Start freshman year off right


Transitioning from high school to college can be stressful. It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re trying to cope with a new study routine, a new environment – one much bigger than the average high school – and you’re surrounded by new people. But keeping these tips in mind will start you on the right path for graduation and help you feel at home at FIU:

1) Get to know your academic advisor!

Among the most valuable things you can do during college is visit your academic advisor at least once per semester. Your advisor can help you figure out the best classes to take and how to keep you on track in your major. They can help you find information on scholarships and graduate schools. Academic advisors can even provide recommendation letters later in your college career.

Other things your advisor can help with include:

  • Graduating in four years by taking 30 credits each year. Did you know students who graduate in six years can spend up to 40 percent more on their education than students who graduate in four years?
  • Avoiding the excess credit hour surcharge. Did you know students in the Florida State University System are charged double per credit for every credit taken past 132? Save yourself the money by visiting your advisor, who will help you avoid taking extra classes. Read more about the statute here.

Korrin Anderson, the interim director of Orientation and Parent Programs, suggests meeting with your assigned advisor within the first six weeks of your first semester to discuss your goals and create a plan to achieve them. Students who put off meeting with their advisor until senior year – or never meet them at all – too often find they’ve taken extra classes they didn’t need or they never took a class required for their major, and end up having to postpone graduation. Find your assigned advisor by signing in to my.FIU.edu.

2) Commit to learning

Learning in college is different than learning in high school. Entry-level classes often have hundreds of students, so learning in a college setting is largely left up to individual responsibility. You have to get up and go to class, even those pesky 8 a.m. classes. And whatever you do, do NOT skip the first day of class – you risk being dropped from the class to make space for a student on a waiting list.

Schedule time throughout the week to study for each class and to stay on top of assigned readings. A daily or weekly planner, whether electronic or pen-and-paper, can help you track assignment due dates and plan study time around classes and appointments. Click here for tips on how to increase your productivity.

Also, remember your professors are here to help you. Every professor offers weekly office hours, during which you can meet with them individually or in small groups to discuss the topics covered in class, upcoming assignments and any questions you may have.

Try to attend office hours at least once per semester, even if you don’t have questions, to get to know your professors. Getting to know your professors outside of class shows initiative, and it helps you stand out among the crowd of students they see every day. This could lead to opportunities to conduct research with them and for recommendation letters – not to mention, professors can be great conversationalists!

3) Join a club

With nearly 300 clubs and organizations on campus, there’s something to spark everyone’s interests. Getting involved on campus helps you meet people with similar interests and accrue volunteer hours. Taking on leadership roles is a great way to build your resume.

“Getting involved in Greek life helped me to be civically and socially engaged, and I made lifelong friends,” said alumna Deborah Garcia ’14, a member of Phi Mu Fraternity.

Before you sign up for an organization, take a moment to consider where your passions and interests fall. Are you interested in public service? Do you want to meet others who share your cultural background? Maybe you want to network with others in your field of study? This will help you narrow down the group you want to join.

Anderson advises freshmen to limit involvement to one club, so you don’t spread yourself too thin while adjusting to classes.

“Getting involved is about living your passion. Pick one thing your first semester and really connect with it,” she said.

Login to RoarSync to explore the extracurricular community at FIU. Read more about groups across campus on FIU News’ club series.

4) Prepare for internships

Start thinking about internships early. Take advantage of summer breaks to gain experience in your field of study and figure out what career path you want to follow. Prepare for an interview with a visit to the office of Career & Talent Development, where you can participate in professional development workshops and have your resume critiqued.

Sign up for Panther JobLink to search job and internship postings online, network with employers and participate in mock interviews.

5) Make human connections

Even at a university with 54,000 students, it can be easy to feel lonely in a new school where you don’t know anyone. Try to make at least one new friend each week during your first semester – all you have to do is say hi to the person sitting next to you in class.

Sometimes, though, the adjustment isn’t so easy. Remember there are people you can talk to at FIU about anything. Counseling and Psychological Services offers stress management and wellness workshops, individual and couples counseling, victim services and psychological testing.

If you’re struggling in class, reach out to the Center for Academic Success to access online tutoring, reading and learning workshops, testing services or help with math.

Anderson also suggests keeping in touch with your peer advisor from orientation and your resident assistant, if you live on campus. They’re great sources of advice on adjusting to college life. These students can help you with anything from where to eat on campus to where to go for help with your schedule.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help, no matter what it’s about,” Anderson says.

For more tips for success your first year at FIU, check out the FIU Survival Guide.

This article is part of our Secrets to Success series.