Making College Work for You: One Student’s Advice for Incoming Freshmen

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Student Success
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Shaloun Mims is a student at The University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee and a Cengage Student Ambassador 


My advice for college freshmen is to acknowledge that college is different for everyone. Every college student will have a different story to tell, from university to technical college and class size to credit requirements. The college experience is unique to every individual. Rather than try to adapt to someone else’s ideal path, I recommend students do everything they can to make the college experience work for them and their needs. The advice below comes from my own experience and what I’ve learned over the last several years. Share it with your freshmen students to help them adjust and be successful!  

Create a Schedule that Suits Your Life 

When I was an incoming freshman, I was shocked just to see how everyone was on a different schedule in college. Whether we were classmates or just bumped into each other in the hall, other students’ schedules and feelings toward school were a tad different than mine. Some of my classmates took over 18 credits per semester, explaining to me how it’s the fastest way to graduate. Others warned me about getting overwhelmed, failing courses and having to retake them during the summer. As a current junior, I can say that I’ve never taken more than 15 credits at a time and have never had to retake a course. This doesn’t mean the advice they gave me wasn’t valid, it just means that we all have different needs, wants and expectations for our education.  

Do Research Before Making Big Decisions 

Research is one of the most important steps in finding the right college. I did thorough research before applying to my school of choice and even after I was accepted. I visited my university’s website and used Google to access most of the information I needed. Incoming freshmen won’t know everything right away, but they learn fairly quickly out of necessity. Being prepared ahead of time can make that learning process a lot easier. It’s important for students to learn everything they can about their college, degree, fees, meal plans, dormitory availability and parking. These are just a few things that have a huge impact on the college experience.  

Get to Know Professors 

Getting to know professors is essential, but not in the way most incoming freshmen think. Many instructors may not have the time to build close bonds with every student but having some familiarity will make the relationship more successful. Students can build a rapport just by answering questions, greeting professors and even sending emails when they can’t meet in person. Getting to know professors is one of the last things on an incoming freshman’s mind, but my advice would be to make it a top priority.  

Remember the Purpose 

Overall, students should remember that they’re in college for a reason—to learn and to grow. Students spend a lot of money and time on college, and they should make it their duty to make it a fulfilling experience. My advice for college freshmen is to make college work for them. Utilize all resources, network and enjoy the journey. But always remember—college looks different for everyone. 


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