What I Wish I Knew as a First Year Student

We asked sophomores, juniors, seniors, and recent alums to give some advice. This is what they said...

ACADEMICS

Go to class.Participate in class. Read before class. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Everyone else in the room is wondering too.
Figure out your study style.Not everyone studies the same. Try out different study areas on campus that are not your room.
Grades matter.Yes, even freshman grades. Definitely enjoy your first year in college, but don't forget that freshman year is one of the best boosts to your GPA so make an effort to keep a balance between studying and socializing. Use the Penn Course Review to help you find the most interesting courses and professors. Take classes outside of your major or school.
The semester goes by fast.Don't ever think you can just catch up later. Always do your best to stay on track and study all the material that has been taught to date. Once finals come around, there is no turning back. Cramming doesn't work, no matter what anyone tells you.
Good relationships with advisors and professors are key.They will be the ones who will help you get into certain classes, find out about good opportunities both academically and professionally, and provide recommendations you will need in the future. Go to office hours.
You don't have to have everything planned out.Take some time to explore the academic options available. The major you graduate with won't dictate the rest of your life. All it will do is affect your college experience.


CAMPUS LIFE

Figure out what makes Penn unique for you.Being an undergrad at Penn is a unique experience at a unique point in your life. Explore the campus, the people, the surroundings.
Try new things.And don't forget that something can still be new if you've only done it once. Don't be afraid to go to all different kinds of events, even if it seems like it's aimed at a certain group of people. If you're interested, they'll be happy to see you.
Resources, resources, resources.CAPS not only has counselors but tons of programs. 898-RIDE and 898-WALK will bring you door-to-door. The Reach-A-Peer Helpline (RAP-Line) is a good way to vent or get something off your chest. Weingarten and the Tutoring Center will help you figure out your academic life. Career Services, Student Health Services, the LGBT Center, the Penn Women's Center… the list goes on and on.
Don't be afraid of food trucks.There are so many food options on campus and everyone has their favorite. Just ask. Also, you will learn to love Wawa.
Find a good place to unwind at the end of the day.Resource centers like PAACH are perfect for that. There are communities to be found all over campus.


SOCIAL

Friends will happen.If you don't live in the Quad or Hill, it can be a little harder to meet other freshmen, but don't worry. You'll find your people eventually and don't stress if you don't find them the first week. If there is any time you can get away with going up to a random person and saying hi, it's freshman year.
Plan your own time.Try not to be pressured into going out all the time. Nights in with friends and quiet alone time are highly underrated.
Explore the city.One of the great things about going to Penn is that you get Philly as well. There are student discounts everywhere and great shows and food are just a bus ride away.


HEALTH

You're in charge of yourself now.Just because no one's watching your eating/sleeping habits anymore doesn't mean you don't have to either. Drink lots of water, especially if you're going out. You will not get enough sleep. Try anyway. Don't forget to eat. Go to the gym once in a while.
Mental wellness is a real thing.And just like physical wellness, everyone needs something different to feel their best. Learning how to deal with stress is a useful skill, and talking to someone is a great first step. Friends, staff members, and CAPS are just some of the options available to you. It's all about balance.


And at the end of the day…

Trust yourself when it comes to making choices. You know what the smart decisions are...
 

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