By Meghan Caprez
Your college experience is going to be exactly what you make of it. Blunt, I know, but to the point.
I was bound and determined to hate my college experience. When I stepped onto campus during Welcome Weekend, I convinced myself I didn’t belong at Kent State. The university wasn’t my first choice, I was still living with my parents and commuting to school and I had no source of income. I took 15 credit hours of classes five days a week, I picked up my sister from school, and I went home. I was bored and lonely. In true self-fulfilling prophecy fashion, I wasn’t very happy my first semester.
I now realize that my attitude made all the difference. If I had gone into college thinking, “This is a new experience, and I’m going to make the best of it,” my first semester would have gone a lot smoother.
Now, I absolutely love Kent State. I practically bleed blue and gold. I’m involved in multiple clubs and activities, I attend sports and other on-campus events, I have an on-campus job and I hang out with my best friends on almost a daily basis.
As a junior looking back on the mistakes I made my freshman year, I’d like to offer some advice for your first semester at Kent State.
Participate in Welcome Weekend. Utilize every opportunity you’re given to connect yourself to campus. Yes, that means attending ALL of your college’s sessions and going to Blast Off. Blast Off will connect you to many of the campus activities you are able to join. Take time to talk to the booths you are interested in; don’t just show up for the free t-shirts and fireworks. Commuter students, this applies especially to you. It can be very, very difficult feeling like a part of the Kent community when you’re only there for a few hours a day. Set yourself up for happiness by jumping into Kent life from the start.
Make friends. I know it’ll be difficult, but separate yourself from the friends you may have from high school and focus on making new connections. Yeah, it might be a little awkward and embarrassing, but remember that everyone who will be moving in with you and attending sessions at Welcome Weekend will be new. To loosely paraphrase an old adage from High School Musical, you’re all in this together.
Go to class. It sounds like common sense, but once winter hits and you have to trudge all the way from Eastway to Franklin Hall at 7:45 a.m., you might be tempted to convince yourself that staying in bed is a good idea. It’s not. Go to class. Make a good impression. Your professors are professionals and they have connections that could one day get you a job. Go to class.
Get involved. Save yourself from the monotony of school work and do something you enjoy. As a CCI major, you have roughly a bazillion options within the college alone. Definitely get involved, especially because our majors require some practical experience. If you’re an EMP major, join TV2. If you’re a public relations major, join PRSSA. But don’t limit yourself to CCI if you have an interest in something else. Do you love My Little Pony? Join the Kent State Bronies and Pegasisters club. Love the movie Pitch Perfect and have a wicked singing voice? Audition for KSU’s a cappella choir, the Kent Clarks! Kent has more than 200 different clubs and activities ranging from KSU Dungeons & Dragons to the May Fourth Task Force. Visit the Center for Student Involvement’s website for a full list of activities and who to contact if you’re interested in joining.
Go to campus events. We all like to make jokes about being poor college kids, but let’s face it: We are. Do you really have the money to go out and see a movie every other weekend? Can you seriously afford to go to that Cavs game? When you really think it through, the answer is probably not. The awesome thing about Kent is that they have campus-wide events every single week. And guess what? A vast majority of them are free. Go to football games. Go see that movie playing in the KIVA Saturday night. And yes, you do want to go to the Drag Show and the Mr. Flash Pageant. Commuter students, I’m giving you another shout out. Don’t even think about hesitating to come to these events. They will connect you to campus life in more ways than you can ever imagine because these are what really make the on-campus living experience.
Go on self-guided tours. I never thought about doing this until one of the advisors at Blackstone Launchpad suggested it to me. Take a buddy and visit one building on campus a week. Explore the building completely. Find out what kind of classes are held there or what kind of students live there, where the professors’ and administrators’ offices are, and where you can find the building’s hidden gems. Did you know there’s an internet cafe in White Hall? There’s a comfy place to read behind the Jazzman’s in Oscar Ritchie Hall. Nursing majors can sometimes be found in Wright Hall in their living-learning community. Curl up with a good Dr. Seuss book in the Reinberger Children’s Library Center. The Bowman Crunch Wrap is to die for. The couches in the Centennial lounges can comfortably seat two full-grown adult strangers, or three to four really good friends. These are the kinds of things you can learn about your university that make it feel more like home.
Keep parents informed. I know you’ve had at least 18 years of parents breathing down your neck about school and extracurriculars, but they really do care about your well-being. Give them a call once a week to let them know what’s up. They want to know that you hate this professor or you were pleasantly surprised by that Kent Core class. They want to know that you joined this club or went to that basketball game. Talking to your parents on a regular basis can also help keep homesickness at bay and keep you going until Parents’ and Family Day (September 7, KSU vs. Bowling Green. Go Flashes!).