by Lauren, our college blogger
After freshman year, the expectation is for people to be completely settled in at their school with the best group of friends ever and to know exactly what degree they will graduate with. For many college students, this is not the case.
As I have found out, asking the question “Did I make the right choice” lasts a lot longer than the first semester. After talking to some friends, some who are transferring and some who could not be happier with their choice of school, I came up with some things college students wish they would have known about or were surprised to find out about the school they picked.
Oh, Gee! I Need a Degree…
Once freshman year is over, so is coasting through the semesters on general classes. College sophomores all over the country realize this and from the conversations I’ve had, freak out about picking classes for a degree. Some even have to transfer after realizing the schools they attend do not have the major they are looking for.
When starting the college search, it is really helpful to have some idea of what you want your major to be. Even if you have no idea, look at a few majors and what their requirements are so you have some idea what track of classes to take.
I went into my freshman year with a general idea of what I wanted to do and thankfully had looked at the options beforehand, so I knew switching majors would not be a problem. Some schools make the process of choosing a major very difficult so be prepared and try to figure out your major early on.
One thing that can make or break the first year of college is your living experience. Research on dorm life is a MUST. I found my best friends living right next door to me, but I did not know anyone else on my floor.
I would not change schools but I would change the dorm I lived in my first year. Dorm life is where your social scene is, and it is important to look at the different options. Would you want to live in the dorm with 19 floors where everything is communal or the dorm where you have your own bathroom in your room and never see anyone?
Dorm policies also can impact a social life. For example, at a large state school like University of Wisconsin-Madison’s freshmen dorms do not have strict policies. People can walk in and out without checking in guests. Due to the location and religious affiliation at mine, there are strict policies regarding how many visitors are allowed at a time, how late they can stay, and only two overnight guests per month. I love the people I have met but trying to sneak someone of the opposite gender up to watch a movie past 10 PM was kind of a drag.
Take Advantage of Location
I chose a school in a massive city for the opportunities to get off campus. I knew right away that there would be school-sponsored events and community service opportunities left and right. A friend who goes to Grinnell University in Iowa was pleasantly surprised to find her school does the same things, if not more. She was happy to know they have an amazing tutoring program where she goes into the small town of Grinnell to tutor.
If branching off outside of campus is something you are interested in, don’t be afraid of schools in smaller towns. You may be surprised to find out how many off-campus opportunities there are!
Professor and Student Relationships
College is a completely different academic experience than high school. Teacher-student relationships function on a different level. I was very surprised to find out how much some college professors put into their lessons and how the class size can drastically change a learning environment. I was expecting large classes where I was anonymous and the professor did not know my name, but thankfully it was the exact opposite. My professors all really strive for the success of their students and take the time to form as much of a relationship with them as possible. I am very lucky I found a school that fits the way I learn.
Ask yourself what kind of learning environment is best for you. When looking for schools look at the teacher-to-student ratio and ask what the class environment is like.
Photo Credit: David Kennedy