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I Wish Someone Told Me: 9 Things All First-Year Students Need to Hear

April 25, 2023

By: April George '23

Transitioning to college from high school is not an easy task. It will take time to adjust to the freedom and responsibility that your new environment offers, but it is not impossible. Before starting classes, I wish someone would have advised me on what to expect and how to deal with the challenges that come with being a college student.

After almost four years at the University of Mount Union, I like to think that I have it figured out. Here is my advice for incoming first year students:

 1. Get involved

There are so many amazing opportunities at Mount Union’s campus for student involvement. There are nearly 90 different student organizations that students can explore and be a part of. From academic organizations like Student Senate, diversity organizations like Black Student Union to Greek life organizations like Alpha Chi Omega, everyone will find something that they are passionate about. A full list of these organizations can be found in the Student Organization Directory.

 2. Professors aren’t scary

 When I first arrived at Mount Union, I was one of the students that was afraid to ask their professor for help and I definitely regret it. Being able to ask my professors for help when I was struggling would have made my first semesters easier. Now, I know that if I have a question about an assignment, am struggling with the coursework, or just have a general question I can stop by my professors’ office hours or email them, and they will help me. I’ll let you in on another secret: professors want you to be successful in their classes and they will do what they can to help you achieve that.

Professor and students sitting at a table

 3. Take classes that will benefit you in the future

If you are on track with the classes that are required for your major or if you have some elective slots that need to be filled, choose a class that will benefit you when it comes to looking for a job. My required classes have been extremely helpful, but I have also learned a lot of useful information from the classes that I took simply because I wanted to.

 4. Pack Smart

When moving from home to your dorm, you don’t need to pack everything to have a successful first year. You need to choose carefully what you want to pack, though. Especially moving into a residence hall with a roommate. Bring items that you genuinely think that you will wear or need while at school. You don’t need your prom dress from last year, I promise. However, there are a few things that you absolutely need to remember to pack, or you will be left scrambling when you need them. Make sure that you pack a winter coat, a raincoat, an umbrella, boots (preferably ones that are good for rain and snow), a fan, shower shoes, and a screwdriver or small tool kit.

5. Don't overwork yourself

 The idea of getting out of college earlier may be tempting, but don’t overload yourself with credits, especially your first semester. During your first semester you can see how many credit hours you can handle and then plan out your future schedules from there. Many students schedule their classes so that they have some free days during the week. If that works for you, that’s wonderful, but this type of schedule means that you have some long and exhausting days ahead of you. Lastly, take classes that fit best with your existing life style. For example, if you like to stay up late and sleep-in don’t schedule a 7:30 class unless it is necessary.

6. Have a self-care routine

College can be stressful and it’s important to do what you can to avoid burn out. Make time to hang out with your friends, eat a bowl of ice cream, watch a movie, or sit down and play a video game. It’s okay, as long as it’s done in moderation. You don't have to be in serious mode all the time. This was one of the hardest lessons for me to learn because I rarely took time off for myself. Take time for yourself, your mental health is important.

7. Be yourself

One of the things I am most proud of as a Mount Union student is how accepting the campus is. No one will judge you based on where you come from, what you wear, your hobbies, or how you dress. College is where you can express yourself in a safe and accepting environment. Do what makes you happy.

8. Use your resources

Mount Union offers many resources to help students, which I didn’t fully take advantage when I first started college. Mount Union offers peer consultations for students working on writing assignments, oral or multimedia presentations at the Digital, Written and Oral Communication Studio (DWOC), free counseling services, and career development opportunities. I wish I would have used these services sooner in my college career. There is no shame in using these resources because the faculty and staff at Mount Union are here to help you!

Professor and students in front of the DWOC

9. Stay organized

 In college, there is a lot going on all the time. You have to keep up with class work, social events, campus events, your professors’ office hours, and your personal life. It’s impossible to remember it all. Therefore, it is important to manage your time wisely and stay organized. Things will start falling through the cracks if you don’t find a way to keep yourself organized. Everyone has a different method that works for them. Some people use a digital calendar, reminders on their phone, or my personal favorite, the classic paper planner and a pen. Find what works for you and implement it in your academic career.