Making the most of freshman year

Blake Rozelle ‘20, Pace University

Some students may know exactly what they want to do or have no clue. It’s important freshman year to take the classes necessary to find where you want to head.

Explore different majors

I knew what I wanted to do going into school. I took a lot of general education classes when first coming into school, which only proved to me that I was going for the right major. Other people may find the opposite. Some people go in for a business degree and find that in the first two courses that it’s not for them. Have an open mind for everything and go based on what feels right.

Find a club

Each campus is typically filled with many types of clubs. Find at least one club that interests you as a starting point to find a community to fit into. For example, I began at a club called WPAW, where we do radio, video, and photos. I went there as a freshman and got on the executive board as treasurer. At this point, I’m a senior and president of the organization. I’m glad that I explored clubs as a freshman, so that I could work my way towards what I’m doing now. 

Get to know your department

Just like finding a community through a club, you can also connect with students in the same academic department. You’ll all be taking a lot of the same courses, so it’s good to know everyone’s faces and names.

I started working in my department as a media lab manager. This allowed me to work with the film equipment that I would be using for my projects in the future. I also became very involved in helping events in my department, so I got to meet most of the professors and a lot of people from the department. At this point as a senior, I know most of the students and professors and have been able to film many projects with them because of the connections I’ve made. The more people I’ve met, the more I’ve been able to expand my work and try new things. 

Get to know your professors

Getting to know your professors can be a good opportunity in many different ways. At the end of the day, they may be recommending you for a job in the future. Professors are different than high school teachers. They are typically more open to talk about anything and get to know you quite well.

Some of the professors at Pace have been great mentors for me. I spend a lot of time with them in and outside of class – we eat together sometimes, and they’ve even helped me with my film shoots. They’ve given me great experience and recommendations for the real world after college. 

Don’t be afraid to be open

It may be scary at first when arriving at school. No one knows anyone. Everyone is in a new environment, which is very intimidating. But being yourself will help you find a group that you enjoy being around. A lot of college students try to be someone they are not so they can “fit in” but end up being unhappy with the groups they find. There are all types of people in college, so just be yourself and find the people you like!

Enjoy your time

Lastly, take advantage of all the time you have in college. The time goes very fast once you get into a general routine. Days become weeks and weeks become months. Try to do something different every week to keep it interesting. I’ve found that the more robotic the weeks are, the less I enjoyed them. My favorite moments in college have been the most spontaneous ones. Spend time with new friends. Go on a hike. Go to all the school events. Freshman year is possibly the best year of college, so make sure to take advantage of it.

Finding LGBTQ+ Friendly Colleges

Jeremy Caldwell ’18, Tufts University

The college search can be draining. There are so many questions to ask: do they have the major I want? Do I like the location? Is it too big or too small? The good news is, many colleges overlap in what they offer, so there might be multiple right answers for you.

However, for LGBTQ+ students, it’s important to ask a few extra questions. It’s one thing to find the right academic or social fit, but you also need to find a college that has resources to support you, and a student body that supports you, too. This doesn’t have to be intimidating, but it can be challenging if you aren’t out to everyone yet. Don’t worry – we’ll help you figure out the questions to ask and the way to find a positive college experience.

Check the score

Campus Pride Index creates a list of the top LGBTQ+ friendly schools in the country. This can be a great place to start in your college search, but take it with a grain of salt. Their list is a sort of checklist – does the college have clubs for LGBTQ+ students? A support center? These are great resources, but they don’t necessarily account for your entire college experience. So start with checking, but then do your own research to figure out what it would actually be like to attend that school.

What to research

Knowing what to ask can be especially tricky. A few good places to start:Do they have gender-neutral bathrooms?

  • Do they have gender-neutral housing options?
  • Are you allowed to select your name and gender pronouns?
  • Do they have health resources for LGBTQ+ (specifically transgender or gender non-conforming) students?
  • Do they have an LGBTQ+ student center? Is it lumped in with a larger “diversity center” or is it actually tailored to your needs?
  • What clubs are available to LGBTQ+ students? Are there support groups as well as social clubs?

These last two can be really important. Many colleges set up “diversity centers” as a nod to their minority students, but these centers might not be well-funded, or might not have the resources to actually serve all different groups. It’s also important to find groups of students you can rely on for support, not just administrators and adults.

