The college experience: a chance to roadtest new ideas

With the graduation of some students and the addition of more new ones, the college campus will have a new look when classes begin in the fall. Invariably, the first-week jitters will be accompanied by questions about where to find parking to make it to class on time, when does Starbucks open and where to find an available computer at the Library to add those last-minute classes?

I suppose that because I am now a senior I should have some sort of unique wisdom or insight about college life. But the truth is, I don’t think I do. I have attained the number of credit hours to be labeled a senior, but I try to focus on each semester with its own set of challenges, goals and occasional pitfalls. This being said, there are a few things that I wish someone would have impressed upon me more before I started the college experience.

That first semester –whether you are a freshman or one of the numerous transfer students on campus — cannot be underestimated. According to a study conducted by Marcia Belcheir, coordinator of institutional assessment at Boise University, “First-semester GPA was a key variable in predicting further enrollment since students who received low grades were much less likely to return.” Settling into a balanced schedule of study in all courses in the first week will pay off when the frenzy of finals approaches.

The amount of coursework and the ease of quickly falling behind can cause even those easy projects, papers and tests to become daunting tasks. Certainly everyone can tell a story about a student they know who consistently procrastinates and is able to achieve good grades. The problem remains, though (and I have learned this the hard way) that we are not all able to produce quality work without devoting the necessary time to doing it right. Effective time management, rather than the relative difficulty of the material, has been the key to success in my classes.

An important amenity of being on a large campus is the multitude of learning experiences outside of the classroom. My challenge has not been trying to find things to do but rather deciding on which of the many opportunities to pursue. Whether you attend one of the events of the University Lecture Series, participate in a multi-cultural affair, or conduct research under the tutelage of a faculty member, it will no doubt enhance your collegiate experience.

Diversity on campus is important, but it runs much deeper than merely looking at the particular percentages of ethnicities enrolled. As the official University Web site states, “USF is the nation’s top location for students transferring from another college, according to a U.S. News & World Report.” Diversity, in terms of home country and experiences, brings a unique depth and cross-cultural understanding into classroom discussions and allows students to consider points of view much different than their own.

Above all, active learning is the key to making the most out of every course. Many of my professors, while explaining a syllabus and stating their office hours, indicate how few students take advantage of the resources and one-on-one time available to them.

In the same Boise State study I already mentioned, Marcia Belcheir noted that while increased faculty contact boosted GPA, “most of the students talking to faculty were those who were already doing well.”

Not understanding a concept does not put you in a group by yourself, but rather with a group of the many before you who struggled and succeeded. While it is true that individual questions may be difficult to pose in a large lecture environment, professors are, by and large, available to help.

Just remember to enjoy your time in college and remember that the time you spend at USF will go by much faster than you think. Take advantage of as much as you can each semester and have enough of an open mind to challenge the pre-conceived notions and ideas that you brought with you to college.

Aaron Hill is a seniormajoring in