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What I wish I knew as a first-year at Miami


Coming into your first year of college is one of the hardest moments for anybody to experience. Whether you’re a first-generation college student or you’ve had family members attend before, it’s a challenge to navigate adulthood and start at a brand new school. 

Sometimes you’re miles or states away from family and friends. You don’t know anyone and you feel you hardly know how to take care of yourself. It can be daunting.

The good news is that you’re not the first to go through such a life change. 

While I’m only a sophomore at Miami University this year, there are already so many things I wish I could tell my first-year self. There are choices I made, some I would change and some I wouldn’t. While I tend to look at my life with a “you can’t change the past” attitude, I think that my experiences can provide insight to the next class entering Miami this fall. 

When I first came to Miami last year, most of my worries were surrounding my classes. I worried I took the wrong courses and that I wasn’t on the right path. 

Looking back a year later, I can say I made a mistake rescheduling by myself after orientation without consulting my academic adviser. 

Even now, I seriously question why I did this. Instead of taking the recommended courses that fit my plan and my major best, I ended up in a chemistry lab with mostly science majors. At the end of my first semester I had a barely-passing grade, unnecessary science credits and a dent in my GPA. 

Some required fields of study have courses that fulfill requirements and may be easier for students outside that major, like GLG 141, Geology of U.S. National Parks, or PHL 273, Formal Logic. As somebody who’s notoriously bad at anything science or math related, I was able to complete requirements using these courses my adviser recommended. Not only did these courses fulfill requirements, but I had the chance to explore other majors and subjects.

When in class, notes are essential in almost every course. For me, I found taking notes on a Google Doc was often easiest. At other times, writing in a notebook helped more. 

You have to find the form of note taking that works best for you. It’s okay to experiment with different techniques, but it’s important to find what works and helps you stay organized.

One thing that worked well for me in class was finding a friend in each class. Not only do you have someone you recognize, but the both of you can help each other when you miss class or notes. Near exams, you have a study-buddy and someone to talk over course material with. 

Besides interacting with other students, it’s important to build a relationship with your instructors. I personally wish I attended more office hours in the beginning of my time here.

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Professors love to see their students engaging in their class whether it’s a course you’re taking for your major or not. They often want to be as helpful to their students as possible. 

Beyond office hours being a great time to get help, it can also help you find mentors and chances to network. 

As a political science major, my professors often had experience before teaching. Going to office hours and events put on by the department allowed me the chance to explore career options, create connections and hear from experienced professionals. 

Despite the work that college entails, it’s important to take breaks throughout the year. Mental health should be prioritized. 

A study done by The American College Health Association reported that 47.8% of college students experienced high stress while in college due to academics. 

In order to do your best work and succeed in college, you have to remember to prioritize your own well-being sometimes too.

On campus, Miami’s Student Counseling Services provides resources including mental health screenings, counseling and even dog therapy sessions.

I found that even spending weekends in my dorm relaxing with video games, playing cards with friends or having movie marathons left me in a great mood to start classes back up during the week. Exploring places like Miami’s Formal Gardens or the Richard and Carole Cocks Art Museum can also be a fun adventure to alleviate stress.

Navigating your first year of college is bound to be tough. You will struggle sometimes, but it’s important to remember that your friends and family are rooting for you. Use these years to your advantage: study abroad, make lifelong friends, ace your classes and secure a future for yourself. 

This is only the start, and the next four years of your life have the potential to be some of your best.