Kalamazoo, MI
one-hundred-forty-one Years of Service to the Student

How to Make the Most of Your First Year: A Letter to the Newcomers

Maybe you were an Honors student in high school. Or maybe you were the captain of the football team. Whatever you’ve achieved so far, high school success doesn’t always directly translate to college. With a clean academic slate and no curfew looming over their heads, first years emerge with the freedom to critically decide life choices.

And these decisions in the first year of college can impact the rest of a college experience. But, because of the liberal arts education here at Kalamazoo College, it is easy to change your direction when it’s needed.

These tips are not only for surviving your first year of college, but also how to thrive.

  1. Get to know your roommate and others in your residence hall. Take the time to get to know people and then find a supportive group of friends. If you experience any roommate troubles, talk to an RA—they’re here for that reason. Dormitory lounges are communities that you take out what you put in, and you might leave with lifelong friends.
  2. Get organized. As opposed to high school, professors post the assignments in their syllabi and you’re now responsible getting in your work on time. Use a calendar, journal, or use an app to keep on top of deadlines.
  3. Find your ideal place to study: Certain nooks of the library are favored over other places on campus, but remember to peek into the chapel for another quiet space. Or use downtime between classes to take a breather in your dorm room. Regardless, choose a place with minimal distractions.
  4. Go to class. When you’re in a class of 15-25 people, you have no other option. You, or at least your parents, are paying thousands of dollars for tuition, and education is a longterm investment. If you’re rushing to your 8:30 A.M. class, go to bed earlier. Every class counts when you only meet two or three times a week in a 10 week trimester, and so it becomes very easy to fall behind.
  5. Meet with your professors. They post office hours for this reason. They often will meet with you outside of their office hours, too. One great privilege of attending a liberal arts school is the ability to connect and build a rapport with your professors. You’d have to wait in a long line at a university. And, professors like to see you grow.
  6. Seek a balance. Set aside blocks of time for when you study and when you do something else. Chunk it. Don’t spread yourself thing and volunteer for a dozen organizations. Instead, become deeply involved in a few.
  7. Strive for improvement. A “C” technically translates to “average.” A “B” is still above average. You have 4 years to show growth, so set goals for improvement. Graduate programs and modern employers care more about growth and what you can do than your GPA.
  8. Take advantage of the study resources on campus. Are you feeling too timid to meet with your professor? Talk to a Teachers Assistant (“TA”) or an upperclassmen. Where do you go for your seminar paper or for your problem sets in your intro level science course? Check out the Learning Commons on the first floor of the library. Come into the Writing Center, the BioChem Center, or the library resources—everyone working there is a peer, not a teacher.
  9. Make time for you. If you set time for relaxing you will be more productive. Enrich your life. Play music, read a music, practice yoga, watch Netflix, or go into town. Feel good to do good.
  10. Take responsibility for yourself and actions. Mistakes will happen. Learn from them and move on. First year’s one of the best times to learn life lessons.
  11. Stay healthy and Eat Right. Get enough sleep, eat a balanced meal, and exercise regularly. Enroll in a gym class, workout with a friend, or join an intramural sport. Keeping healthy will keep you feeling good, and it is critical to emotional health.
  12. Seek professional help when you need it. It’s a small campus, and when you feel like you need some unbiased guidance go to the Counseling Center. There’s no shame in getting help from our professionals here.
  13. Stay in touch with family. College is a time to learn how to rely on yourself and figure things out on your own, but making a phone call home once in a while is important for familial support and keeping homesickness at bay.

Other advice is to not make hasty decisions about a career or a major. Take classes in all areas that interest you, become involved, invest into friendships, and stay active with internships during long breaks. College is the time to explore your interests until you find your passions.

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How to Make the Most of Your First Year: A Letter to the Newcomers