Advice for First Year Students

Born and raised in Southern California, Ayana Burton graduated from the University of La Verne in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies. She is currently a Shift Lead at a dessert boutique and enjoys reading, photography, and volunteering at the local history museum.

Starting your first year of college can be a scary thing. You are away from home for the first time in your life, and you gain a little more independence. However, being independent means you are accountable to yourself and must be more responsible. My first year of college was a learning experience for myself, and I had to understand that I needed to take care of things, because no one else was going to do that for me. So, I put together a short list of advice that I wish I had taken a little more to heart during my first year of college.

The first piece of advice is to explore your interests. College is a time to develop your interests and to learn as much as you can. Four or five years goes by pretty quickly. If you see a club you are interested in, join! Even think about joining multiple clubs or organizations. If there isn’t an organization or club for something that you are passionate about, you can create one! That is the beauty of college. Another way you can explore your interests is to take various classes that seem interesting to you. Maybe you’d like to learn about photography, go ahead and take a course. Maybe you want to learn about stars and planets, take that astronomy course.

Another piece of advice I want to offer you is about declaring a major. I went into college not having the slightest clue of what I wanted to study. My parents put a lot of pressure on me to choose something, and to choose it quickly! If you go in undeclared, please don’t feel pressured to pick a major and get it over with. There are so many options and part of the process is exploring those options, as I mentioned previously. My advice is to gain a breadth of knowledge and perspective through the courses you take for your general education requirements. You will learn so much and will have an introduction to various subjects that you can choose to go deeper in later. Once you declare your major, stay on top of your courses and map out a plan all the way through your last semester, as well as meet regularly with your academic advisor. This will save you the agony of missing that one course and having to stay an extra semester.

The last piece of advice I have for you is to remember that you will make mistakes, and it is okay. College is a time for learning. Learning about the world, learning about other people, and learning about yourself. The important thing is that you learn from your mistakes, but don’t be too hard on yourself. I made plenty of mistakes in college, mistakes in friendships, and mistakes academically. I learned the lessons and it has made me a better person, and now I can offer what I have learned to you.

There is no experience in the world like college. Explore every peaked interest, don’t feel the pressure to declare a major right from the start, and understand that you will make mistakes, it is a learning experience. Seize every opportunity, learn as much as you can in the next few years, and have fun along the way.

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