Local Experts Advise Freshmen on Making the Most of Their First Year

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As midterms approach, some college freshman may feel more secure in their new role as college student, while others may wonder how to get on track. To help, we spoke with two experts on how to make the most of that first year.  Andrew Beckett, Ph. D. is the Assistant Dean of the University College at the University of Iowa and J. Todd Coleman is the Assistant Vice President for Admissions at Wartburg College. Both experts agreed that one of the biggest mistakes students make is that they fail to manage their time. College is more unstructured than high school and students are held more accountable for their class attendance and academic performance.

“It’s very common for students to do poorly because they simply have “too much” free time and do not set aside uninterrupted time to focus on their academics.  It’s easy to procrastinate and fall into the trap of waiting until the last minute to read the text book or work on homework,” informs Beckett. “ Do you have an hour or two between classes?  If so, where might you go to study versus going back to your residence hall room?”

Most freshmen see on-campus academic resources as tools for those that are struggling with classes. However, these resources are meant to be utilized by all students so they can perform to the best of their scholastic ability. Students should take advantage of these tools as soon as possible for any class they have room for improvement in.

“Perhaps the biggest difference between high school and college is, generally speaking, you have to seek out help in college.  In college, you are responsible for your learning.  Most campuses have a plethora of resources that often go underutilized.  From my experience, tutoring, supplemental instruction (SI), and faculty office hours are the most underutilized resources,” explains Beckett.  “Many students think that those resources are for struggling students. The typical students using our resources are the “B” students who want to get an “A”.  Most students also wait until after the first exam before they attend. “

Overall, it’s up to each student to make the most of their college experience. This includes trying new activities, meeting new people and stepping outside of your comfort zone. College is a once in a lifetime opportunity and each experience offers more opportunities for networking. The networks you build in college will be useful throughout your entire career.

“Make the most of your experience. You’ll be meeting new people, people from all over the world and country; it’ll open up a lot of opportunities. I believe very strongly in the power of networking, whether it be with professors, administrators, alumni or fellow students, any opportunity to build and grow your network is extremely important,” advises Coleman.  “Find out more about your roommate then just his or her favorite food or what time they go to bed. His or her parents may be the CEOs of a company or superintendent of a school district. College is an important stepping stone in life; utilize all of the opportunities that will present themselves when on a college campus.”

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