How to not to let the freshman semester go to waste.
The freshman semester or quarter has always had a huge dropoff in productivity from academic progress such as the last year spent in high school for so many reasons. Changes in living style, newfound freedom and a new job can make a difference. But assertive students who want to get their future started on the right food can make some aggressive moves.
1. Get Your Resume Started
The biggest mistake a student can make is think they don’t have a resume or have enough education or background to put on a resume. By crafting a resume from the thin skills and short job experience you have, you beginning to see your future (and present) work and education as a future employer will. Taking a class for occupational skills or training comes a lot more naturally when you have clicked ‘save’ on a near-empty resume file than otherwise. Scan the job boards for part time opportunities too sparse for other students to work. Job references where you get to work on time, keep a smile on your face, and dress appropriately can come in handy for the “big” job a year later.
2. Look For Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteerism has grown by leaps and bounds in recent decades. Personal skills and hobbies can translate into fun volunteer events and projects. Getting to know local people is a benefit. By getting into a volunteer program you bolster both your resume and your background dealing with people. A few years from now interviewers will ask what you did with your freshman semester besides party and goof off (especially if they can see your grades). Describing reading to the blind or telling a story about serving soup at a local shelter will fill the void. The balance in your life volunteering provides will pay off when the stress hits.
3. Audit Other Classes
Take the opportunity while classes are new and students unrecognizable to check out future classes or see if you like another instructor better. See if another year’s book or syllabus is closer to your style than the current one. Many enrolled students may be “trapped” in their electives. If you have the option to pull out of a bad class, especially if you are doing well otherwise, do so. Night or afternoon classes might be less crowded than 8 a.m. start times, or vice versa. Another major could look better after a few ‘foreign” classes have been seen from the inside.
Financial planning takes over at some point. Can you afford classes that meet five days a week if you have to work almost every day? Some classes have less costs for books but tough instructors and impossible exams. Some gut courses are for lectures only, and others fulfilling the same requirements could have hundreds of dollars in books to buy. If you find an instructor that really gets the message across, look for other classes they teach. Getting the inside track can pay off down the road.
4. Network for a Job
Even if your schedule doesn’t permit a full time job, start applying when the openings are there to get a foot in the door with the hiring managers to the local businesses. If they like you, they might make a special schedule or put you on-call. Getting to know people around campus while interviewing for work-study or department jobs can’t hurt. If you end up going for another interview, when your schedule changes they may take you up on it. Finding a job when you have the time to go through the motions, take the tests, fill out the forms, and wait for big-company processes is easier when you don’t need a job by this weekend.
5. Find Cheaper Housing
If you have a car or plan to get one, off-campus housing could be a less expensive option. Sharing an apartment with a few other students gets you instant friends and lowdown on other courses and teachers. But there is another added benefit: Housing fees are due upfront and when loans are turned down or financial aid isn’t happening, this can be tough. Crowded public schools mean lottery contests for dorms when cheaper places to live are right around the corner. Dorms can sabotage your academic progress with the wrong roommate, take charge of the situation ASAP.
If Mom and Dad grow resistant to forking over thousand dollar checks for the dorm food and the roommate from hell, a monthly nut of $500 is much more wallet-friendly. Look for work exchanges like watching kids, playing nanny, doing chores and helping out. If you can find a network of roommates to share with early, you’ll be in a better position later with references. Don’t wait until senior year, when everybody matched up from frosh and soph living quarters has closed the gap on off-campus housing.
6. Roommate-Proof Your Life
The roommate whose life is out of control can threaten your peace of mind. But every waking minute need not be spent in the dorm room. Large college and university campuses have plenty of dark corners to hide in. The trick is finding them. That quiet cafe off the highway where the waitress lets you nurse a cup of joe all night is a valuable find. The apartment parking lot corner where a between-classes car nap can regularly happen is another. Locating the dorm with the quietest (or deserted) study room is a golden find. Don’t get trapped in your roommate’s cycle of hell.
7. Keep Your Home Fires Burning
One of the most often quoted things on FaceBook is that so-and-so went off to college and they never heard from them again. You’ll need these people as job references and networking contacts sooner than you think. Spend an hour a week updating friends on how your week went, what you think of college, where you are at with studies and how you want to get in touch with them next. FaceBook tells everyone everything. Maintain some valuable person to person communication. It’s what adults do.