Freshman Year: What Should I be Doing?

tortuguero13As a freshman, you aren’t going to be eligible or competitive for the major scholarship competitions because you have only just started college and don’t yet have a developed resume or even a GPA, if you are in your first semester. This is the time that you will want to spend developing skills and interests that will make you competitive for major awards later on in your academic careers.

A few things to keep in mind:

Grades are important. Grades aren’t going to be the end all be all of scholarship competitions. If you have a 4.0 GPA but haven’t done much else, you aren’t going to have a very competitive application for future awards. Still, if you’ve done a ton and have a low GPA, you won’t be competitive for the awards, either. Freshman year is the time to establish a strong GPA and it is also the time to start developing study habits that will help you maintain a good GPA throughout your academic career. If you are struggling with a class, get help. Visit the Center for Academic Excellence on campus for free tutoring, or go to the writing center if you are having trouble with papers. Always remember that you aren’t only learning facts and information in college, but you are also learning how to learn.

Get to know your faculty members. These are the people who will be writing your letters of recommendations. They will also be the people who will be providing you with guidance throughout your academic career. They are a resource, so use them. Get in the habit of stopping by a professor’s office hours at least once a semester.

Get involved in research. This is especially important if you are a STEM student who is planning on going to graduate school. Research will be crucial to helping you get fellowships and assistantships, which will likely be research based. If you don’t go to graduate school, research is still important because it is job experience and will establish for a future employer that you are a hard worker. Research isn’t just relevant to STEM fields, however. You will find research opportunities in any field of study. Work with your teachers and advisers to find appropriate opportunities.

Develop a plan for study abroad and/or learning another language. Many post-graduate scholarships and fellowships that provide students with opportunities for international travel are geared towards students who have some experience with another language. Also, studying abroad will help you develop connections in other countries and will also give you a broader worldview, making you more competitive for graduate schools and for employment.

Campus Involvement The most important thing to remember here is not to spread yourself too thin. It is far better to be very involved in a couple of organizations than to be marginally involved in many. Pick opportunities that align with your career or personal interests and get involved with these. You likely won’t be able to walk into a leadership position, but you’ll want to get started freshman year working your way up to one. Is there an organization or volunteer opportunity that you’d like to see on campus or in the community that doesn’t exist? Start one! The most important thing to ask yourself is this: how will the campus or community be better after I’ve left?

Summer Activities Think about what you’d like to spend your summer doing. There are many opportunities for paid research as well as internships. See Ms. Whiteside as well as Career Services to find the right opportunity for you.

For more information on student activities or if you are interested in starting an organization, visit Student Affairs.

For more info on freshman year opportunities, check out: Scholarships and Fellowships Freshman Year


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