As a graduate student who just got my diploma from Case Western Reserve University in Medical Anthropology, I feel confident in saying that I have learned a lesson or two in the last four years.
Here are three things that I feel are paramount to getting the most out of your college experience:
There is so much to do in this city for pretty much every kind of person. CWRU’s campus has world renowned museums and entertainment programs within walking distance. The Cleveland Orchestra, for example, has awesome student discounts, and in just the past year partnered with renowned companies such as The Joffrey Ballet. Most of the museums are free to students, and others —like MOCA— have discounts and free days during each month. With the semester RTA pass provided to all undergraduate students, you can get almost anywhere. When in doubt, there is always a friend with a car to come to your rescue.
Sign up for and join a bunch of organizations your first semester. After realizing you only like three of them, stick with those for as long as possible. You’ll grow as a person and a leader.
Spend a couple of hours on SIS. You can plan your entire college career with My Planner. Play with the What If reports and figure out exactly when that one art class is going to fit in your schedule four semesters from now.
GET TO KNOW PEOPLE
Pretty much every advice-for-new-first-years article suggests going to office hours and talking to professors, and I’m going to reiterate that wholeheartedly. After introductory courses, most students experience class sizes that are pretty small, and that’s outside of the SAGES program’s limit of 17 students to a class. I once had a class with only 10 other people. Going to office hours for classes with 300 people sets you apart as a student who cares and wants to do their best. Plus, if you’re on the edge between letter grades, professors might feel more inclined to bump you up.
It increases the likelihood you’ll foster relationships with adults who can mentor and guide you in the right direction. These are the professors who will write you spectacular recommendation letters, bend over backwards to help you apply to that one scholarship the week before the deadline and, if you’re particularly lucky, nominate you for an award without even telling you. (Thanks Professor N.)
This advice doesn’t stop at professors, teaching assistants, educators or staff in different organizations. Get to know the custodial staff that painstakingly cleans up after your 3 a.m. study session with your friends in the common room, or the people that serve you that piping hot coffee and tasty bagel at Einstein’s. These are staff who have been on campus for years and have plenty of stories to tell.
BREATHE AND GIVE YOURSELF ROOM TO FAIL
College is scary. You’re going to fail, and you’re going to mess up. That’s okay. Failure is important. What’s more important is you keep trying. All of us mess up at one point or another. Even the person you think has it all has messed up.
I failed a class my first semester and got a C in another class. I thought my grades were never going to improve. Four years later and with lots of hard work, I’ve graduated with a 3.7, which is way above what I started with my second semester.
Reach out to your RA, first year advisor, go to ESS or the office of your choice. There will be someone somewhere who can help you figure out what’s next.
Most importantly, have fun. These four—or more—years will fly by so quickly. Build relationships, do something ridiculous you’ve never tried before and make memories. You won’t regret it.
Nusaiba Chowdhury is finishing her Masters of Public Health at CWRU with plans to eat as many Barrio tacos as she can along the way.