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How to Survive Your Freshman Year

At the start of our college careers we are introduced to new people, new environments, and new lifestyles.  It can be exciting as well as intimidating, making for a potentially stressful first semester.  Since most college students have experienced this anxiety at some point, I’ve collaborated with several upper classmen, alumni, and peers, asking their best advice for new Graceland University students.  After listening to a variety of helpful hints, I’ve compiled them into a list of survival tips in the hopes that it might help all 400+ freshmen have a less stressful school year.
Do not climb the trees on campus.  As tempting as it may be for some of you nature connoisseurs, climbing the sacred limbs of Graceland University trees is prohibited and enforced.  Ridiculous as it may seem, getting caught in the act will most likely result in having to pay a fine.  To avoid being caught off guard by many other bizarre campus policies, familiarize yourself with more rules and regulations along with the fines or penalties for each.  They are listed on MyGraceland under the Student Handbook.
Get involved.  Although this is a small university, it is still possible to lose yourself and feel isolated from your peers.  The best way to avoid this is to get involved, whether it be through clubs, participating in sports (or showing support at games), joining in hall activities, or attending COSA events.  These are great ways to meet new people, bond with the friends that you’ve already made, and make Graceland feel more like home.
Avoid forming cliques.  This new environment is the perfect setting for expanding your circle of friends.  If you exclude others or alienate yourself from people you wouldn’t normally spend time with, you might miss out on an amazing friendship or get stuck feeling like you’re still in high school.
Form good relationships with your teachers.  No, I don’t mean for you to become teacher’s pet.  There’s a difference between brown nosing and establishing a relationship.  Speak up in class discussions, be respectful, and show a good work ethic.  Your professors will recognize your effort, and be more open to helping you if you are struggling or falling behind in class.  Never underestimate a teacher’s ability to save you from sinking!
Do not be afraid to explore OFF campus.  Since we’re nearly halfway through the semester, most new students have already explored campus and know what buildings and resources reside on school grounds.  But there are many other forms of entertainment in Lamoni or nearby towns for when you find yourself with free time.
Take advantage of the library.  The F.M. Smith Library is arguably one of the most important resources on campus.  Open until 1:45am Sunday through Thursday, it is a great place to type up that paper you forgot was due the next morning or host a late night cram session with a study group.  The basement of the library is the most popular area for students to swarm to, but if you are seeking a quieter atmosphere, there are view rooms and other isolated spaces to discover on the upper levels.
Steer clear of the gossip.  Unfortunately because this is such a small institution, rumors spread quickly among the student body, making it a lot like high school.  To avoid all the drama, there are a few things you can do.  The most obvious strategy is not to start or spread rumors, especially if you do not know the truth.  Also, do not believe everything you hear; give gossip victims the benefit of the doubt.  Lastly, make smart choices to avoid getting your own name out there.  Although college is sometimes considered a time for making mistakes, you want to be careful of who might learn of those choices.
Keep a good relationship with your roommate.  You’re most likely going to be stuck sharing a space with this person for at least an entire semester.  Don’t screw it up.  The easiest way to avoid conflict with your roommate is to communicate.  Try not to surprise them with visitors or ask them to leave their own room without warning.  Talk about your expectations, and do your part in keeping a clean space.
Dodge the distractions.  Even though there is a lot more to college than just getting a degree, education is still the main reason you are here.  Don’t lose sight of this priority.  Getting caught up in sports or your social life can be dangerous.  If you do not balance your time well or if you lose focus, your grades will suffer.  Skipping classes, procrastinating, and neglecting your schoolwork are all habits that you do not want to start.  If you already see yourself making slipping into these behaviors, find a way to change your outlook and attitude about the importance of school before it’s too late.
Eat in the Commons often.  You may have some complaints about the lines or have a lack of enthusiasm for the food, but eating in the Commons is a great way to bond.  Whether you’re eating with your hall, team, classmates, new friends, or even staff members, it is an opportunity for stimulating conversation, good laughs, and getting to know your peers.  Also, don’t be afraid to switch up who you sit with during meal time!  You never know when you might learn something or meet someone new.
Take it from the upperclassmen and former Graceland students; following these tips will help you get through your first year of college relatively stress-free.  As you experience and learn for yourself, you might come up with your own guidelines which you can share with your peers or even the future freshmen of Graceland.

About Mariah Kliegl

A proud native to Seattle, Washington, I have followed in my mother's footsteps by making a giant leap from suburban life in the beautiful Pacific Northwest to the small town of Lamoni hidden away in the corn fields of Iowa. As I am currently a broke sophomore with an English major and love for creative writing, I thought I'd explore the world of journalism this year by joining the writers of the Tower Newspaper. I'm still trying to find a balance between writing something I find interesting, while also breaking out of my comfort zone. My only hope is that readers might find the product of my struggle useful and entertaining!

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