You decide what your college experience will be

Dear incoming freshman,

Congrats on graduating from high school and starting your freshman year here at Northwestern State! I know four years seems like an incredibly long amount of time to spend in Natchitoches, but it will fly by. Trust me, I know from experience.

Photo submitted by Toria Smith

As my time as a Demon ends, yours is just beginning. Here are a few things I think you should know:

Make sure you get to know the people around you here. Who knows how much they’ll end up meaning to you in the future?

I remember Freshman Connection and my freshman year like it was yesterday; my roommate from orientation ended up being my best friend!

I’m not going to tell you to blow off school and live it up every day, but remember to set time aside for a little fun. It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of college life and miss out on all NSU has to offer. It doesn’t have to be an expensive, well-organized activity; if you’re with the right people, anything can be fun!

College is a place for reinvention and exploration, so get out of your comfort zone. Do it soon, too; your time as an undergraduate is limited. Join organizations you’re interested in, take classes just for fun, talk to the person wearing the cool shirt in Iberville, and go to campus events. College can be great if you make it so.

Let go of the cliquey habits you may have grown accustomed to in high school. There is no “popular” group in college, so spend less time worrying about fitting in, and embrace what makes you stand out.

Although college is fun, you absolutely must stay on top of your school work. It’s very easy to fall behind, and you will be more stressed if you let assignments pile up. Kick procrastination to the curb immediately, and make your college experience as painless as possible.

As you begin your freshman year, keep in mind this first year sets the tone for the rest of your undergraduate career. People tend to finish things like they started them, so begin carving out your future this year. If you want to be involved, look for ways to do so now. You don’t have to join everything today, but getting your foot in the door will bring more opportunities your way in the future.

Learn from the upperclassmen. They’ve been here for a few years, which means they are valuable sources of advice. Ask them questions, but also observe them and follow their example – assuming that example is a good one.

NSU is small enough to facilitate close working relationships between students and faculty. These relationships are invaluable. Your professors can help you network with people in your field and assist with developing your interests. Plus, they’re really fascinating!

Get to know people outside of your classes and major. Of course, it’s easier to make friends with people you see in class every day than with strangers you see around campus, but befriending people involved in different things will expand your world. Learning doesn’t have to be confined to the classroom!

Don’t let your expectations ruin your experience. Maybe movies and TV shows accurately represent life at some schools out there, but that’s not the case here at NSU. Embrace the uniqueness of this university, and create new expectations for your college experience.

Save money as often as possible. It’s all too easy to blow your graduation money, financial aid refund check or whatever other money you receive. College life is pretty unpredictable, which means unexpected expenses often sneak up on you. These expenses can range from late-night Taco Bell runs to vehicle repairs or to flight bookings. I’m not saying you have to become a miser, but do try to minimize thoughtless spending as much as possible.

NSU is great, but it is not perfect; no institution is. If something needs to be changed, set about changing it. Talk to administrators, and find out what can be done. Join organizations committed to making our campus better for everyone, and leave this university better than you found it for the next generation of students.

Only you can decide what your college experience will be like; make sure it’s enjoyable.

Toria Smith

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