“College is the best four years of your life” is a phrase we’ve all heard in some capacity. While it may have some truth to it, the reality is that we invest a lot of time and money in our days at Michigan State University, so why not make them the best?
Once the initial excitement of the semester starting sets in, don’t get bogged down if getting out in the college scene seems overwhelming—in fact, that is totally normal. While everyone’s college experience is unique and memorable in its own way, here are some tips to help make the MSU community feel like a home.
Do something, anything
Joining clubs and organizations may seem like a college cliché, but they’re actually an integral part of the college experience. Getting involved in an organization early can have some serious rewards come graduation. Organizations allow you to make awesome connections with peers that can create long-lasting relationships post-graduation. Becoming an active member can also lead to e-board or managerial positions as an upperclassman. Especially if you’re just starting out, organization involvement can make up for job experience on a resume and add some serious soft skills like leadership, team building and communication that employers are looking for.
DO: Find your people
Getting involved on campus in some capacity is the gateway to finding your best friends, mentors and role models. Whether it’s an intramural team, your weekly dorm floor meeting or an academic organization, you’re bound to find someone with similar interests. Don’t be scared to go to a meeting alone. Keep in mind you’ll probably meet people who are or were in your shoes when they first joined and are willing to make you feel at home. At such a big university, finding the small communities within is what makes every Spartan’s experience unique.
DON’T: Give up
Patience is a virtue, and college definitely tests that. Not every encounter you have trying something new will be “the next best thing.” Don’t let this discourage you. Sometimes, negative experiences shape us as much as positive experiences. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to leave a club if it’s not what you’re looking for or not what you expected it to be. The right fit for you could be waiting just around the corner.
Find what you love
With all the opportunities a big university presents, this can take some time—and that’s OK. According to Inside Higher Ed, one-third of college first-timers change their major at least once within the first two years. One in 10 college freshmen change their major twice. We often enter college with a set idea of what we’ll do and who we’ll be. While it’s good to have plans, also leave room to try new things and grow into new interests.
DO: Use your resources
At MSU you’ve got a support system of advisers, counselors, professors and peers who are willing to give you the guidance you’re looking for. Whether it’s sharing their own experience with you, making class recommendations or learning more about a program, reaching out can take you places you never expected.
DON’T: Be complacent
As we mature, our interests change. The things that interest you as a college freshman may totally change as a senior. As you go through college, be mindful of that and don’t be afraid to change your path. Joining extracurricular clubs and organizations is a great way to explore other interests and see if some make you happier than others. Taking intro courses or picking up a minor are also great ways to try out a different field of study and find out if you gravitate toward something different. Remember, most majors don’t ask you to officially declare until junior year, so in the meantime, don’t limit yourself to one.
Work hard, study harder
College comes with a few social stigmas: some true, and some definitely overexaggerated (we can’t all be Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde”). However, the stigma of spending overcaffeinated late nights at the library working on a last-minute project is a reality for most of us at some point. Explore campus for your favorite study spot or create a playlist that really puts you in a productive mood. Maybe you’re someone who needs total isolation to study or a constant background noise. Building good study habits early on in your college career can help avoid distractions and slip ups in semesters to come.
DO: Believe in yourself
At the end of the day, no one knows you better than yourself—so why shouldn’t you be your own biggest cheerleader? Unfortunately, stress is one side effect of college that can take a toll on how a person views him or herself. When you feel burned out, use that as an excuse to take a step away from the books, relax and come back with a clear mind. Don’t let the “what ifs” that cross your path make you doubt who you are and what you’re doing. You’re here for a reason, take a deep breath and see it through.
DON’T: Gauge your success
Let’s get one thing straight: College is really hard. Whether you study professional writing or astrophysics, your struggles are real and validated, as are your achievements. With so many people working toward similar goals, it’s easy to feel like you might not be “doing enough” especially when the person right next to you seems to be doing it right. But keep in mind—everyone has their own path and pace. Don’t let someone else’s achievements gauge yours. Instead, stay the course and keep chasing your dream; good things take time—and, trust us, they’ll come.