My First Year Student Advice

AI generated art showing a quad full of students on a college campus with brick buildings in the distance.

I love teaching first-year students. Their enthusiasm and excitement around learning is unique and quickly evolves after their first year. 

There are endless posts and articles about how to make the most of your first year of college. Yes, you should get out of your dorm room, join a club or team, try new things and remember to get sleep. But, I wanted to come at it from a different angle and share my advice through the lens of a college professor and advisor. 

I’m writing this specifically to share with my students and MAP advisees at Wheaton, but if it is informative and helpful, feel free to share it with others. Some mentions and links will go directly to our services, but I believe this advice applies to all students. 

Find Your Classrooms 

Before the first day of class, swing by your classrooms so that you know where they are. If helpful, figure out where you’d like to sit. This will reduce some of your stress on the actual day and make you more comfortable. Finding the nearest restroom, water fountain, or other things you might need in the vicinity never hurts. 

Start Checking E-mail

I know that up until now, you probably use other communication choices to stay connected, but you will need to use email in college. Yes, your inbox will be flooded with tons of messages, and you must learn to sort through them so that you don’t miss anything. The most important messages from the school and professors will arrive via email. 

If someone you are trying to reach out to is not getting back to you, feel free to copy me on your next message to them. Sometimes that helps get a response faster, and I can follow up with them if it is helpful. 

Introduce Yourself to Your Professors

All students should say hello to their professors. While our small class sizes will allow plenty of time to get to know one another, I love chatting with students. After those initial introductions, don’t hesitate to say hello to them on campus. While you won’t grow close with all of them, now is the perfect time to start building relationships, and you never know how this might help you in the future. 

Office Hours Are For YOU

My door is always open to students, and my office hours are considered “drop-in,” so you don’t need to schedule them ahead of time. Office hours are meant to be time for you and what you need. It might be just to introduce yourself to a professor, talk about careers, a homework assignment you didn’t understand, or anything else. Many students swing by my office only for a piece of candy and a hello. 

Some of my fondest memories are chatting with students about anything other than school. Last semester I loved it when a student I had taught several times noticed the Black Panther art on my wall and asked if I was a Marvel fan. He quickly learned I’m a total geek when it comes to Pop Culture. 

Talk To Your Professors About Accommodations or Concerns

You’ll receive accommodation letters from Accessibility Services and need to give them to your professors as soon as possible. This is a great time to get to know your professors by talking to them about the accommodations. If you don’t have a letter but have other concerns, I encourage you to discuss them early in the semester. This could be done before or after class or during office hours. 

Learn How To Get Help With Issues or Concerns

While I hope you never need any of these services, you must know how to get the help you or someone you know needs quickly. Install the LiveSafe App immediately as a helpful tool to find the numbers and forms you may need. Campus Safety has several forms, and having their number readily available is a good idea. Finally, our Counseling Center provides various services; no issue is too small for their team. Someone is available 24 hours a day if you have concerns. Do not hesitate to contact anyone on campus if you need help. 

Visit Career Services

I know you are just starting college, and here I am telling you to think about your career. It is never too early to start thinking about future internships and jobs. The Career Services team is here to help you with this. The sooner they know about your dreams, the more they can help. Plus, they know the faculty and staff to introduce you to depending on what you are hoping to do. You are paying far too much time and money not to think about this now rather than later. 

It Is Never Too Early to Declare Your Major

Not all will agree with me on this, but I firmly believe that if you have a clear vision of what you want to major in, you should declare it as soon as possible. If you aren’t ready for that, I will implore you, at a minimum, to go and talk to the departments you are thinking about possibly majoring in. It might also be helpful to look through the requirements in our Course Catalog

Many majors have unique requirements that your MAP Advisor may not know in detail. Every major has a worksheet that lays out the requirements. This will help you plan for classes to take and other requirements you might need to plan for. Plus, getting to know the professors may help you get into classes since they know your interest. Finally, when you declare your major, you’ll be assigned a new advisor from that major who will be able to help you more than I can. 

If you or someone you know has questions about marketing or the Business Major, please send them my way, and I’d be happy to help answer their questions.

Never Hesitate to Email a Professor

Earlier I mentioned talking to your professors this semester, but you should never be nervous or scared to email any professor on our campus. Have questions about a class they teach? Heard they are into a similar hobby that you are? Send them a note and see where it takes you. Our Faculty Directory has all the information you need. Professors should not be viewed as unapproachable, and you’ll quickly discover that most would love to hear from you. 

Tutors Are Here to Help You

There is nothing to be ashamed of about using a tutor to help you do better in your classes. Tutoring Services offer a variety of services and are there to help you understand a challenging topic or to double-check your homework before turning it in. I encourage all my students to chat with a writing tutor at a minimum because writing is a vital skill we can all improve. 

Ask Your Advisors Anything

You will hear me repeatedly say that you can ask me anything at any time, and I mean it. While I can’t promise to know all the answers, I promise to find them for you. I also promise to be your advocate to get you what you need to have a successful time in college. Any time you need me, just ask.

Wheaton has assigned you multiple advisors; each is here to help you. Don’t ever hesitate to ask us for help. Everyone on this campus is hoping for your success, and we all should do whatever we can to assist you.

I hope you each have a fantastic first semester at Wheaton and that it is everything you hoped for. We’ll see a lot of each other this semester in class, and I hope our paths cross outside of class as well. The first semester is always a mix of excitement and challenges, and I hope some of this advice is helpful for you all.  E-mail me if you have any questions.