The four years of college are unlike any other time period in life. Professors are at the ready to answer tough questions. Friends are always nearby. Students are forced to challenge themselves and gain knowledge like never before. However, during the first few years of college, it can be difficult to really embrace the unique opportunities college offers. Here are a few tidbits of advice from seasoned junior and senior members of the Lariat Editorial Board looking back on their Baylor experience to help the freshmen with one semester under their belt, but many more to go. We hope you will embrace college on a deeper level and, ultimately, have a far more enriching experience throughout these four years.
Connect with your professors
One of the most underrated connections you can forge while in college is with professors. Sure, while they’re standing up at their lectern lecturing on Shakespeare or calculus, they can seem intimidating and unapproachable. But the truth is, professors at Baylor want you to succeed. Find a professor who shares an interest in a particular subject matter. Invite them to coffee at Common Grounds and ask them about their journey, their research and their academic interests. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge on their area of study, but they also offer encouragement, opportunities and advice to the students who seek them out. If you reach out to a professor and keep in touch, a conversation over a cup of coffee could result in a lifelong mentor.
Don’t limit yourself to one friend group
It is exciting and relieving when you finally find a friend group in college. You have inside jokes, an active group chat, and a consistent go-to hang out gang. While you can continue to treasure and invest into this central group of people, you should also work to branch out to make more friends. Every friend brings out a different aspect of our personalities, and you will fully experience the university and find yourself when you broaden your social circle. You learn about more diverse lifestyles, cultures, departments and organizations. Having an exclusive in-group restricts you to your comfort zone and reinforces your pre-existing beliefs.
Take time to learn how to be alone
Although college is an amazing time to make new friends and invest in the people you have in your life, it’s incredibly important to learn about personal independence. Be a bit more introspective, take up a new hobby or just schedule out some time for yourself. If nothing else, just take a bath and listen to music, or read a book or watch a show. Spending time alone is just as important as being social and can help you conserve and build up more energy to dedicate to your work. In the future, you’re likely going to be living and working independently, so taking some time to get comfortable being by yourself can be extremely beneficial for you and your personal growth.
Try something new
For many of us, coming to college means leaving your home and stepping out of your comfort zone to a totally new environment. College is a time of change; many people change their major once, twice or even three times in the course of their college career. Don’t be afraid to try something new at any point in college. If you have the chance the take an elective way outside of your major, do it. Take a ceramics class even though you’re an environmental science major. Take forensic science even though it’s not required for your business degree. Take sign language even though it won’t count as your foreign language credit. Take advantage of this time to learn and explore. Learn as many skills as you can while you’re here. You many never be in a position again where you have as many resources at your disposal as you do right now, and you never know when those skills might come in handy.
Take advantage of university resources
Oftentimes, students come to college and have to learn how to study for the first time in the midst of figuring out how to live on their own. Baylor has wonderful resources like Career & Professional Development, a counseling center, academic support programs, chaplains and more. As you begin to adjust, utilize the resources available to you. Recognize that college is an adjustment, and it’s OK to ask for help if you’re struggling. Making study plans and getting tutoring in your weak areas will lighten your stress levels and help later on in your academic journey.
Question your beliefs
Many of us share the experience of having been told what to believe by our parents or guardians throughout our upbringing. Parents instill their political, social and religious views in their kids, and, as a result, those children often go on to affirm similar beliefs and ideologies. However, for many, college is the first opportunity during which you don’t have such present familial pressures as you did during the past 18 years of life. If you haven’t done it already, take the time to really evaluate and challenge your own beliefs and convictions. Rather than simply believing the ideologies that your parents instilled in you, critically address why you believe those things. A great way to challenge your own beliefs is to open yourself up to the perspectives of those with beliefs different from your own. Listen and discuss. Explore the minds of those around you and, hopefully once you reach the end of your explorations, you will have discovered personal beliefs that are founded on personal experience and conviction rather than shallow inherited belief.
There may never be another time in your life when the environment around you is so conducive to personal exploration and growth. Although everyone has a unique Baylor experience, these bits of advice may help you find the best path for yourself and thrive during your time in college.