Starting college can be tough. There are a whole host of worries that accompany the experience, and one of the worst offenders is the question of "What will happen?"
Like any other major change, going to college is an experience that’s thrilling and terrifying. With four years stretching out ahead of you, it can feel like you must make the most out of every last bit of fun — and opportunity — from your time at university. But how exactly can you do that?
The Daily Wildcat received some advice from the incoming class of the Bobcats Senior Honorary, the most distinguished honorary at the University of Arizona. The Bobcats are a clan of 13 incoming seniors who have three years of college under their belts and a whole lot of wisdom.
Here are three testimonials from Bobcats who’ve made the most of their time at the UA. They’ve studied hard, been involved in the community and are working to set themselves up for post-grad success. So, for all of you incoming freshmen who need a little guidance on how to make the most of your time at the UA, look no further. The Bobcats will help turn your fears of the unknown into excitement.
Jack Haskins Bobcat #9
How can students make the most of their time at UA? The right answer to this question is fairly unique to the path each person wants to tread for themselves. However, I’d say there are a few pretty full-proof methods to maximizing your experience at the UA.
First, joining extracurricular activities [which can] allow you to apply the things you learn in class … expand your breadth of knowledge around a particular subject and call you to be in community with others is incredibly important.
Second, and this is something I have to remind myself of often, is to use every administrative or student-based resource at your disposal.
At major institutions like ours, so much time, money and other resources are invested to fill students’ every need. There’s always the potential for gaps in that service, which is where I think your peers serving in student government or other organizations are a great resource to turn to because they can advocate for you.
Finally, I would urge new (and returning) students to never settle for anything. It can be easy to forget that this experience (not just the degree) in some sense is a product that you’re investing in. Please try everything you can and be exposed to more ideas, perspectives and experiences than you can fathom, but never forget that you can’t let anything or anybody beyond yourself dictate what you get out of this education. Don’t feel obligated to go on with a job, class, friend group or lifestyle that doesn’t suit your needs; have just as much courage to say no as to say yes.
In terms of getting involved on campus, it’s important to read your emails! The college you’re in, your resident assistant (and other Residence Life staff), administrators, professors and so many others will often email you with opportunities to attend an event/program or join a certain club because they want you to be exposed to people and organizations that would grow from your perspective and can offer you tangible benefits as you prepare for a life of your own.
Seek out the Associated Students of the University of Arizona. It’s your student government and within it are a multitude of student organizations dedicated to different causes/functions on campus. I also think of ASUA as the hub for student activity at the UA — if you go into our office in the Student Union and ask around about how to get involved, you’ll be guided in the right direction.
Finally, if you’re living in a dorm, talk to your RA! It’s an RA’s job to provide mentorship and guide you to the people and places best for you. Plus, they want to talk to you about how your time at the UA is, so never be afraid. Even if you don’t live in a dorm, Residence Life has access to numerous student activities on campus and they’ll show you how to join.
So much of what goes on outside the classroom is what makes the university experience what it is. However, access to our professors, seminars, labs and so many other aspects unique to higher education is a great part of what makes this time so special! Sure, you can find an infinite amount of information online and at your local library, but neither of these things can fully equip you with the skills, knowledge and experience that an academic setting like the UA can.
The time between orientation and graduation flies. To maximize the value you can extract from that time, go to all your classes and strive to go beyond the basic expectations of a course: make it yours. If you properly engage and take control of your learning, it lightens the load immensely. I’ve come to learn that the more I engage with a course, its professor and the people in it, the less it feels like a task.
If coursework is overwhelming you (as it often does) I would first talk with your TA or professor (never forget it’s their job to help you understand what’s being taught). Then, seek out our academic resources like ThinkTank and their free services like Supplemental Instruction. Making friends with the people in your classes and cohort also helps so much! It’s a good thing, to begin with, but being able to lean on a friend who’s facing the same challenges as you can be an invaluable tool for success.
My time at the UA has filled in the blanks on questions that used to make me an anxious wreck. The question of what job I wanted to pursue after graduation was answered by my involvement in student government. I used to have a hard time fully identifying with the people I was surrounded by, but through my time as an RA and now as a Bobcat, I found my best friends on campus who will be with me long after graduation.
After high school, I wanted to take classes that were relevant to my interests, and by working with a few academic advisors, I found the combination of majors and minors that was best catered to my interests!
