Let’s say that you hear about this exquisite vacation spot where there are adventures aplenty and experiences galore. Bits and pieces of tales from this place have made their way into your ears via the words of people you know, but you don’t know exactly what you’re getting into by visiting. You have neither a map nor a clue of what’s going on. A lack of knowledge, a lack of direction and a lack of planning leave you at a disadvantage when trying to enjoy a nice vacation.
If you can easily picture what this is like, you may be or have been in a similar situation to mine. I’m a first-generation college student.
“Big whoop,” you’re probably thinking.
I really can’t blame you, because I thought the same thing when I took my first steps on campus for a tour — how was I any different than anyone else?
Although the situation initially hit me like a ton of bricks, MTSU has done a phenomenal job of helping me and countless others navigate life as first-generation college students. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d love to share some friendly tips and tricks to take full advantage of your college experience, even if I can’t go back and listen to them myself. Chances are that you’ll make a better college student than me, anyway. Or at least you’ll realize sooner that THE BLUE RAIDER GRILL IS CRIMINALLY UNDERAPPRECIATED.
Don’t treat it like high school
Just don’t — you’ll be so much happier. College is an awesome opportunity for you to start fresh. Didn’t study hard enough in high school? Cool, your GPA and ACT scores are now basically irrelevant. This is your chance to work hard and change the narrative! If you just put a little extra work into your study habits and work ethic, you can go from being a below-average high school student (like me) and end up with a GPA in the high 3’s in college (like me).
You’re not stuck in cliques when you come to MTSU. No one is actively trying to exclude you, and everyone seems to be after the same goal: make as many connections as possible and graduate in four years. You’ll meet more people than you ever did in high school, so the only problem you’ll find is that learning names can be tougher than any exam you’ll take!
As long as you come onto campus with a positive attitude, you’ll have a positive experience. Don’t be scared to try new things, and don’t be scared to talk to people you’ve never met. Life during your college years can be weird and strange, so why not be weird and strange together?
You get a resource! And YOU get a resource!
Now, as a first-generation college student, you’ll likely have more questions than other students. Which is totally cool. As a matter of fact, everyone is better off asking questions about every detail of college. You’ll be getting the most up-to-date information, straight from the source, rather than relying on secondhand knowledge of a process someone went through 20 years ago.
Your academic advisers, faculty advisers, MT OneStop employees, and literally everyone else on campus combine to create an amazing network of resources designed specifically for you. No question you ask them will be considered bad; they just want to see you succeed! Need to know your financial aid requirements? OneStop. Need a transcript? OneStop. Need registration advice? Academic adviser. Need a delicious cheesesteak sandwich with curly fries? BLUE RAIDER GRILL. Hope you’re catching on!
The MTSU community is a family, so feel free to ask anyone for help. It doesn’t matter if it’s a student, a professor, an adviser, a staff member or an administrator; everyone will give you an answer or point you in the right direction to find it. I can speak from experience, as I love answering questions about campus and the time I’ve spent as a student. I’ve learned so much from others over the years, so it feels nice to pass knowledge down to new Blue Raiders.
Leave no stone unturned
There is so much to take in when you first come to MTSU, so please hear this word of advice: take it all in, but do it slowly. Let it seep into your pores, let it marinate, and stop using weird metaphors to explain that you should step outside of your comfort zone and take advantage of everything this school has to offer. (That last one was more of a personal note.)
In all seriousness, you’ll learn a lot of new things about yourself after a few weeks of college. You may find new hobbies, make friends with people you never thought you would or even want to quickly change your major! Yes, no matter how sure you are when you arrive at MTSU about what you want to do in life, you’ll discover that you’re exposed to many other opportunities here that you may decide to pursue. Don’t fret; it’s totally normal! Just remember to use the resources I mentioned earlier.
For example, I had very little interest in politics coming into school. I saw the Student Government Association booth at my CUSTOMS orientation session and put my name down for no good reason, but it ended up being the place where my voice was heard and I actually felt like I made a positive impact on campus.
When you get here, you’re also given the resources and support to create almost anything. If you can gather students who have similar interests or have a common goal, you can team up and do something special to leave your mark on campus.
When I was a freshman, I loved going to sporting events to cheer on the Blue Raiders with my friends. I noticed that student attendance was declining despite the success of our teams, so I decided to do something about it. I re-launched the Blue Zoo Student Section as an official student organization, which was my rallying cry for students to come out to the games. I’ve been able to build amazing relationships with MTSU faculty, staff and, most importantly, my fellow students. Don’t be afraid to do something like this — just because it doesn’t yet exist doesn’t mean that it’s a bad idea!
Go ahead and try to attend as many campus events as possible, no matter how obscure they seem. You’ll probably make some new friends, try or learn something new, or at least leave with a good story to tell. Any of those outcomes are better than sitting in your dorm room!
Most importantly, don’t forget to cherish every moment of your time here, no matter how weird or embarrassing a day was. You’ll quickly realize, when you’ve reached the end of your time here, that you’ll want to look back and remember how college has shaped you into the young professional you’ve become. There’s no better time in your life for networking and self-growth, so take full advantage. I can assure you that being a first-generation student is one of the best ways to experience college, so don’t view it as anything less.
Author Kobe Hermann is a senior at MTSU, majoring in management in the Jones College of Business and minoring in business administration. The views and opinions expressed above are his own.
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