Looking back: Lessons from my first year

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I just started my sophomore year of college! To say ‘time flies’ may be cliché, but it’s definitely not an exaggeration. Throughout my first day back on campus, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on how much I’ve changed since I first arrived last August. My first year at WashU taught me so much, both academically and otherwise. Here’s some helpful tips I picked up along the way!

Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to someone in any situation

The beginning of college can be scary at times. You’ll often be in situations in which you know don’t know anyone. Take comfort in the fact that every other first-year is feeling more or less the exact same way. You’re all trying to make new friends and want to meet each other. Start up a conversation. You never know what might come of it.

This year’s convocation! Photo: Sid Hastings | Washington University

Meet with your professors

The idea of talking to professors can be daunting to many students, especially those who come from large high schools where there isn’t much individual teacher-student interaction. Professors want to talk to you, whether to help you understand class material, work on an assignment, or simply discuss any interests you may have. If you ever feel stuck and need help, your professors will be happy to work with you. Additional academic resources such as the Writing Center and Cornerstone can also be great ways for you to find the support you need and become a stronger, more engaged student. Make a point to go to your professors’ office hours even if you don’t have a specific class-related question. This may feel awkward at first, but simply asking them about their research is a great way to initiate conversation.

Carry a pencil case

I know you don’t think you’ll need one, but, believe me, you do. Otherwise you’ll lose dozens of writing utensils over the course of the year.

Looks silly, but it’ll save your life! Photo: Wiki Commons

Don’t be afraid of upperclassmen

A lot of students come into college expecting to be at the bottom of the proverbial food chain. They think that no one will want to talk to freshmen and thus avoid interaction with upperclassmen at all costs. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Returning students want to get to know you, so don’t be afraid to approach them. You can learn a lot from your older peers and even make a few good friends. 

Always have a notebook on hand

This is a pretty simple one, but it’s important. Many students prefer taking notes on their computer rather than by hand. There are pros and cons to each choice. Typing is faster and allows you to get more information down, but handwriting helps you retain that information. Whichever method you choose, it’s important to always have paper on hand, especially on your first day of class. Certain professors prohibit the use of computers in class, so it’s important to bring a notebook to that first day, even if you had planned on using your computer. Even after the first day, professors may require you to tear out a piece of looseleaf paper to write on, so make sure you’re ready for that.

Make your mental health a priority

College can be stressful at times. You may be compelled to just keep powering through and let your health and well-being come second. Asking for help is not a weakness but a strength. The Habif Health & Wellness Center and Uncle Joe’s Peer Counseling are great resources if you’re looking for someone to talk to. Just remember that sometimes the most productive thing you can do is to stop trying to be productive. Take a break and do something you enjoy.


First day of classes!