As incoming freshman Kody Malouf stood in front of the Seattle University campus dressed in Guy Cotten attire from head to toe, with his deer mount and fly fishing rod in hand, he couldn’t help but fantasize about his future success at his chosen school.
“I can’t wait to crush it here.” “This school is going to be a great fit for me.” “I made the right choice on coming here.”
Four months later, Kody transferred to Northern Arizona University. This time, he chose the right school.
This same thing could very easily happen to you, but how are you supposed to know in advance? The only way to find out is to dive in head first and make the most out of every situation you face. However, you have the luxury of hearing first hand accounts from current college students who can offer valuable advice and insight as you ready for your freshman year. So take it from these college students and hear the things they did right, and the things they failed horribly at.
Did I chose the right college?
Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff)
Class of 2022
Major – Film
Malouf had it set in his mind that Seattle University was the place for him. He liked the idea of small class sizes and the opportunities associated with that.
“I thought I wanted to go to a small school,” said Kody Malouf. “I thought it would be more intimate and I would get more out of the education being only 8,000 kids at the school.”
The tuition at Seattle University compared to other colleges was something that Kody was aware of going in, but he figured the elevated education was worth the cost.
“The small size and overall school experience isn’t what pushed me to transfer,” said Kody. “In the end it was the cost of tuition. I didn’t feel as if the high price was justifying the education that I was receiving.”
Compared to Seattle University, the overall education he was receiving was not all that different from NAU.
“The education at NAU is very comparable, but my classes are definitely different,” he said. “Size is a factor, but the amount of classes I am taking has changed as well. I am taking two more here than I was at SU.”
Eastern Washington University (Cheney)
Class of 2022
Major – Pre Nursing
Max was known around his hometown as a get it done type of kid in class and during any activity he was involved in, but your hometown ego serves you little to no good as you begin to plant your roots in your new college life. College freshman Max Collins stuck true to his Alaskan roots as best as he could in the Pacific Northwest. Balancing his classes was not an issue as he sees college as a relief from high school in terms of overall workload.
“Showing up on move-in day is probably your best chance of meeting people for the school year,” said Collins. “This was easy for me, but not everyone has the same mentality as I do. You need to get out and rebrand yourself while not overextending your personality.”
As an incoming freshman, the people you meet right away are most likely to be your social outlets. Creating a network of not only friends, but also other students that can help you down the road will make your experience just that much more personal.
“The biggest downside to my initial experience was that I didn’t meet enough people right away,” he said. “Next year I am going to extend myself further and try to make more friends.”
While some students take it upon themselves to independently create a social network, others rely on organizations they are apart of.
University of Idaho (Moscow)
Class of 2022
Major – Marketing
Minor – Advertising
Freshman Brittany Slick is fully engulfed in Greek Life at the University of Idaho which is known for its extensive Greek Life influence.
“The Greek system took up a huge part, if not the majority, of my school,” she said. “It was an easy choice for me to decide to go Greek.”
Slick voiced her gratitude towards her sorority for simplifying the initial stage of getting settled in. The Greek community as whole is a close bound group that extends its arms to everyone involved while mixing both guys and gals together for social events.
“The Greek community is really close and we all live on the same street,” she said. “We do lots of socials and events with other sororities and fraternities so I made a lot of guy friends as well through those kinds of events.
Feeling like a number in a pool of students is something that many incoming freshman dread, coming from a small town like Ketchikan. Brittany’s sorority and college environment eliminated that feeling.
“The community feel is what makes my college unique because not a lot of places can make you feel like you’re at home when you’re in a completely new environment— and U of I does a really good job at doing just that,” said Brittany. “There’s endless opportunities for clubs, sports, media, entertainment, etc, but every college has those. Most large school students can’t say they know someone in every one of those groups—I can proudly say I can.”
Slick feels right at home on her campus.
“I wasn’t expecting to adapt that quick to a whole new environment and school system, but now it’s literally my second home.”
High school vs. College
California Polytechnic University (San Luis Obispo)
Class of 2019
Major – Psychology
Minor – Anthropology / Geography
Mckenzie Harrison is a junior at California Polytechnic University. The school has about 21,000 students attending. To her, the biggest difference between the two that is directly school related is the size and layout of the facilities.
“My first day of classes freshman year of high school I went in knowing mostly everyone, even my teachers,” said Mckenzie. “I was like five minutes away from home and knew exactly what to expect. My first day of college was a lot of the unknown.”
Between classes filled with unknown students and having to find her way around campus, Mckenzie was blissfully ready follow the path to success.
“The fun thing about coming to college was so many people all in the same place that all shared the same clueless feeling,” she said. “This helped me to be less nervous.”
Some classes in college such as math are very comparable to high school. She said finding a good study group will enhance your ability to stay on top of your work while still finding time to have fun outside of class.
“If you stay on top of things you will get good grades, just like high school,” said Mckenzie. “It is great to find a really nice support group to have while you are going through tough classes. Math was very similar to high school for me and my study group helped me achieve my full potential.”
Differences between the two schooling systems are more prominent than similarities. The pace in a college lecture is on a much higher level.
“Absences are much harder to make up, material is presented very quickly, and some of my classes have anywhere from 100-500 kids,” she said. “Teachers only have certain office hours that you can go in and ask questions, which was different for me because I asked a lot of question in high school.”
Academic differences aside, the college experience is nothing like high school.
“I have way more independence and “free” time depending on how I use it,” said Mckenzie. “I attend a school with a lot of kids, so I have to get used to not seeing people that I know all the time.”
Creating and living your own adult life
College is more than just class, its is also full of concerts, road trips, conventions, and much more.
Slick is already forming a game plan to improve her next year in Moscow.
