Expert advice from the (sorta) experts
As any sophomore, junior, or senior can tell you, there is nothing like getting back into the routine of going back to class. Whether it be exciting, stressful, or somewhere in between, returning to your weekly routine is like putting on that one coat that you know you should throw away, but just can’t imagine parting with. And yeah, maybe it feels good to be the “experienced” students on campus and no longer fresh meat. It doesn’t mean we don’t still get lost trying to find an obscure classroom in the Science building or get confused about parking areas. But as we see the wide-eyed, excited smiles of the freshman, we always remember just how far we’ve come from our first year.
For many of us, freshman year was wonderful, but it was definitely no smooth sailing. There were good days, bad days, new experiences and countless new people to meet. We grew in ways we never thought we could, and stretched ourselves thin in ways we never should have. Through all the ups and downs to freshman year, many of us wouldn’t change a second of it.
However, there are some things we all wish we knew coming in. So, for all you freshman out there, here are 6 things you should know, brought to you by your author, science, and a few college students that were once just like you.
1. Take Time to Nap
I was never the type of person to take naps before college, but now, I am a firm believer in the sheer bliss that is a midday nap. You’ve all seen students shuffling across campus like zombies at weird hours of the day. These are the students who have not yet discovered the power of napping—do not become one of them. Napping is an amazing addition to your daily routine to help you reset and re-energize. The Journal of Sleep Research even published a study in 2009 proving that short naps can improve reaction time, logical reasoning, and symbol recognition, as well as give you the same learning benefits as an eight-hour sleep period. (And we all know college students do not get eight hours of sleep.) Sleep is something that gets pushed to the side very quickly once the semester gets started, so setting good habits now will be priceless come finals.
And if you aren’t sure where to catch your zzz’s, we have you covered. Here is a list of the best napping spots on campus, brought to you by other, more experienced, sleep-deprived students. We know how it is.
2. Go to Class!
You might be rolling your eyes at this one, because what a typical thing to say, but there’s a reason you keep hearing this advice. You have to go to class! The freedom of college scheduling is tantalizing, but trust me, it is all too easy to just let classes start sliding. Not going to class will, without a doubt, cost you dearly.
Sawyer Vals, a junior in the Instrumental Performance program, is very well experienced in the benefits of actually going to class, even if it’s at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m.
“I took a music theory class, and yes, it was at 8 a.m, every day. And the people that didn’t show up for class just ended up failing; I showed up every day, and so I passed the class. Literally, after we finished the class, the professor told us ‘Your main goal this semester was to learn how to show up for class.’ And those who did, passed the class and basically passed the next three classes as well.”
So, dear readers, show up for class! It doesn’t matter if you’re still in your pajamas, have shoes on the wrong feet, or are on your fifth cup of coffee by 9 a.m. Just being there will make your semester go so much more smoothly.
3. Be social
Although college is about learning, it’s also about growing as a young adult and a future member of the community. It’s important to make connections and lasting friendships- and that’s where socializing comes in. While that’s very easy for some people, for others, socializing does not exactly sound like the epitome of a good time for all. But I promise it’s good for you! In a 2015 analysis of 70 social studies, researchers found that an isolated lifestyle can cause the same health risks as smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and in another study, researchers found a strong link between social relationships and a long lifespan. There are many factors that support this, such as the fact that being around friends, and consequently being happy, lowers blood pressure, strengthens our immune system, and allows our hormones to function better.
So, even if you’re not the most outgoing of people, go out and find a group to join. Whether it be through a club, through class, or just meeting friends, make sure you have people to relax and enjoy life with. You’ll thank yourself for it.
4. Don’t be afraid to ask questions
This is a really big one for all students, but especially freshman- ask questions! College can become very overwhelming when you fall behind or become confused. But worry not- the professors are here to help you, and they are more than willing to extend a helping hand. Professors can almost always be reached by email or D2L, or, if you really want some help, professors can be reached during their office hours. Office hours are an underappreciated advantage we have here on campus, and can give you the one-on-one time you need to keep your grades steady.
Aside from office hours with your professor, there are multiple avenues available to you for free tutoring. Check out Student Success on the MTSU website to look up tutors for your exact program, or head over to the University Writing Center for personalized help with all your researching, writing, and grammar needs.
Pro tip: I am not kidding about going to a professor’s office hours. Professors often really, really appreciate when you come visit them- I’ve gone to office hours before and have been fed a whole meal, given a fancy latte from their (pride and joy) latte machine, and once, was even handed a kitten. That, my friends, was a very good day.
5. Make mistakes
Making mistakes-and being okay with them- is probably one of the hardest lessons I had to learn freshman year. But college really teaches you how to start accepting yourself the way you are. As you go through the year, you will realize (if you haven’t already) that you definitely do not have everything under control, and that there are so many things you have yet to figure out- but you’ll also realize that that’s completely normal.
That’s the great part about college. You are able to branch out and test what works for you, figure out what doesn’t, and reset from there. Join some clubs, meet new people, take classes in something you’ve never heard of, or even change your major (I’ve done it!). There are so many opportunities available to you now that you’re here- don’t lose your chances simply because you were too afraid to fail. The fact that you’re even at MTSU proves that you are willing to work for what you want: keep that momentum going!
Sebastian Gonzalez, a junior in the Aerospace Professional Pilot program, is well versed in taking risks. After moving to middle Tennessee from Puerto Rico to pursue his dream of being a professional pilot, he has had to learn a lot about courage.
“The thing about college is you don’t have your parents with you to help you when you make mistakes. You’re forced to deal with your mistake by yourself, without your parents backing you up and fixing your mistake. It makes you more independent, and it just makes you grow as a person. People say mistakes are bad, it’s imperfection- but that’s wrong. Mistakes help you become a better person and help you learn. Like getting a bad grade on a quiz and knowing ‘Okay, I failed on this quiz. I need to study harder on the next quiz.’ Boom, you got a hundred on it. Mistakes happen; they’re unavoidable. You’ll always stumble in your life, but it’s important to stand back up, learn from that, avoid those little pebbles in life, and just keep on going.”
6. Treat yourself
Treating yourself in college can either be a very good thing or a very, very bad thing. The key, however, is moderation. It can be very easy to forget to properly take care of yourself- and when it’s your first year, it’s even harder. There are so many new things being thrown at you that it can be easy to let self-care slip to the bottom of your list. Make sure to set aside time in your week, wherever you can, to dedicate to yourself. Whether it be reading a book, shopping online, working out, or even your aforementioned nap time, find the thing that keeps you balanced. Make sure you don’t go overboard, however: it’s also easy to turn your “treat” into a bad habit. Learn to recognize your signs of stress or procrastination, and keep everything in moderation.
“Definitely find a way to get out your emotions and find stress relief,” said Lani Bruinsma, an Industrial and Organizational Psychology major. “Because, I mean, you don’t want to kill your brain by just doing work. You want to take time to treat yourself. But also know your limits, because you don’t want to go crazy with it and not do your work at all. So you just gotta find that balance.”
The earlier you learn this, the easier college will be for you. Some of us are still working on it- it’s a trial-and-error process, and there’s no wrong way to do it. Take care of yourself first, and the rest will follow.
With all of this sage advice, you too will be able to look back on your freshman year with knowledge and expertise worth sharing. But most importantly, you will be able to sound like a wizened old grandpa as, with your back hunched over from your heavy backpack, you look at freshmen and say “Well when I was your age…”
And honestly, isn’t that why we all do this?