Dear Freshman, last year I was in your shoes. These are the things I wish someone would have told me.
Do: At all times remember everyone is just as afraid as you.
College is a new chapter for everyone. Even the college seniors and juniors have stood where you are standing now. So remember to relax, take a deep breath every once in a while, and remember you’re not as alone as you think you are. Enjoy the ride because it will be over before you know it.
Don’t: Bring all of your belongings from home to your dorm.
As an incoming freshman, you more than likely have no idea what to expect as far as college life and what you will need; The natural action to this is to over prepare. If you have a house back home that you plan to return to every once in a while, take advantage of the space! Since school is starting in August, you do not need any winter coats or warm sweaters, so bring only summer clothes and switch out your wardrobe accordingly when the weather demands it. If you have regular access to your previous home, do this with other items which you feel uncertain about whether they’re necessities. Don’t be afraid to make your new living quarters look like a home, but remember that you’re downsizing and bringing your entire room to Stillwater is not necessary.
Do: Plan out your walk to and from classes ahead of time.
You are going to get lost in this campus, if you haven't already. If you’re able, try to plan your walk from class to class before the first time you attend them. You can do this days before or an hour before, but it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of where you are and where you are going. Most professors are forgiving with tardiness the first week; however, it is always super uncomfortable being the last one to enter a classroom. Even if you’re reading this after your first day of school, it’s never too late to walk around campus and get used to the layout of the buildings to familiarize yourself with your new routine.
Don’t: Put too much pressure on friendships.
Almost every first year student is entering Oklahoma State completely alone. It’s natural to want to fill the void as quickly as possible by making friends instantly. You will meet so many new people in your first week of school, you will ask “What is your major?” close to a thousand times, and you will struggle to remember all this information and you will most likely have to ask for a person’s name twice. That is okay. Not every conversation is the start of a new friendship nor the collaboration on any activity. People will come and go, and you might even feel the tinge of loneliness for a brief time. It’s important to keep in mind that friendships take time. They’re not instant and you don’t have fit in with everyone. Remember who you are as a person first and foremost. If you forget who you are to gain friends you may wake up one day and not recognize yourself. Friendships take time. Don’t give up yourself to please new people.
Do: Read all syllabi. They are your holy texts for each and every semester.
I cannot stress this point enough. Each syllabus you receive is your holy text for that class. After the start of the class-- no later than the end of the week-- take time to sit and really read each one. I recommend having at least one colored pen (black blends in with the text too much for me) and one highlighter. Marking up the syllabus will prevent you from having to do another deep read later. Each one typically has a list of due dates:these are absolutely key. Disclaimer: I have had one class that did not follow the due dates on the syllabus and the assignments were always being moved either earlier or later, so do not always rely on these dates. The professors almost always have the right to change their syllabus anyway and any time they want (this right is typically written in the syllabus).
Don’t: Always go for the seat in the back of the classroom.
Personally, I love sitting in the back of the classroom. Being out of sight, out of mind is comforting to a large majority of students. However, this is also the pitfall of the back seat. Sitting up front keeps you accountable academically. It prevents you from checking your phone or changing tabs on your laptop because you are very much in sight and in mind. Being up front also helps your professor learn your name and face better, which is both nice and helpful in the future in terms of building a professional relationship with them. Sitting up front from the beginning is a great way to keep yourself accountable in class, preventing you from tempting distractions, and it will assist you in building the under appreciated student-professor relationship.
Do: Use and abuse First Year Success.
In orientation you are informed of all the wonderful offices and people here to help you succeed and it’s almost overwhelming at first. But the one service that was most useful for me was First Year Success. I used it mostly to help me navigate the new debt I was in and to understand all the new vocabulary being thrown at my face: Subsidized loan? Unsubsidized loan? I had no clue. An advisor sat down with me and walked me through all the numbers and terms. That advisor and I even became close friends and we went out to lunch together a few times. First Year Success also offers you assistance if you’re struggling socially with your new campus life. Great people work at this office and they’re here to help you succeed in the new world you’re a part of now.
Don’t: Be afraid to ask for help.
The point above and this one go hand and hand. Whether you’re 18 or 44 and this is your first year at OSU this is all new to you. You don’t have to pretend like you know it all to seem mature or to protect a sense of pride. Everyone makes mistakes, gets lost, or fails-- even your professors. Don’t make the mistake of trying to figure this year out on your own. You might miss something important. The best thing you can do this year is ask questions. Ask a million questions and learn as much as possible from those more experienced than you. Use their life experiences to prevent common mistakes you may make in the future. For example, don’t do what I did and mistake cluelessness for maturity and independence.
Do: Get to know Stillwater and the streets in and around campus.
I cannot count how many times I got lost before class trying to figure out which street to turn on and which lot to park in. Another pro-tip within this pro-tip is parking is a mess. It’s frustrating and I promise you will hate it by September. However, something to ease the pain of parking is knowing where you’re going. If you know where you are and where your respective lot is it will only be half as frustrating as my experience last year. Also, it is extremely advantageous for you to know the city you are now living in. Get to know where the grocery stores are, or where to buy clothes, or where to eat. This will make your time in Stillwater much more enjoyable and less stressful.
Don’t: Skip class.
I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase before too many times for your taste already, but here it is again: Don’t skip class. Now, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do this last year and knowing myself, I will probably do it again this year, but it’s a slippery slope, skipping class. Never make it a habit. You will fail. I skipped a class once because something mildly emotional happened and I missed a quiz. Professors will surprise you all the time. They change their minds often and what is on the syllabus is not necessarily what will happen in class. Don’t assume nothing is planned and that day is a good one to skip the class. Every time I skipped class, I had to play catch up and had to work five times harder to keep that choice from reflecting on my grades. I assure you that attendance is key to your success in college. Don’t take it for granted because that choice might change your B to a C because you missed an important quiz about the history of cameras.