“My free time in the first semester was mostly going to all the events I could to get to know new people or get to know my new friends even more,” she said. “I wanted to work on building solid relationships and putting myself out there so that I could feel like I found a place to belong and people to belong with.”
She plans on expanding her horizons off campus during her sophomore year.
“My free time in second semester was filled with actually getting off of campus and exploring more of the area I was in,” said Brittany. “I had an easier schedule second semester, so that gave me a lot of time to go on drives and see new places. I went all over Northern Idaho and into Washington. Getting to see where my new friends grew up and how different their towns are was a great experience, compared to what i’ve known my whole life.
Individual class load and degree path yield different levels of free time, especially as you indulge further into your college years.
Arizona State University (Temp)
Class of 2018
Major – Kinesiology
Arizona State University senior Jenny Hu took a very practical view towards how she planned to live her college life. Her freshman and sophomore years were consistently filled with frat parties and social events. During her last two years, Jenny found herself hitting the books more than she expected.
“I assumed I would continue to expand on exploring opportunities, but I was mistaken,” said Jenny. “The second half of college there wasn’t much free time. Honestly, I tried to catch up on as much sleep as possible with the majority of my free time.”
Location dictates your ability to explore the surrounding areas of your college just as much as class load and school involvement.
Collins noticed an obvious change in pace and lifestyle from the beginning of the year to the end. His transition from settling in to becoming more independent happened naturally.
“The first half of my school year, I mainly just became an adult and did what I wanted to do,” said Max. “The second half, I focused on achieving personal goals like road tripping, camping and skiing.”
The area and culture provides easy access to activities similar to those back home for Max.
“Adapting my style of off campus life from Alaska to Washington was just as easy as I expected.” he said. “A good number of the things I love to do back home are just as available here. That and the endless amount of area to cover while doing those type of things is great for my lifestyle.”
Prepare in advance
After graduating high school, you have a good chunk of time to plan for your journey to college, wherever that may be. Approaching college like a big vacation may be helpful to your success in getting settled in. Having a rough plan that outlines activities and facilities that are available on campus is a great start.
Slick was glad that she had a general idea of what was to come once she arrived. However, going with the flow is extremely beneficial.
“I thoroughly stalked the websites and social medias of my college looking for more information,” she said. “It was a great start, but it kinda psyched me out and I got a little nervous from it. I ended up following what I knew already and made the experiences my own instead of trying to recreate what I saw online.”
Making the experiences your own adds depth to your college life. The connections will come eventually.
“You just gotta go with the flow and let connections happen, you shouldn’t force anything.”
Planning your social life shouldn’t be your main focus. Brittany found herself wishing she spent more time thinking about her budget.
“You think you will manage your money well between scholarships and tuition and books and everything, but you get off track quickly,” she said. “I wish I would’ve set a monthly budget plan before going to college so that I spent my money more wisely in the beginning rather than having to compensate at the end of the school year for spending so much.”
A quick tip Brittany hopes to share with incoming freshman is packing.
“Start packing early, it comes up quick and if you slowly pack, your life will be so much easier,” she said. “Pro Tip: Everything you wanna hang up, LEAVE ON A HANGER and pack them. Then you can just hang them up when you get there. That trick saved me a lot of time.”
How college changes you
Everyone adapts to college differently. Part of that process is embracing the change. Everybody changes, and change is good.
Slick had the most to say about change. She credits the change to not only the college lifestyle, but also her ability to initiate that transition in her life and the influence of new friends.
“I have already grown so much as a person from the time I left to the time I came back,” said Slick.
“I feel that I have zoned in more on my values,” she said. “ I learned to be familiar and confident with the idea of being independent.”
Staying true to your roots is something you should cherish as you enter an environment as hostile as college can be. Kids from small towns have no problem integrating this into their new found life.
“I think one part of me that has never and will never change is my appreciation for home and the people that made me who I am today,” said Slick. “Ketchikan is such a unique place, and now that I’ve lived away from home, I’ve learned to cherish it more because it is unlike any other town.”
Harrison feels that she has matured quite a bit since attending college, like most people do.
“Since coming to college I feel that I have matured a lot, but also learned so much more about myself,” she said. “I have really had to prioritize what is important to me and what I really need to focus on. I value my upbringing even more than I did before, and I value time spent with my family when possible.”
College has a tendency to change your perspective on many things, including your place in the world.
“You realize how small your personal world really is, and that there is a huge world outside of you.”
Words of wisdom for incoming freshmen
Kody Malouf – Don’t sit in your dorm room all day. Kids complain about how they don’t like college because they don’t do a lot. Sit next to someone who looks cool in your classes and get to know them. Meeting people is easy, so do it.
Brittany Slick – Put yourself out there as much as you can and seek out opportunities rather than trying to wait for them to come to you. Everyone is in the same place so don’t be afraid to reach out to people and start a conversation!
Jenny Hu – LOL don’t go to college, it’s a trap
Max Collins – Meet as many people as you can, even if you dread doing it. Organize your time so you can do good in school, but still have fun.
Dante Troina – It’s easier than you probably expect, but that doesnt mean slack off. Since everything down there depends on you,you can easily screw up. As long as you have a basic understanding of what’s going on, you’ll be fine.
Mckenzie Harrison – College is an investment in yourself and in your future. I encourage you to have as much fun as possible, but to always push yourself to excel in academics. The time goes so much faster than you realize, so get out of your comfort zone, and stay true to yourself. Try new things, purposefully have conversations with people who have differing opinions, educate yourself on anything and everything, and most of all realize you are 100% capable of doing what you set your mind to. It is so important that you start healthy habits your first year, because they tend to follow you the next three. Knowing your self worth and staying confident will help you navigate these years. It’s okay to ask for help, to be homesick, to be discouraged by all the new work, to go to counseling, and/or tutoring.