Wednesday, May 13, 2015

6 things i've learned during my freshman year in college

My introduction to college wasn't the most normal--I started as a dual-enrolled student at my local community college during my sophomore year of high school. I took one or two classes per semester, and thought little of it. It was just another course that was helping me get my high school graduation requirements, and just so happened to gain me some college credits, too. By the time I graduated last summer, I had twenty credits going towards my college degree.

I walked in on my first day of fall semester, and despite knowing the same community college for three years of my life, and going to plenty of classes in plenty of buildings, I was horrified. I don't know if it just hit me that I was really in college, or if I was just scared of making "adult" decisions and driving myself to school everyday. I'm still not entirely sure, but I do know that I've never been more afraid walking into my school's technology building than I was that first day of fall semester.

Luckily, after finishing fall semester and spring semester, I'm feeling a little more confident about college and moving forward as a whole. I'll graduate from community college after one more semester and then face the challenge of adapting to transfer, but for now, here are six things that I've learned during my "freshman" year of college.

1. Everyone is just as nervous about their classes as you are.  It took me about a week in five classes to realize that everyone was as nervous about the new semester as I was. For me, it's always been intimidating to walk into a classroom full of faces I didn't know, with a teacher whose policies, teaching, and grading style I wasn't sure of. However, everyone is just as nervous about the class, the assignments, and interacting with each other as you are. And, trust me, everyone thinks that they look so nervous, that even if you are scared half to death, it's pretty likely no one notices anyway.

2.  Utilize your teacher's resources and help. I'll admit to be guilty of not doing this, but I've gotten better with this during my spring semester. I'm not one for asking for help, but if you're going to ask anyone, ask your instructors for help. They have knowledge about the subject and topic that you don't have, and in most instances, are more than happy to help you. When I went into my Technical and Business Writing class, I had no idea what I was doing, but in asking for help in-class and privately, it really helped me to improve my writing and understanding of each topic. Approaching a teacher after class is a little intimidating, especially if they seem really knowledgeable about their subject, but I promise they'll help you grow, whether it be in your field, in your class, or even just on an assignment. Besides, if you grow relationships with your teachers, they might be willing to write your recommendations down the line, too.

3. Go to the library. I'm not crazy about my school's library for actually finding books and research information on the shelves, but I love the ability to find a nice quiet place to work on assignments between class periods. It's also really helpful in accessing your school's databases for bigger term papers that you might have due. I've gotten some of my best work done in the library because I've been able to spread out my books and truly focus on what I needed to do.

4. Don't put more on your plate than you can handle. Another thing I'm guilty of. During my fall semester, I was enrolled in five classes, while this spring semester, I was enrolled in four. Although I had more classes to do last semester, this semester has had a lot more work and a lot more pressure. During high school, I did a lot of extracurricular activities, but beginning this year, I had to cut down on a lot of it. Don't try to do too much at once, because you will burn out eventually. If I had tried to keep doing my theater work, spending time with family, doing school work, going to class, and attempting to do hobbies outside of class, I would probably have had a mental break. There's been some tears on my part, but I know that choosing to do fewer credits and fewer outside activities has been beneficial in helping me stay on track. Besides, there's always the summer for getting back to something you didn't have time for during the school year.

5. Choose what classes you want to take. Obviously, there are some courses that you have to take. But, if there's that one ceramics class you really want to take because you've heard great things about the professor, or you just love taking digital photography and would love to have more experience, do it. As a lower level student, you have a lot of prerequisites to take, and a lot of general education requirements, but still take at least one class per semester that you actually want to take. It's a good reprieve when your other classes that don't interest you as much get harder, particularly near midterms, but it also shows you what other studies you might want to pursue later down the line, whether as a double major, a minor, or just a certificate.

6. Do your best. I'm always hard on myself about everything, not just school work. I like things to be perfect, in order, and to happen exactly how I want them. It doesn't always happen. But when I do write a kick-ass English paper, it's for sure that I feel a little smug three days (weeks) afterwards. Even if I can't do perfectly with something, being a full-time student in college has shown me how to do my best. I'm not good at public speaking, but it was something I had to do this semester. After hard work, and trying my hardest, I was able to pull it out and do a speech that I was proud of. It wasn't the speech that a comfortable, out-going person would have done, and my knees might have almost collapsed, but I did my best in trying to accomplish a good presentation. Don't freak yourself out about what you think you can't do, just do your best to do what you know you can do.

Overall, college has forced me to put myself out there a little more than I might be comfortable with, but I think I'm a better person because of it. I've learned to just say hi to the person sitting next to me in class, take the harder route for a paper just because it's more interesting, and that I really love driving to school everyday (I didn't expect that one my first day...) So, as I start my last semester at community college, I'm hoping to still stick with what I've learned, and maybe gain some more knowledge along the way, too.

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