What I wish I knew freshman year

by Lauren J. Mapp, Staff Writer

A lot has changed in my life since I started college at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 2003. In the last 15 years, I have moved 3,000 miles away from my childhood home, changed my major, received three associate degrees, transferred to San Diego State, traveled internationally and made friends around the world.

Now, as I enter my senior year at the age of 33, I can reflect back on the many things that I wish I knew during my freshman year of college.

One of the reasons why I left UMass after my sophomore year was because I wanted to drop my then theater major, but I wasn’t yet sure of what I wanted to change my major to. Instead of simply dropping out of school and taking a break, I should have sought the advice of a counselor on campus.

At SDSU, assistance regarding  changing majors, future semester planning, transfer evaluations and more can be found in the Office of Advising and Evaluations.

Another issue that hindered my progress when I first started college was grappling with anxiety attacks. I began experiencing acute anxiety my freshman year, which increased to the point that I was unable to go to class or leave my dorm room some days during my sophomore year.

Anxiety attacks became more frequent and intense as the stress of being absent from classes piled on. During that time, I thought the only thing that would ease my mental anguish would be to take a break from school and move away.

While I am happy with my decision to move to San Diego, I wish I had had the foresight to get the mental health care that I needed early in my college career. SDSU’s Calpulli Center has a Counseling and Psychological Services program to  help those with anxiety or other mental wellness issues.

Fostering relationships with my professors is something that I focus on now that I am a senior, but I didn’t give much thought to it as a freshman. Attending office hours is a great way to get some extra assistance with the subject that you’re studying, but it can also build a bond between you and your professors.

Such relationships are necessary when it comes time to apply for scholarships, graduate degree programs and jobs. It is much easier to ask for a letter of recommendation from someone who knows you and how diligent you are academically, and the letter you receive as a result will be much more personalized.

Speaking of letters of recommendation, don’t underestimate the worth of sitting down to apply for scholarships each year. It may take up a lot of free time to compose a unique cover letter, personal statement and essay for each opportunity, but it is well worth it if you are awarded with scholarship money.

Lastly, I wish that I had taken advantage of my school’s tutoring and writing center as a freshman and sophomore at UMass.

At SDSU, there are resources in the Love Library for extra help with writing, math and statistics. Programs like  Beta Alpha Psi and the Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement also offer tutoring for students free of charge.