Everyone has a different experience in their first year at college. Some people love it instantly and it takes others time to grow into the big change. My first year was filled with highs and lows, adjusting to a new life and exploring fresh opportunities. Now that I’m a sophomore, my friends and I talk a lot about our contrasting experiences and things we wish we had done. Reflecting on this, I've put together some tips to help you make the most of your first year in college:
1. Leave Your Door Open
In one of these conversations, a group of my friends discussed how they initially met each other. They left their dorm room open during the day as an invitation for other freshmen to say hi. When people walked by, they would introduce themselves and a friendship would start. On the opposite side of this, another one of my friends would walk the floors of their dorm building to meet other freshmen with open doors. If doors weren’t open, they would often knock and say hi. When I was a first-year, I was definitely too shy to attempt this. Now, I wish I had. Almost every student is eager to meet more people, especially in their same residential hall. It makes the dorms feel like home and the transition into college easier.
2. Attend the Club Fair
The first few weeks of the semester are filled with several social events. One of these is the club fair, where almost every club is introduced in the Gordon Field House. I went with two of my friends from orientation and we didn’t expect more than a few stands. We were very wrong; there’s a club for just about anything you can think of. We spent hours there, talking to any booth we thought interested us and signing up with our emails. There are clubs related to majors, sports, hobbies, and socialization—from animation club to a cappella council to beekeepers club. Each club is open to everyone, despite major or ability. Some of my friends started fresh in sports they had never played, while others signed up with years of experience. Joining clubs is a great way to meet students who share the same interests as you, both in your year and older.
Greek life is also at the club fair with information about their organization and recruitment dates. Going into college, I never thought I would join a sorority. I didn’t even think about rushing. But, I met some of the girls, went to a few events, and quickly realized that Greek life at RIT is different from the stereotype I created in my head. Every girl I talked to was dedicated to their academics, motivated, understanding, welcoming, and so kind. Because of this, I joined Alpha Xi Delta, met some of my best friends, and made some of my favorite college memories. They’re a big reason why I loved my first year and couldn’t wait to come back to RIT after summer.
3. Introduce Yourself to Classmates
One of the easiest ways I met people was through conversation with students I sat next to in class. We’d talk more and more every day and begin to make a friendship. This was especially beneficial because I now had someone to study and complete work with. Friends from classes that I met my first year are still in several of my sophomore courses. Knowing a friendly face in a class truly goes a long way.
4. Get to Know Your Professors
This is an important part of not just your first year, but every year of college. Some of the professors in your first year, specifically major-related courses, will teach a class in your future semesters. Having a good relationship with them helps in so many ways. In my experience, professors become more understanding of any arising issues, allowing them to recognize you as more than just another student. This opens doors for internships, co-ops, and research opportunities. At the very least, it makes the class more enjoyable.
5. Work, If You Want
During my first semester at RIT, I decided not to apply for an on-campus job in order to adjust to my college schedule. I knew a lot of friends who adapted quicker and applied for a job within a few weeks. Jobs open you up to more friendships through co-workers, allow you to be more comfortable on campus, and are one of the most convenient ways to make money. There are various opportunities for different jobs across campus, from foodservice to teaching assistants. New applications frequently become available on Career Connect, RIT’s job search engine. At the end of my first semester, I was balancing my schedule well, making me ready to take on a job. I applied to Margaret’s House, the daycare on campus, and it was one of my favorite experiences. The daycare is located on the dormside, so it was only a minute walk every morning. The children are constantly outside and in strollers during the warmer days, waving to passing students, and bringing smiles to faces.
There were certainly days where I felt I had a hard time adjusting to college, but by the end of my first year, I didn’t want to leave. I grew significantly as a person and became far more independent. By following these tips, I quickly made a life at RIT with close friends, exciting weekends, an enjoyable job, and favorite memories. In just a few short months, Rochester became my home away from home.