BY KRITI SOOD
The transition from high school to college should not be underestimated. In college, professors have syllabuses, which become both your guideline and your lifeline for the semester. This means that you have free reign over how to approach the class and when to read the lectures, practice the material and study for exams. Sometimes your grade for the class is determined only by three exams. This means that you have those three chances to prove that you mastered the material.
When students are freshmen, they worry the most about their grades. If we spend so much time stressing over grades, how will we get time to make friends, be social and — most importantly — sleep? In many cases, people are told to choose two of the three options. But from my own experience, I can tell you that having all three can be a reality. All three aspects are vital in college and in life. Your GPA is important because it is integral to your future schooling — but without sleep, your health is at risk, and without a social life, college will not be as memorable.
One of the most important techniques for students to learn is time management. If you actually use the university-provided agenda and set academic and personal goals and deadlines, then you eliminate all factors that drive you to succumb to bad habits. You are given your schedule at the beginning of the year, so take that information and plan out how you are going to play the semester. Setting due dates for your short-term goals will be extremely beneficial because you will reduce the possibility of procrastinating, which means no all-nighters for you. So, while your peers are overusing the Starbucks across Richter, you can sleep peacefully or go out with friends the night before an exam or due date.
Rachel Johnson (Class of 2014): Computer Science
Rachel Johnson is a Computer science major in her senior year at the University of Miami. She is involved in her Tri Delta sorority, Relay for Life, and Miami Motion.
If you were to give freshmen a piece of advice, what would it be?
Throughout life, I was so focused on working hard to get into a good high school and to get into a good college. So I would definitely say be willing to try new things. The world is your playground and there are endless possibilities. Be willing to explore the unknown.
How do you balance going to sorority events and managing your academic life?
The good thing with sorority events is that you know what is planned out well in advanced. It is really structured in that I know every Monday night I have a meeting. A lot of times it can seem overwhelming to have all of these philanthropic or social events and manage your academic life, but a good tip is to choose the one you most want to go to. It is not necessary to go to all of them. If you don’t have time to attend the entire event, then just showing up for a short while is still beneficial. We take study breaks as it is, might as well do something that makes a difference for the community in that short time.
Ethan Homedi (Class of 2016): Neuroscience
Ethan Homedi is a Neuroscience major in his sophomore year, (although he plans to graduate early), he is involved in Camp Kesem as a volunteer coordinator, participates in research in the neuroscience department, as well as Phi Delta Epsilon as the community service chair.
What do you miss most about freshman year?
I would say that I miss the “blank slate” nature of the entire year the most. Who we were or what we did in high school has little influence over the kind of students we could become in college. Of course, this could work as both a positive or a negative, depending on what one decides to do in his or her first year. But I certainly believe that our high school selves were no longer who we felt that we had to be in college. For instance, I was an incredibly shy and reserved individual in high school, only really focusing on my academics. And while I thrived academically because of that, I lost the ability to form a lot of close friendships that I could have had had I been a bit more open and better with budgeting my time. Freshman year here at UM allowed me to realize this, and as such, I felt the drive to become the person that I wanted to be. I learned to balance classes with extracurriculars and friendships, and as a result, I feel like a more well-rounded, balanced individual. It was only through the essential limitlessness of freshman year that I believe this change could have been made.
What was the most valuable?
The most valuable thing I took away from freshman year was to try everything at least once. Obviously this does not extend to anything illicit, but I do believe that it is beneficial to step outside of your comfort zone or area of familiarity whenever presented with the chance to do so. You may realize that whatever you tried just wasn’t for you, and that’s okay; if you hadn’t tried it at all, you wouldn’t know whether you would’ve liked it or not. For instance, I was dragged to my first Camp Kesem meeting by a friend; I had little interest in doing this camp and “sacrificing” a few weeks of my summer to come back to Miami early to attend the camp. However, after attending a few more meetings, I fell in love with the organization, and here I am now, one year later, on the executive board for it. This one specific example just proves to show that preconceived notions are hardly ever true, so I really would encourage each and every freshman to keep an open mind and explore everything UM has to offer.
Kayla Etienne (Class of 2017): Biomedical Engineering
Kayla Etienne is a Biomedical Engineering major in her sophomore year at UM, she is involved in many off campus art expositions, NSBE, UDoodle, and practices Taekwondo.
Knowing what you know now, what would you say to your freshman year self?
I came into college thinking that I could do the same amount of studying I did in high school, and still pass. It took a couple of bad grades for me to wake up and realize that being here required so much more of me. I would tell myself to freak out less–to study more, and to be okay with the adjustment from high school to college. It’s very different. It was also hard to adjust, because I denied myself gym time–which is important for me–so go to the gym! Finally, breathe. Perfection is not real–we learn from our mistakes and we keep going. Your first F is not the end of the world, you can come back from it. The curve is your best friend. Failing is not the end of the world– failing that very first quiz in college– it’ll hurt, but you aren’t the same straight-A student from high school. Make use of your resources, go to tutoring, go to your professor’s office hours. As long as you catch yourself, things will work out. My dad always tells me that its not how you fail, its how you pick yourself back up. Oh, and take more naps–that’s important too.
How do you maintain a perfect balance?
A lot of my friends are from the STEM field, so when one person is suffering, we are all suffering–and we all understand each other. It helps to just take a break– even when you think you can’t afford it, or don’t have the time, because that is when you need that break the most. Sometimes during my freshman year, I would just sit in the gliders outside of Stanford with my sketch book and just draw. Of course, it was time I could’ve spent studying, but, it was also time I needed to myself. I also realized after trying to pull a couple of all-nighters that they weren’t all that smart. Staying up until 2, when your exam is at 8 won’t help you learn the material any better– it’ll only make you that much more anxious. I find time for myself, I sleep well, I go to the gym, try to limit my junk food intake and I make sure I spend time with family and friends.