Talk to students

The best way to get answers is to talk with a student. There are a few ways you can do this:

  1. Go on a tour. If you get to pick your own tour guide, try to find a student that works with the LGBTQ+ center. If not, still ask questions. If your tour guide has no idea what life is like for LGBTQ+ students on campus, there might not be a very open LGBTQ+ student life on campus.
  2. Send an email. If the college you’re looking at does have an LGBTQ+ student center, or even a diversity center, they probably have a phone number or email address listed. Feel free to contact them and ask to speak with a current student. This is a great way to get your questions answered by someone who is probably in the same position as you, rather than an employee of the college who will give you simpler, potentially less genuine answer.

This might feel like a lot of work, but it’s a good way to make sure you’ll be comfortable and happy wherever you choose to go to school. College is a matter of fit, and you’re too good to go to a school that won’t support you for who you are. No matter what, don’t be afraid to ask questions and be yourself. You’ve got this. 

What I wish I knew when choosing colleges

Jack Kubineck ’23, Cornell University

When I was in high school, I spent countless hours poring over college websites and online forums trying to figure out which colleges would suit me best. After less than a week of college, I realized that most of the research I had done wasn’t helpful, and there was a lot that I didn’t know while going through the college process. Here are a few of the things I wish I had known before applying to college.

Most colleges offer the same opportunities

While being bombarded by college emails during my junior year of high school, I began to notice that every college said the same things about themselves. “Our professors love engaging with students! There are like 57 sports teams here! We have a squirrel watching club! Wow! Quirky!” The truth is, most colleges offer many of the same opportunities. The majority of colleges have the same types of clubs, offer the same types of classes, and create similar career options. So, in a lot of ways, you can’t really go wrong when choosing a college, because all colleges will offer similar opportunities.

The key to finding the right college for you, though, is learning to look past the fluff that colleges put in their admissions brochures and finding what makes a college unique. Does a college offer a less common major that you’re interested in? Are there study abroad options that interest you? Does the college have a really good basketball team? Find out what matters most to you in your college search.

Your environment matters

Colleges all offer similar opportunities, but they don’t all have similar campus atmospheres. It’s easy to only focus on how prestigious a college is or how good its academics are, but your mental health is more important than either of those things, so you should pick a college where you will enjoy yourself and be able to thrive. Love the outdoors? Then look for schools with nature nearby. Vegetarian? Then look for schools with good vegetarian dining options. Hate the cold? Then try to go somewhere warm for college.

Besides the school’s physical environment, though, colleges also have different social atmospheres. Some schools have big fraternity/sorority party scenes, while other colleges have social scenes consisting more of hanging out in smaller groups or at school-sponsored events. At some colleges, many of the students leave to go home on weekends. And, more broadly, your college experience will play a part in shaping the person you become. The juniors and seniors at different colleges will be you in a few years, so ask yourself if you want to be more like the students at any particular college.

Visiting colleges is a great way to answer many of these questions. If you aren’t able to visit the colleges you’re interested in, CollegeFindMe provides virtual campus tours from students at colleges across the country.

Sometimes you just have a feeling

Looking for colleges is stressful, and it’s okay to not have all the answers to which college suits you best. At the end of the day, I ended up picking the college that felt right to me. Do your research and think hard about what you want to get out of your college experience, but know that at the end of the day, you won’t know everything about your college until you become a student there. Trust your gut, and you can’t go wrong.

Self Care in College

Amaya White ‘22, Montclair State University

After completing a busy week of classes, finishing homework, attending rehearsals, and having a social life, it’s important to find time to unwind and focus on yourself. At times, college can be stressful when dealing with so many tasks at once but it’s good to plan a moment at least one day a week or once a day for yourself. Personally I use my Monday mornings as my time to decompose and organize the rest of my week. Here are some of my favorite things to do to decompose!

Listen to a podcast

Lately, I’ve found it really nice to tune into podcast while cleaning my room or getting ready for the day. It’s as if someone’s having a dialogue with me in my room about something I’m interested in learning about or discussing. For instance, I’ve been listening to The Daily by the New York Times lately. They’ve been addressing everything having to do with the impeachment hearings and informing people about exactly what this investigation is supposed to solve. I’m really interested in listening to podcasts that are informative about my passions. Some of my favorite podcasts include The Ensemblist, The BE Way, and A Balancing Act which are all centered around being in the performing arts. 

