New Nittany Lions go through the same motions when they first make it to Pennsylvania State University. They receive Penn State ID’s, keys to their dorms and a map of campus grounds. That map can help you find a route to class. But it won’t give you a step-by-step guideline on what to expect during the first year as a college student. And you’ll need it with 46,000 undergrads roaming the same campus.
Luckily upperclassman already know the ups and downs of starting college life. And these generous upperclassmen shared personal accounts of what they did, as well as what they could have done better, during this tumultuous stage.
Check out their tips that can make your freshman year a hell of a lot easier.
Time Management Is Key
Campus life tempts you on every corner to ditch the books and pick up a new distraction. From the dance club passing out flyers in the HUB to the THON organizations pressing for team applications, it can certainly feel like everyone wants a time slot in your already crammed schedule. And that’s without including the “one more episode” of your favorite Netflix series that leads into a counterproductive binge at the end of the day.
Penn State senior Cierra Deshong spoke about the importance of time management in her limited school days. Through taking up a part-time job on campus, Deshong developed time management skills that she wished she’d discovered her freshman year. “I said, okay I need to make money ‘so here’s work.’ But, I need to do my schoolwork, and I don’t want work to take over that,” Deshong said. “So now, I have to manage work and school work. And I did. Ever since then I’ve… separated that time interval by staying up at night to do homework, and then working during the day.”
Deshong also warned against the dangers of Netflix that often tends to creep into your schedule when more important things need to get done. “Stay away from Netflix,” Deshong said. “You’re going to lose focus on what’s really supposed to be done on Sunday at 11:59 p.m. So if you’re watching Netflix right now, cut that s—t out. You’d better just delete your entire account.”
Be Yourself and Let the Chips Fall Where They May
It’s no secret that Penn State is a huge campus. And sometimes the big places can make you feel small. Coming in as an international student freshman year, Penn State student Aisha Maharani spoke about the fears that stopped her from pursuing new things during her first year on campus. “I feel like, as an international student I came here to try new things, but also I was so scared that at some points I was too afraid to just do something because I would think ‘oh what’s going to happen? Am I going to get judged for it?’”
Now, as a senior, Maharani overcame her fears by taking a chance on the opportunities that the school offered. “Just be yourself, and you’ll find people that work with you. You know, the people that you’re meant to find. The thing that I often go by most these days is to just ‘let the chips fall where they may,’” Maharani said. And she found her place within a solid group of people who care and support her.
It’s Never Too Early to Network
If you ask any freshmen, you’ll know that many of them aren’t on the hunt for jobs and internships quite yet. Typically that’s reserved for upperclassmen to lose sleep over. But why not get a head start?
Penn State senior Brooke Barrett expressed regret over not taking advantage of networking opportunities sooner. “There’s definitely a lot of clubs that I didn’t realize were out there that would have been very beneficial to me. A lot networking opportunities that would have helped me like now,” Barrett said.
Barrett missed the opportunity to join the Actuarial Science Club. But she did find a place in the Phi Beta Lambda business fraternity which, in turn, led her to many networking opportunities. “That really helped me network across so many different things because they opened up information sessions with companies.”
There’s No Harm in Having Fun
While trying to finish school assignments, join organizations, and not to mention, transform into a potential job candidate all within four years, it’s difficult not to let stress get the best of you.
Penn State Senior Samantha Grillo recalled her freshman year as a kind of peace before the storm. “Freshman year I was so excited to be here and I loved it. Then my sophomore and junior year, I was just rushing by thinking ‘I have to do this, I have to get this done before graduation, like oh my God, that’s so soon!’”
Grillo said that she worried about countless things without taking the time to sit back and enjoy her four years at Penn State. “Now that I’m a senior, I’m so nostalgic every second of the day.” Grillo said. “Even my stupid awful freshman dorm that I hated, I miss it so much. So just really enjoy every moment even when it’s bad because this is a really great experience and college is super fun.”
Penn State junior Frankie Oliu also offered some unconventional advice that he wished he’d taken up freshman year. “You don’t have to push yourself as hard as you think that have to,” Oliu said. “If it’s a Thursday or Friday night and you have a test or a paper due on Monday, just go out. Commit yourself to doing it on Saturday or something… In the long run you’re going to remember [that night] over like a paper or a test.”
Take risks and challenge yourself. But above all—pass your classes, Nittany Lions.