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3 Questions to Ask if You’re a First-Time College Student

By Loren Germann-McClain
Senior Academic Advisor II

The transition to college is an exciting time when you’re a first-time college student. You are embarking on an adventure and a new chapter in your life.

Attending classes as a first-time college student can also be a time filled with uncertainties, but there are ways to prepare for the next step in your academic journey before the first day of class. Understanding what questions to ask is just as important as knowing who to ask. Here are three questions to get answered before you start classes.

#1: How Much Time Should I Allow Each Day for My Workload?

The college environment will be a new setting, and it may be helpful to take one course a time to assess how the class fits into your everyday schedule and commitments. Take into consideration the expected number of hours you’ll need to put in for a class at the undergraduate level:

  • 8-10 hours of work each week for a 16-week course
  • 15-18 hours of work each week (including all reading) for an eight-week course

Learning how to manage your time early in your course will help you utilize your downtime more efficiently throughout the day when you’re a first-time college student. For instance, do you have scattered one- or two-hour free periods throughout your day, perhaps after you get home from work and before dinner?

Consider using part of this time to study or at least to review the upcoming tasks for your class according to your class syllabus. Knowing exactly what your instructor expects from you lets you designate the appropriate amount of time for completing work such as forum posts, reading assigned material, watching class videos or presentations, and writing assignments.

Related link: Maintaining Momentum: What to Expect from Your Course Load

#2: How Can I Set Myself Up for Success Before My First Class Starts?

Before your course begins, familiarize yourself with the Richard G. Trefry Library and the Success Center in your ecampus. You can access both of these online resources once you log into the ecampus; simply click on the “Library” or the “Success Center” link at the top of the ecampus homepage.

The Success Center contains videos, podcasts and other relevant content you may find helpful throughout your academic career.

Our online library serves university students, faculty, and staff. It contains resources such as articles, scholarly journal databases, books, ebooks, and videos chosen specifically to support the University’s educational programs. Our librarians are available 365 days a year to assist you with research strategies and website navigation, and you can also chat with them during designated hours.

The library also provides information on the required materials you’ll need for your class. Just enter the library and click on “Course Materials.” Then, choose your academic level of “Graduate Students” or “Undergraduate Students” from the drop-down menu.

Are you looking for more guidance or simply a warm welcome to the University? Be sure to reach out to your Academic Advising team. If you have questions, seek advice or need a dose of extra motivation, especially if you are a first-time college student, we are happy to:

  • Review your file with you
  • Make registration recommendations based on the remaining courses in your program and funding requirements
  • Explain university policies and how they apply to you
  • Provide tips on how to engage with your peers inside and outside the classroom

#3: What Are the Options for Extracurricular Activities?

College pushes you to develop strong communication and soft skills, and these skills will be reinforced through communication with your instructors and peers in a collaborative environment. However, skill development doesn’t end in the classroom; there are extracurricular activities available through student clubs and organizations.

Our student organizations provide opportunities for you to work closely with people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences. They are also a chance to network with people who share the same interests and goals as you do.

Not sure if you have enough time to add an extracurricular activity to your plate? Don’t worry; you get to choose your level of involvement when it comes to student clubs and organizations. There is no minimum hour requirement you need to meet to be involved; simply devote your time to engaging with your peers when you can.

Be sure to check out our student clubs and organizations. Getting involved in a club or organization is an excellent way to explore interests or find a new hobby. If you do not see a group you are interested in joining, you can always start one.

According to alumna Hannah Via and Janet Athanasiou, a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison, membership in student organizations reinforces the feeling of community and provides opportunities for skill development. They note, “the University offers over 70 student organizations, clubs, and honor societies. These student organizations vary widely; some may be based on your area of study, while others involve a certain industry field or personal interests.”

Participating in student organizations not only enables you to develop soft skills that can be transferable to other fields of study, but they also offer a fun break from the day-to-day activities of academic study. In addition, using a student club or organization for social networking can help you stay motivated and engaged in our online environment.

Being Prepared Will Be Helpful for You as a First-Time College Student

If you are a first-time college student, it’s important to be prepared and know the resources and the people who can assist you with answers and guidance. At the University, we have a vast community of staff, faculty, and peers dedicated to helping you make empowered decisions and achieve academic success.

As always, Academic Advising is here to support you every step of the way to offer help and support you in achieving your academic goals. We look forward to working with you!

About the Author

Loren Germann-McClain is currently in her third year as a Senior Academic Advisor II with the School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). She holds an M.A. in English – Rhetoric and Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, as well as an M.A. in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University.

Loren previously worked in human resources and public relations at a public library in Indiana, where she helped develop a project to bring mental health first aid and awareness to public and academic libraries across the state. She has earned grants to help develop coding programs for school-age children and develop free, extracurricular activities to help align with the Indiana State standards for computer science, technology, and coding. Her work has helped empower Hoosier students to be equipped with the critical and computational problem-solving skills they will need in order to succeed in a digitally powered and ever-evolving world.

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