice:

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Everyone has heard the saying, “There’s no such thing as a dumb question” and it’s absolutely true! You just have to be proactive. Interested in a certain major? Go talk to a department and learn about the types of classes they offer. Are you undeclared and have a question about your schedule? Drop by the Undergraduate Advising Office and get advice.  Believe me, if you have a question on just about anything, there will be someone on campus who can help answer it.
2. Get to Know Your Professors
On the first day of class, the professor hands out the syllabus that lists the assignments and course requirements. But it also lists another important detail: their office hours. If I could go back to my freshman year, I would visit my professors during their office hours more often. They have these hours specifically for students to ask questions about readings and assignments due in class. Not only are their office hours extremely useful to have an assignment clarified, but they’re also very interesting knowledgeable people as well. They are passionate about the subjects they teach and it’s great to just sit down and talk to them.
3. Explore
When I first toured UMass I remember my tour guide saying, “You can always make a big school feel smaller, but you can’t make a small school feel bigger.” I couldn't agree more with that statement. While it’s great to make friends with the people on your floor, don’t keep yourself holed up all the time. The campus is HUGE and there is always something to do every day of the week. Check Campus Pulse for upcoming events and look for flyers posted around campus. Take advantage of the cultural events, plays, lectures, and programs offered on campus. Don’t stop there either! Explore Amherst and Northampton. Both are college towns that hold a lot of events and have great local places to eat out with friends.
4. Get Involved and Try New Things
I know the college is already a new experience as it is, but don’t be afraid to break out of your comfort zone a little bit. Four years seems like a long time, but believe me, it will go by in a fast. My advice is to join a club or two on campus that really interests you. There are hundreds of clubs to join and it’s a great way to make friends with people who share similar passions as you.
5. Take Advantage of the Resources on Campus
Even now, I am still learning about the many resources available to students on campus. A few of the biggest resources I wish I took advantage of as a freshman were the Learning Resource Center, the Writing Center, and the Academic Advising Link which are all conveniently located in the library. Not only can you get help on your assignments and classes, but they’re all free! C’mon, who doesn't like free things? Besides that, there are other resources such as the gym, the craft center, and Campus Copy & Design, and that barely scratches the surface of what’s available to you here on campus.
You have four years and thousands of opportunities in front of you. Take advantage of them and make the most of it.

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