What is the college experience

Kaleen Conway graduated from Stony Brook University in May 2014 with a bachelors of science degree in health science with a concentration in disability studies. She is from Long Island, New York but is constantly trying to explore as many new places as possible. Which is part of the reason that she will be starting AmeriCorps in February down in Mississippi. In her free time she enjoys being outdoors, reading an interesting book, and enjoying a good cup of coffee.

It might seem like I am bitter about my college experience, but actually it is quite the contrary. I loved my experience and cherish those memories. I just want every freshman starting college to know that the experience is what you make it. As cliché as that sounds, it is completely true. Each undergraduate will have their own experience in college and make it what they want. Every individual has their own reasons for why they want to go to college, what they want out of college, and where they decide to go. I can rattle off a list of things that every college freshman should do, but just because I did those things does not mean any other individual will want to or should expect that is what they should be doing. With that being said, here are the 5 things I would have done differently in my college experience.
1. Just because class attendance is optional does not mean to skip class. As a freshman there is a great deal of adjustment. College doesn’t have a rigid class schedule starting at 7am, students aren’t asking the teacher to go to the bathroom, and students definitely do not have to show up to class, in fact no one will notice. I most definitely exercised my freedom to skip class on countless occasions. What I did not realize was just how much information you lose by not going to class. I could have saved countless hours studying if I just went to class. It was a lesson I learned the hard way and did not fully learn until sophomore year.
2. Get to know a few professors that are in a field related to your major. Sometimes professors have pretty interesting things to say, especially in letters of recommendation that can potentially get a student into grad school. Make the effort; go to office hours even if the help isn’t necessary.
3. Major in something you like. If you love art but want to go to medical school, then take the classes you need but major in what you love. Most graduate schools will find you well rounded if you have multiple majors or diversified interests. I have a friend that went to school for physical therapy even though they majored in psychology. Do the research and go to advisors to figure out exactly what courses are needed for the intended graduate program, but do what you love, it will make your time at school a lot more enjoyable.
4. Learn how to study early on. In high school I was one of those students that never had to study. I had good grades, I took advanced placement courses, it was all very simple and easy for me. Little did I know that this would hurt me in college. I was pre-med early on in my college career, if you want the grades medical schools want in those classes then you have to study. It took me a while to figure out a good study environment, study techniques that work for my individualized style of learning, and how to block out distractions. I suggest caffeine and an environment with little distractions and a bathroom.
5. Find an activity or club you love and stick with it. I signed up for a lot of clubs freshman year, but I didn’t follow through. It wasn’t until my junior year that I discovered the alternative spring break outreach (A.S.B.O.) program at my school. It was a program where students travel over spring break to an area in need of volunteers. It also led me to join AmeriCorps after graduation. I only wished I joined ASBO earlier in my college career. If you don’t love it don’t stick with it (that can apply to almost everything in college).

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