10 things upperclassmen wish they knew as freshmen

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As college students begin their first year of school, they are bound to face unexpected challenges and new opportunities. Knowing what those are beforehand can impact the college experience.

Many BYU upperclassmen were polled and student leadership was interviewed regarding various points they would suggest to new students. Below is a list of 10 things students wish they would have known as freshmen:

Chris Bunker

Hayley Meise from Doylestown, Pa., waits at the Cannon Center on Saturday.

10. Know your professors

Students were polled around campus, and indicated that resources such as ratemyprofessor.com and others are useful in knowing what to expect when registering to take courses with certain professors. Sarah Carrigan, the executive director of interoffice communications for BYUSA, said the feedback from other students’ experience is helpful.

“It is nice to go on and see other people’s opinion of how specific classes are taught,” Carrigan said. “It has been about 90 percent accurate.”

Josh Matson, executive director of student advisory for BYUSA, stressed the importance of personal relationships with professors.

“One of the things that I would say to do is to become friends with a professor in your given field,” Matson said. “Use them as a resource when you have questions, and if you build that relationship with them they are more apt to help you.”

9. Become educated about housing and financial aid

Research also indicated that knowing where to live and knowing how to finance college is important and can make a difference in the college experience. Carrigan gave a few helpful tips.

“Housing guides are really helpful when you are looking for housing after your freshman year,” Carrigan said. “In terms of financial services, I think the biggest thing for freshmen to realize is that people on campus are here to help you. Someone in BYU’s office will be happy to help you know what to do.”

8. Stay on top of homework

Unlike the curriculum at some high schools, students at BYU are expected to take the initiative and complete homework and assigned readings. Carrigan stressed the importance of following a syllabus for each class.

“I think that it is invaluable for freshmen to realize that they are going to get a syllabus at the beginning of the semester, and they are going to need to live out of it,” Carrigan said. “Professors will not always say when everything is due. You have to check the syllabus, and I didn’t know that when I came to BYU.”

7. Effectively prepare for exams

Certain students polled said the Testing Center was among one of the highest stress places on campus by virtue of providing one of the most critical parts of a student’s grade, which are exams. Carrigan advised, however, that with adequate preparation, exams are nothing to fear.

“It is important to learn quick what the best way to study for you is,” Carrigan said. “I have my little corner of the library I always go to because I can’t study at home. Specifics in how you learn varies from person to person. Figure out how you learn, talk to your professors and TAs on what to do and even take a study class if you need to.”

6. Balance leisure and academics

Polled students agree it is important to balance academic life as well as social life. Joseph Wood, the president of the BYU Center for Service and Learning, said he has seen examples of students who didn’t balance those two aspects of life.

“I’ve seen students who have come into school completely focused on academics and it kind of consumes everything,” Wood said. “I think that happens to every student at one point or another.”

Carrigan said it is challenging to try to balance academic and social life.

“I like to joke that there are three things you need to do in college: get enough sleep, have a lot of fun, get good grades and you can pick two, ” Carrigan said.

Wood added that finding ways to balance life vary among students.

“I think balancing is different for every person,” Wood said. “For me, I actually have to set goals to have fun, because it becomes boring just to work all the time. I just have to set aside about an hour and a half two or three times a week,  and plan something fun to do every weekend.”

5. Get involved with fun, including sports, clubs and service opportunities

Activities are an important part of life for polled students who have had a positive experience. Samantha Crane, the vice president of BYUSA, shared her personal experience with making extra-curricular activities a part of her college experience.

“When I think back to my freshman year, I didn’t do anything but go to class,” Crane said. “Being at BYU is amazing because there is so much you could be getting involved with.”

Crane said activities range from service opportunities to student organizations and clubs. One thing she pointed out specifically were the positive reviews from students about intramural sports.

“I think intramurals are so great,” Crane said. “Maybe getting involved in BYUSA isn’t for everyone, but so many people love athletics and just getting together and playing a sport. I played on a couple intramural teams before and they are really fun. There are a lot of sports to choose from as well and it is a great outlet.”

4. Professors are willing to help

A few students who were polled had the experience that professors are willing to help out students who look for it. Ryan Greenburg, president of BYUSA, said many BYU faculty embrace the opportunity to assist students who seek help.

“We have a lot of teachers here who are exceptional teachers, and the university is very interested in the academic aspect of student life,” Greenburg said. “BYU is managed so that every professor has open office hours.”

3. General Education courses are challenging and helpful

General Education courses (GEs) that are required seem to some students that they serve no purpose. Greenburg said in his experience, GEs were a way he could decide on what he enjoyed and what he wanted to major in.

Matson said he initially shared the same opinion of the students who thought GEs were unnecessary.

“My biggest thing with generals was the idea that I went in and said, ‘Oh I don’t really need to learn this,'” Matson said. “The biggest thing I learned, though, was that with the general ed homework that there are skills you learn that can help you with your major when you take generals associated with your major.”

2. Use TAs, labs and test reviews

Students who were polled said the extra learning resources on campus had a lot to do with their academic success. Greenburg stressed the importance of using the extra resources to succeed academically.

“Beyond just attending class, the resources available to students on this particular campus are immense, and probably some of the best,” Greenburg said. “I feel that it is sort of an untapped resource, and you would be unwise not to use it. If you want to be successful, there are people waiting to help you. I know I have done so, especially for those test reviews.”

1. Know what you want to major in

The No. 1 thing students wish they would have known as freshmen was to learn earlier on what they wanted to major in. Deciding early helps students do what they want to do with their lives sooner. Matson said his first years in school helped him find out what he wanted to do.

“I came into BYU as a chemistry major hoping to become a doctor, not because I wanted to become a doctor, but so I could get the money to do something else,” Matson said. “It wasn’t until I was about halfway through my sophomore year that I realized ‘why not do the things I want to do?’ What I found is that I could do what I wanted to do with my life professionally. It might not be as lucrative, monetarily speaking, but it may be a good thing that will make me happier throughout my life.”

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