Journal

I’m very interested in being crafty and organizing things so journaling has always been a fun task for me. I like getting artsy by drawing doodles and pasting pictures into my notebook. I’ll write about what inspires me, my growth in my classes, and my goals. I think it’s important to keep yourself accountable for all your dreams and aspirations and writing them all down in one place is a simple way of doing that. 

Treat yourself

Sometimes the dining hall just doesn’t cut it in college and you yearn to have something new for your taste buds. I recommend doing uber eats  or grubhub and ordering food that fuels your soul. My roommate purchases a smoothie bowl once a week because she loves fruit and there aren’t always many fruit options on campus. I enjoy spending a few dollars to get food that I don’t always have access to on campus because it’s something to look forward to when you’ve finished all of your work. 

Meditate

I learned in a summer intensive that if you feel very low in energy it’s beneficial to do a guided meditation for ten minutes rather than nap. Napping can confuse your body and cause you to get less sleep when one goes to sleep at night. However, meditation almost always rejuvenates the body. So if you have a hectic schedule that only allows for a short amount of time for self care, I highly recommend doing a five to ten minute guided meditation

Cook

I’m fortunate enough to have a stove and an oven in the common area in my school and I love taking advantage of that. I love baking and cooking food! One of my favorite things to do with my friends is bake cookies and brownies. They’re so tasty!

Overall, find things that bring you joy and designate a specific time to do that at least once a week. It’s important that you remain a good student but it’s more important that you take time for yourself so that you don’t overwork yourself. Remember, you matter!

Tips for First Generation College Applicants

First of all, congratulations on going to college! You’re the first person in your family to do so, and everyone in your family is proud of you. Don’t take this for granted; it takes an extraordinary and brave person to be the first to go to college. That said, college is probably unlike anything you’ve done before, so here’s a few tips to get you through your first year and eventually to graduation!

First Generation

First Generation students may face challenges in college that are unique from their peers’. A major one is adapting to the new environment of college. There are often unspoken rules, norms, and expectations that not all First Gen students will understand at first. Another sneaking issue many college students face is the hidden expenses of college, which may catch First Gen students in particular off guard. It can also be difficult to manage all the different academic expectations and resources, but students can definitely learn how to navigate college quickly and effectively.

Seek academic resources

You’re going to college for a reason: to get your degree! College journey will put you through some of the toughest obstacles and challenges academically. Luckily, you don’t have to face these challenges alone. Many colleges offer a wide variety of academic help, from tutors to office hours with professors where you can go over assignments and readings. Some schools even have programs designed to help you develop study habits and a study schedule.

Make friends

College is also about the experience! Don’t forget to make friends, especially ones who complement your study habits. Having someone who helps you can keep you on track and focused when essential test dates and projects are coming up is a great way to stay motivated while still having fun. Look for someone with a different perspective from you so you can bounce ideas off of them, but who also has a similar work ethic. One of the best things about college is that anything, even studying, can become a social activity. 

Visit the financial aid office

Meeting with the financial aid office to discuss your expenses will help you avoid overspending or any sneaking bills. More often than not, these advisors will help you and keep you updated with any looming charges. It might feel awkward to be in there a lot, but know it will pay off substantially in the long run. Also, remember that you aren’t alone. The financial aid office is there for a reason: to help students like you succeed! 

Take chances

College is really a chance to try everything you’ve ever wanted to try. Want to play a sport? Try out for a team! Take classes on subjects you’ve never even heard of before. Study abroad. Join clubs with weird names and make friends with people different from you. At the end of the day, you’ll learn more about yourself if you go out on a limb and try something new!

Stay healthy

College can be super stressful, which can affect your health. Pulling all-nighters or drinking too much coffee can take a toll, especially if you don’t give yourself the chance to relax, stretch, and have fun. Take advantage of healthy options for food, gyms on campus, and outdoor spaces. These will help you stay in shape both physically and mentally. 

Don’t doubt yourself

You’re the first one from your family to go to college. You’re there for a reason, so don’t forget it. College journey takes a lot of hard work and dedication, but you’ve already proven that you have what it takes to get into a great school. Now it’s time to show off what makes you such an excellent student!