Traverse City Record-Eagle

January 3, 2011

It's easy to spot a college freshman

The first year is a tough one

By Maddy Mesa
Special to the Record-Eagle

---- — Freshmen please be advised: We know who you are. We see you with your campus maps and overstuffed backpacks. We chuckle when you ask us what HS and SH mean. And we can all say that we've been there; we know just how you feel.

The first year of college is tough. Whether you've moved into the dorms or commute to college, the experience is the same. Students are nervous, lost and scared to death of walking into the wrong class. But never fear — the non-freshmen have some helpful tips and stories that will hopefully ease your embarrassment of forgetting just where Scholars Hall is located.

• For those commuting to and from college on a daily basis, second-year student Hannah Schwanke has some words of wisdom: "Get to school early to get a good parking spot. Even if you have an hour before class starts you can always study while you wait."

• Find your classroom early as it seems that is the most common mistake freshmen make — walking into the wrong class. "The first day of classes my freshman year my math class had been assigned to a new room. I didn't read the sign on the door so I ended up sitting in the wrong math class for an hour," recalls Mariah Baker, a third-year Northwestern Michigan College student and psychology major. "My advice: Always read signs."

"I was a nervous wreck my first day of classes," commented second-year NMC student Dana Jones. "It was basically the not knowing which room was which."

• Never fear, freshmen, the folks of NMC are always willing to help. Whether it be a teacher or a classmate, the campus is full of friendly people who make you feel at home.

For those who are worried about the teachers and professors at NMC, we have some advice for you too.

"The staff is awesome," said Tim Lakanen, a third-year NMC student majoring in accounting. "They really care."

"Don't sweat screwing up," adds second-year psychology major Torrie Drogt. "There's always someone there to help whether it's a teacher in their office or your fellow students. Don't be afraid to ask."

• If you are still undecided about your major and what you want to do after NMC, Schwanke continues with some friendly words: "Have fun. Don't worry about your major. It can seem like everybody knows what their major is, but it can change. You're not alone."

• What about students who live in the dorms? They are always on campus looking for fun stuff to do. Luckily the housing department offers all kinds of activities from disc golf to board games in the lobby. Baker offers some advice for living in the dorms: "Just because you're bored doesn't mean partying is the only way to entertain yourself."

"Don't be stupid," adds fourth-year student Brandon Boswood, a criminal justice major. "And don't be a hermit. Get out of your rooms and socialize."

Baker and Boswood say the most common rookie mistakes made in the dorms are staying up late just because you don't live at home anymore, putting off your homework during your first week in the dorms, pulling an all-nighter, staying in your room and not being active.

• Unfortunately, embarrassing mistakes will happen. For freshmen, it's only a matter of time before they learn to always check and make sure they have their keys and I.D. Dana Jones, a second-year dorm resident, knows only too well the dangers of forgetting one's keys. "I locked myself out of my room with my shoes and cell phone inside," remembers Jones. "I had to walk to the lobby barefoot and ask to be let in."

• First-time dorm residents would be smart to find out all the help the housing department provides. "A lot of people don't utilize the tools on campus that could help them," says Baker. "The dorms have free health care and free counseling. Students should take full advantage of what the school has to offer."

• All new students can benefit greatly from the Alice computer labs and the Writing Center. And if you feel like you're just not cut out for a class, Lakanen has this advice to share: "Stick with it. Participate in class. If you sit and pay attention you'll do a lot better then if you just goof off."

So there you have it freshmen, wise words from your fellow students who have been in your shoes and know just what it's like to be the new kid on campus. Take comfort in that thought and don't be afraid to ask for help. NMC is here to help you learn and wants you to have a great college experience.

Maddy Mesa is a second-year student at Northwestern Michigan College, majoring in communications. She also is a staff writer at the White Pine Press, where this story originally appeared.