Column by Elizabeth Schoof, Editor in Chief
Image courtesy of Elizabeth Schoof
From the lost looks on their faces the first time they enter Wege for dinner, to the way that they wear their IDs around their necks like someone is actually going to check them, there are a lot of different ways to identify a first-year student here at AQ. The first year of college is one that’s rough to say the least. Trying to find the perfect balance between work, school and fun is hard. Figuring out where exactly you belong on campus? Even harder. That’s why this year, we at The Saint thought it would be nice to make a change. Rather than start publishing after our first official meeting, we’re getting a head start. What better way to do that than to provide students (specifically freshmen) with tips on how to best get through that awkward first year? With the help of you, our readers, we gathered fifteen tips that have been officially deemed “The Freshman Fifteen”.
- The first big piece of advice given was to get involved on campus. There is no better way to find your place on campus than getting involved. Whether you’re interested in running for Student Senate or maybe even… writing for The Saint, there are a lot of different groups designed to help you find people who enjoy doing the same things as you. It’s great to have made friends with your roommate or someone on your floor, but finding people who share an interest in the same things as you can really help open doors for the future. Saint Stock is Sept. 11 and it’s the perfect opportunity to find clubs that best fit you.
- Don’t be afraid to get out and explore in Grand Rapids! The Rapid bus can be intimidating when you first start riding it, but practice makes perfect. For only a quarter (and a flash of your student ID) you can get on a bus and head downtown. The Grand Rapids Symphony has $5.00 tickets available for certain shows and there is nothing more fun than ice skating at Rosa Parks Circle in the winter. If you aren’t sure if you can find an event to fit your interest, check out https://www.experiencegr.com/. They provide a wide variety of events throughout the year. You can also check out the Culture section of The Saint for movie recommendations!
- Rent things from Campus Safety! From tandem bikes to hammocks, there’s a wide variety of things that you can rent from Campus Safety for way less than it would cost you to purchase them. Gone are the days of doing homework at your desk! Rent a hammock and find a tree out in the woods.
- Make friends in class. You should do this for several reasons. One, classes are way more fun when you have people to keep you company in them. Two, having friends in class means having people to study with. At some point or another, you’re going to be absent. Having a person that you can count on to have notes ready? A major benefit.
- Attend on-campus events! In case you didn’t know this already, there is a student activity fee included in your tuition bill. That means that you’re paying for different activities to be brought to campus. AQ PB (Aquinas Programming Board) is historically known for putting on amazing events. Fall Fest, AQ Idol, and a trip to Cedar Point are some of their larger events, but there are other things like movie nights and crafting nights available too. All of these events are little ways to spice up your weekends on campus.
- Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself around campus. Go in at the start of the year and catch up with your advisor. Stop by the Writing Center and have a conversation with Julie Bevins (she gives the best hugs of anybody on this campus). One small step out of your comfort zone can lead to all sorts of different connections and opportunities on campus and in the workforce.
- If you live on campus, leave your door open. Your freshman year in Regina and St. Joe’s is where you find the vast majority of your friends. Your room says a lot about the person that you are and having the door open allows people walking past to see a small piece of that. That girl from your math class may be just as big of a Lizzo fan as you, but how are you going to find out if she doesn’t see the posters on your wall? Not only that, but having your door open sends the message that you’re open to meeting new people. Obviously, there are times when you’re going to want to keep it shut, but having it open allows a lot of really cool people to wander into your life.
- Join in on service-learning trips. Nothing builds a stronger bond between students than climbing in Acadia National Park or helping with the Christian Appalachian Project. Spending your fall (or spring) break providing a service to others is a great way to give back to the world you live in while also forming close relationships with students that you may not have met otherwise.
- Make your voice heard. You don’t have to run for Student Senate if it’s not up your alley, but knowing who your senators are is important. These elected representatives are the voice of your grade and take your concerns seriously. Sitting down and having a conversation with them about changes you’d like to make on campus can have a major impact. If you’re not necessarily the best writer, pitch ideas to The Saint! We always love getting feedback from our students and there’s nothing better than when someone comes to us with an idea that they are passionate about.
- Get a job on campus. Anybody can work at Little Caesar’s or Starbucks, but when you work on campus, you have the opportunity to meet a wide variety of students while getting paid. Not only that, but campus jobs work to accommodate your schedule. Whether you want to be a barista at The Moose or a cashier at The Corner, there are a wide variety of opportunities for you to make money and have fun doing it!
- Avoid going home every weekend. Everyone goes through points where homesickness hits. The thought of sleeping in your own bed with your dog can make your heart ache for sure, but think of all the things that you’re going to miss out on if you don’t stay around. Late night Checker’s runs, pool tournaments in Regina’s Lobby, movie nights in your dorm, they’re all a part of the college experience that you’ll miss out on if you go home every weekend. While the weekdays are full of school and work, weekends are the chance for you to get out and make friendships that will last your entire college career.
- Take your academics seriously. If you find yourself struggling, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s going to the Writing Center and brainstorming with a consultant, or simply taking advantage of the tutoring options here at AQ, asking for help early can prevent a lot of stress and disappointment from accumulating. College is hard, that’s why there are resources available to students who are struggling. We can’t all excel at everything, so finding someone to help you in your areas of struggle is nothing to be ashamed of.
- On the other hand, don’t let your academics rule your life. We’ve all had times when we’ve felt overworked and stressed out about a class that just doesn’t seem to be going our way. I can promise that the professor doesn’t hate you, but more importantly, I can promise that life goes on. Getting one bad grade on a quiz won’t matter to you fifteen years down the road if it means that you took the night before to go down to ArtPrize with your friends. Obviously, school is very important, but so is having a college experience that is filled with memories that mean more to you than a good grade ever could.
- Try new things that may be outside of your comfort zone. So you’re an athlete who likes to write? Join The Saint and write for our Sports section. An artist with an interest in government policy? Get involved with AQ Democrats. We live in a world of stereotypes and it’s absolutely okay to branch out from your “crowd” and try something on your own. College is about growing and expanding your horizons and that happens when you get together with people that you wouldn’t normally hang out with and work on something together.
- Don’t forget about the people who got you where you are today. Your mom might be texting you every Saturday to remind you to do your laundry. Your grandpa might be calling to remind you to get your oil changed. As frustrating as this might be, remember that these are the people who helped you get to adulthood. They care about you. They support you. They’re your biggest fans. Adulthood doesn’t mean that you sever ties with all of the parental figures in your life. It means that you thank them for what they’ve done for you thus far, and you find a way to give back to them when you have the chance.
Your first year of college is a time of excitement. It’s your chance to expand your horizons and step out of your comfort zone. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be rewarding too. These fifteen tips are designed to help you along the journey, but there is by no means a right or wrong way to get through school. The biggest piece of advice that we can give is to soak it all in because four years goes faster than you think. If you can do that, the rest will find its way.
About the Writer: Elizabeth Schoof is a senior at Aquinas College studying English, Communication, and Irish Studies. She loves reading, writing, GIFs, and laughing at her own jokes