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.

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.