Posted on June 24, 2018
We asked a few rising college sophomores what they wish they had known before they went to college. Here is their advice organized under three lists encompassing communication and advocacy skills, academic and study skills, and social and college life.
Communication & Advocacy Skills
- ❶ Take advantage of the mental health professionals that are on campus if you are struggling with ANYTHING mentally. They are there for you and should be used no matter how large or little your problems may seem.
- ❷ Go to Office Hours and form a personal relationship with your professors. They could one day write you a recommendation for a scholarship, grant, internship or a job, and they also have lots of incredible advice and are just cool people.
- ❸ Find out if your college provides funds for first-generation and/or low-income students or any other resources and take advantage of them.
- ❹ Keep a close support unit around you.
- ❺ Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself (for example, if you want to be in a class that is full and you need a professor or department chair to open it up), the worst that can happen is the professor or department says no, but they can also say yes.
- ❻ Sit down with your academic advisor to plan your requirements to make studying abroad possible. Getting out of the bubble, like really out of the bubble, will broaden your perspectives more than most classes or conversations at your university.
- ❼ Don’t be afraid to seek help from your adviser, parent or other trusted adult to get you through your hardest times, it’s completely normal and you’ll find out later that many of your friends have done the same. The fresh perspective will help you get back to being you. Too many first year students think they should be adult enough and don’t seek out help.
- ❽ Register with your colleges’ Career Services so that you are aware of interesting research and internship opportunities.
Academic & Study Skills
- ❶ Understand your college’s general education requirements for all majors. Certain courses count for multiple requirements. Try to select courses that satisfy more than one requirement. Work hard and smart!
- Take the classes that you need in order to graduate as soon as possible (because the longer you stay, the more money you spend). Federal Financial Aid only covers so many semesters.
- Inform yourself about your major(s) and minor requirements, so that you have a plan and pick courses that might satisfy both a major or minor. For example Latin American History might satisfy both a History major and Spanish minor.
- It’s okay to take easy classes if you are taking a particularly heavy courseload.
- Find a good mentor for your major who can give you proper guidance.
- Do your research for minority internship programs for freshmen and sophomores for big corporations, those can help secure you a great junior year summer internship.
- ❷ Start studying a couple of weeks before finals instead of the weekend before.
- ❸ Write down all the importants dates and deadlines for your assignments, projects and tests on your calendar, so that you can prioritize properly and know when to start studying weeks ahead, so that you can be well prepared.
- Keep an organized calendar (it can be physical or online, such as Google calendar), so that you can be on top of all your academic work and social commitments.
- ❹ Learn how to use Canvas where assignments and professor notes are posted.
- ❺ Everything looks attractive, but it’s worth your time and effort to find your focus and concentrate on being your best in one field. It’s good to be ambitious going into college, but sometimes being too ambitious can be dangerous. A rising college sophomore said,
I wish I knew that I can’t be a chemistry, economics and nanotechnology triple major sub matriculating into chemistry.
- ❻ Find ALL your classrooms before the semester officially starts, this can keep you from being lost and missing class on your first day.
- ❼ Don’t buy the textbook until you try all other options. Reach out to the professor to make sure that the textbook will actually be used. Find out if there is a more affordable way for you to obtain the textbook. You can rent books, get them from the library or even ask about using last year’s edition which you can get for almost nothing online. If you buy the textbook, keep your receipt in case you need to return it.
- ❽ Do your schoolwork ahead, do not rely on the professors to “hold your hand” through your academic journey because they are not there to babysit you, and you are now an adult, so professors expect you to behave like one.
- ❾ Your major doesn’t necessarily have to be your career. Plenty of English or history majors go on to business school, law school or even med school but be sure you know the requirements to get into a graduate school.
Social & College Life
- ❶ You shouldn’t feel obligated to have some sort of standardized social life. You should do what works for you.
- ❷ Prioritize your personal well-being above all else. Whether it’s mental or physical, that should always come 1st.
- ❸ You don’t have to give up your culture to fit in. Embrace being Latinx/Black/Asian, it makes you unique!
- ❹ Make sure you know about cool clubs and organizations on campus because they are just as important as jobs in building life experiences and strong networks.
- ❺ There will be hard issues on campus such as racial divides and profiling, but don’t let that keep you down.
- ❻ Find a social group that reminds you of home and makes you feel comfortable.
- ❼ Don’t stay in one social bubble that feels comfortable (for example, hanging out with only Latinx/Black/Asian students), branch out and make friends with people who are different from you, you could learn a lot from them and vice versa.
- ❽ You won’t always love your freshman year and you may think about transferring once or twice. Once you take some time for yourself, re-evaluate your friends, your goals and the awesome opportunities you have at your university, you’ll find your place.
- ➒ Be patient and wait to get involved in the right groups – don’t worry about missing the boat first semester when it comes to joining clubs, because you can always sign up for something second semester you actually care about and let that community become your second family.
- ➓ Be patient when it comes to dating. The right person will come along when the time is right. In the meantime, focus on your academic and career opportunities.
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