On top of all the other things said here, authenticity is everything, and I would argue that you’ll always find the greatest success by prioritizing your instincts rather than being guided solely by what seems conventional or popular.
Jodie Tam, Bobcat #11
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Looking back at my time here at the UA, the three years have flown by so quickly, and I honestly feel like I made the best choice coming to this school. I started off a little lost trying to manage my classes and social life and keeping my mental health a priority, but I’ve learned so much throughout the years. I think the best way to make the most of your time is to get involved!
Get involved in anything that sparks an interest in you; you’ll be surprised by the people you meet and how impactful it can be down the road. In organizations that are tailored for students with shared interests or passions, you end up meeting a diverse group of people where you can appreciate your differences as well as learn from them and create strong bonds. Joining organizations that interest you will not only give you great friends but open doors to networking and finding different things you could potentially be involved in.
My biggest piece of advice is to put yourself out there and go for it! Balancing classes and a social life were definitely a struggle for me during my first year, but I’ve learned that organizing and planning really help me. I love having a new planner every year to keep my assignments and exams all laid out so I can visualize when I will have some free time for myself. My favorite study spot is either the Main Library, Health Sciences Library or the Scented Leaf Tea House and Lounge!
In terms of student success, the UA has helped me reach my goals already. Through the organizations I’ve joined, I was able to network with a variety of people, ranging from other students to professors and administrators that can eventually help me with my career path down the road! Being involved in the community, volunteering and clubs have also opened my eyes to all the exciting opportunities that the future holds. It’s helped me become more open-minded about my career path as well.
Mental health is so important and it’s something that I prioritize not just for myself but for the people around me. Though it may seem overwhelming at times, I make sure to take time for myself to decompress and remember to enjoy life in the moment. Little self-care acts like journaling, reading, spending time with my friends and working out help me feel more in control of my life and it helps with the stress. I’m so grateful for my amazing support group and in no time, you’ll find yours.
Carly Snell, Bobcat #12
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Hello, fellow Wildcats! My name is Carly Snell (she/her) and I am Bobcat #12 for this upcoming school year. I am beyond excited for this opportunity to make our campus a better place for every Wildcat while continuing to promote the spirit, heritage and traditions of our university! I have had an incredibly enriching experience at the UA thus far and hope to pass along some of what I have learned about making college an unforgettable and fulfilling time in my life.
I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved in extracurricular activities throughout my time on our campus since the very beginning of my freshman year. When I was a freshman, I scoured social media for information about UA clubs and made an effort to see all there was to offer at the fall semester Club Fair.
I had — and still maintain — the mentality that I would “say yes” to more things in college than I ever had before in my life; if I heard of an organization that even somewhat interested me, I joined it. This mentality led to me joining way too many clubs that very first semester, but it was a great way for me to start to build my personal network and figure out which clubs I ultimately wanted to devote my time to.
Moreover, I found out about every other extracurricular organization I joined after that first semester through word-of-mouth in those first few freshman year clubs I signed up for. No matter what interests you on our campus, I recommend you use that “say yes” mentality and join it; you may find a whole new world of opportunities by doing so!
While being involved on campus is very rewarding, it can also become incredibly time-consuming and at times stressful. Two of the biggest things I do to help manage my schoolwork with my extracurricular life are extensively using a planner so that I don’t lose track of important academic or club dates and working ahead on schoolwork as often as I can. Although the second point takes some self-discipline, I’ve been able to save myself from tough situations in the past by working on assignments far in advance and ensuring that they are done before their deadlines — even if life becomes unexpectedly busy with club activity.
Along a similar vein, I firmly believe that attending professors’ office hours is an incredibly useful tool for students. I always go straight to my professors’ office hours if I start to struggle with course content; after all, they are the people writing the course exams and assignments and are best equipped to help you!
Finally, finding a good study spot on campus is always a great motivator to help me get through tough assignments. Some of my favorite study spots are Scented Leaf Tea House and Lounge (with a Chai in hand), the whiteboard tables at the Albert B. Weaver Science Engineering Library and the upper quiet floors of the Main Library.
No matter where it is on campus, I recommend finding that comfortable space for you in order to make studying a little more fun and feel less like work. If nothing else, you can always grab a drink from Starbucks on the way into the Main Library in order to reward yourself for your next study session!
I am so excited for the fall semester to start and cannot wait to give back to our university this year as a member of the Bobcats Senior Honorary. In the meantime, I hope you all have an amazing rest of your summer and as always, Bear Down!
*Editor's Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.
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