Sophomore Advice for First-Years

Being a first-year can be intimidating, but the best way to get to know your new home is by meeting an upperclassmen who can show you the ropes and maybe even give you some insider tips! I met Mahdia, a sophomore, through a Her Campus club meeting, funnily enough. We sat down next to each other and by the next meeting we came up with the idea to collaborate on this very article! Now, sitting together in Monaco’s (a local coffee hot-spot), we wanted to share our experiences as a first year and a sophomore to find new perspectives. We felt it best to elaborate with a series of questions that most first-years would have:


Q:What do you think are some first-year dorm essentials that first-years wouldn’t think to bring?

Mahdia:Definitely be ready for the change in seasons; however, get your winter stuff during the breaks so you don’t overcrowd your dorm room. Another item that most students bring with them are Polaroids and lights to hang them up on, but make sure they are battery-operated because any other ones aren’t allowed at school.

D:I brought a lot of cleaning supplies and basic cold medicines for what we consider the “freshman plague.” Even if you think it’s “extra,” you should take it because it’s better to be safe than sorry.


Q:Where are the best places to do homework?

M:That depends on the type of student that you are. I would definitely say that doing homework in your room tends to not be productive, as you would rather sleep in bed and watch Netflix. The easiest way to go would be the Library, but in some cases that ends up being a distraction or a social space. I found my “hidden gem” through exploration. My advice would be to work in places where you have classes, or even a chapel. Off-campus cafes are definitely a great space to focus and destress. Additionally, areas that are usually dedicated to a certain club or activity can be perfect place to study. It might take a while to find your niche, whether it’s a place surrounded by people, or a room in which you can hear a pin drop.


Q: What’s something you wish you did as a first year?

M:I really wish I had gotten more involved in club activities and jobs that kept me busy. It’s essential to have a schedule and stick with it so you can establish a strong work ethic. This is a much better alternative to getting FOMO and staying distracted. It can be scary to stray outside  your group of friends and do your own thing, but it helps you grow as a person much more. Look for organization or clubs that are interesting to you and that you can have a continued interest in.


Q:How do you know that the major you want is right for you?

M:Surprisingly, it’s figuring out what you don’t like. With so many options on a college campus, it’s easy to say you want do a bit of everything. At first, I wanted to be a part of the pre-med track, but I realized through taking science classes that it wasn’t for me. Finding classes that genuinely interest you is essential and helps you narrow down your search. As a first year, make sure to take “out-there” classes that are out of your comfort zone; not everything has to pertain to your major. Know yourself and be sure not to overwhelm yourself, but keep a balance of challenging classes, learn to be honest with yourself, and understand your strengths and weaknesses.


Q:Everyone always says to reach out to your advisor. How do I actually do that in a helpful way?

M:Emailing them would be a perfect start. A brief first meeting might be awkward, but it’s a necessary step. Talk to professors you have a strong connection with and ask them about classes to take or other professors that are helpful. Don’t be afraid to meet with your professor to simply talk about how you’re adjusting to college and your overall experience. I guarantee you that if you think you’re annoying your professor, you’re actually showing a genuine interest in the class. In regards to office hours, be the first one there. If your professor has an open door policy about office hours, just drop by and say hello so they get to know you.


Q:What was the biggest difference for you from high school to college?

M:Professors won’t tell you what to do, and you have to have an eye on the syllabus and ask questions. Learning how to adjust to your independence is a big one as well. Know that it’s okay to reach out to the counseling center, a professor, your friends and RAs, etc. Additionally, I found out that feeling lonely isn’t weird. At some point we’ve all felt that, but how you deal with it is what counts. I found embracing that is a part of becoming comfortable with being alone. From a first-year’s perspective, I would say that on campus, you should focus on yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others or concern yourself with what they’re doing; create your own college experience.


Q:Do you have any advice for sharing a space? 

M:Adjusting to someone else’s social norms is challenging, but can be done. I learned that even though my roommate and I had not had very similar life experiences, we could still find a common ground in what we wanted to get out of being here. Make sure you establish and learn boundaries! Be honest in your roommate contract and be clear on what’s acceptable.


Q:What are the resources to take advantage of on campus?

M:Career Services is a great place to start. They can guide you in a direction, even if you have absolutely no idea what your major is. They’ll find you job shadowing positions and show you how to apply. Writing Colleagues and Teaching Fellows are also good resources to use; they’ll give you the best advice, but they won’t do your work for you. They might have the inside scoop on a specific class of yours because they probably had that professor in the past. Spiritual Engagement and the Chaplain are also good confidential sources.


Q:How did you find your social group? 

M:On my floor, everyone was friendly. I ended up connecting with people who are like me. Stay in the common room and explore your dorm. Some of my closest friends are people who lived in my dorm last year. They were different from my high school friends in the sense that they were open to sharing their personal experiences and they made me feel comfortable sharing mine. There’s a stigma that upperclassmen aren’t open to being friends with underclassmen, but I found that to be untrue.

We hope this gave you some insight to living your best first-year life! In the end, it comes down to how willing you are to step out of your comfort zone. It might nerve-wracking, but in the end, it’s definitely worth it.