Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Seven tips for a fulfilling freshman year

It’s the beginning of the new school year, which means another freshman class is ready to kick off their college careers at the University of Massachusetts.

For many freshmen, the new year is met with a degree of uncertainty as they discover new friends, adapt to new living arrangements and balance it all with class and figuring out a major and career to pursue. It all may be seem confusing as we enter the first day of classes, so if freshman year has you feeling nervous, stressed or downright panicked, here are seven tips to get you through your first year of college.

Shaina Mishkin/Daily Collegian

Make your room your own space
Your room is where you spend a large amount of your time and should be a place you can return to at the end of the day and feel at home, safe and at ease. Personalize your room with pictures, posters, keepsakes and your favorite stuffed animals or books.

Talk to everyone

Making new friends is an important step in making your time at college worthwhile. At UMass, it isn’t hard to find people who share similar tastes, interests, hobbies and personality traits, as long as you keep your options open. Having friends and contacts from different backgrounds at UMass can reduce anxiety about fitting in.

When you’re in your room and have time to relax and talk, leave your door open. People from your hall can then stop by to chat, lending you the opportunity to make close friends with people who live right next door. Likewise, stop by rooms on your floor and introduce yourself. Your roommate is another great friendship opportunity. Finding commonalities and company in a roommate can make for a more comfortable college experience.

In downtime during class, talk to the people you sit next to. Exchanging contact information with peers can be a huge step in getting valuable class connections (read: help with class work, forming study groups and even making friends). Also, try reaching out to resident assistants, peer mentors, resident directors, teaching assistants (TAs) and professors. These connections can open you up to new opportunities both on and off campus.

Be assertive

Instead of anxiously hoping that an issue will resolve itself, take action.

Speak with your roommate about any issues you have whilst living together.

In class, ask professors to clarify lecture points and proactively send them emails about test material, homework or extra credit opportunities — their job is to teach you, and you have a right to make sure you are getting the most out of your education. Set up appointments with tutors, TAs and professors for additional academic help.

Arranging to meet with academic advisors is a good solution to feeling overwhelmed or lost while on your academic path. Don’t be shy when it comes to your academic career — advisors are an invaluable resource, but they won’t come to you.

Get involved

One of the best ways to make yourself feel at home at a huge university like UMass is to join a club or organization. UMass has over 200 registered student organizations (RSOs) to get involved with (check out: There is a niche to be found for everyone, from intramural sports teams and theatre clubs to media agencies and student government, to name just a few.
By joining an RSO, you’ll automatically involve yourself in a specialized, tight-knit community run by people who share your interests.

By getting involved on campus, you can discover talents and interests you never thought you had or continue to explore a passion you’ve always enjoyed. Becoming confident, ambitious and opportunistic, you may find yourself stepping into a positive situation you never thought you’d be in. You may land yourself a great internship, an on-campus job, a leadership role in an organization or a chance to study abroad. It’s all about putting yourself out there.

Engage with schoolwork

Though many students aren’t thinking solely about academics when they go to college, it’s important to engage in your education as you work to earn that college degree. Doing well in school is easy — if you make the effort.

Regularly attending class means having the benefit to learn class material firsthand. Sitting close to the front of the class ensures that you are surrounded by others who are interested in the course work, and it automatically engages you in the lecture.

Keeping up with homework and reading outside of class is also extremely important. By familiarizing yourself with class material, you become more knowledgeable and prepared for exams, as well as gain a greater sense of confidence and security in class. By choosing the classes that you are most interested in, you submerge yourself in information that inspires you, ensuring that you enjoy your education and excel in school.

Explore the area

Amherst and its surrounding areas are fun, cultured and interesting places to explore. Finding things to do and see in town can be a great way to spend a free afternoon or weekend. With plenty of hiking trails, poetry festivals, record stores, ethnic restaurants, museums, cafes and farmers markets, you can always find an event worth attending or a shop worth browsing to beat boredom and acquaint yourself with the Pioneer Valley.

Embrace the experience
Freshman year is a unique experience in and of itself. For many, it is the first true taste of freedom from high school and yet it is also usually the easiest year academically. Everything is new and many people are looking to make new friends and explore. Appreciate all the new memories you are making — before you know it, the year will be over and you won’t be the new kid on the block anymore.

Elise Martorano can be reached at [email protected].

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