Twenty years ago, the advice for new college students would have been very different. The first step would have been to take your time, dipping your toes in each class before settling on a major. Now the burden of student loans has become much greater, and the line of advice has shifted. While finding a major you love has not ceased to be important, the stakes are higher. It’s more vital than ever to select your first-year classes with care, as they will open doors for a quicker path to graduation.
Modern Freshman Advice
Check for Prerequisites Ahead of Time
In your first two years, there is wiggle room for trying out different classes before settling on a major. However, certain majors, especially those in science, engineering, and medicine, have more prerequisites than others. In addition to GUR’s, you may need to start working up the prerequisite ladder in math, biology, programming, language learning, and more.
When planning your initial course load, make a list of possible majors and check out the prereqs. You can ask a guidance counselor to help you plan your classes, or research by yourself on the university website. By planning ahead, you can ensure graduation within 4 years.
Select a Course Load You can Handle
Most universities charge a blanket price for a range of credits. For example, a student may be able to take between 3 and 5 classes per quarter, or 5 and 7 semester classes, for the same price. Taking a full course load can save money overall, but only if the student is able to keep up with the demand. Enroll in just the right number of classes to ensure success.
In some cases, you may benefit from enrolling in more classes and checking them out before either keeping or dropping additional classes. Each university has specific rules on dropping classes without penalty. If a class feels overwhelming, you may be able to drop it within the first week without incurring fees or a mark on your student record. Go with your gut, and never take on more classes than you know you can handle.
Get Professional Job Experience
After graduation comes the grueling search for gainful employment. Make it easier on yourself by acquiring on-the-job training while still in school. If you’re not sure what field to focus on, that’s okay. Look for administrative work on or off campus. By working just a few hours a week, you will learn hands-on professional skills that can be proven on your resume. You will also demonstrate your abilities to people who may serve as references later on. Aim to gain work experience in your first two years of college in case your schedule gets busier later on. Search for job opportunities on your student website and on Indeed.com.
Enjoy the School Clubs
As you invest in your mind, don’t forget to nurture yourself as a growing person with interests and social needs. Each university has a wide variety of clubs put together by students like yourself, exploring different hobbies and interests. A school club is a ticket to the close friendships and hobbies that will help you keep your chin up through midterms and finals. Give yourself permission to put away the books for a few hours each week and goof off with your friends. This time is just for you.
Most of all, we recommend that each freshman find a pillar: a person they can rely on for counseling and advice. When things get tough, it’s important to have someone you can trust to help you reflect, break down problems into parts, and create steps to overcome difficulties. See if you qualify for one-on-one counseling through our Trinity Scholars Program.