What I would tell my freshman self

BY SANDRA RIANO
Senior Opinion Editor

One of the most difficult transitions from high school to college is the shift in responsibility. Three years ago I learned it is no longer a teacher’s job to force you to sit in a classroom; the professors have other students and they don’t have time to be running around after you. Show up or don’t – it only affects you. It becomes your decision very quickly on how you want to approach college. Are you going to take on this responsibility and take this seriously? Are you going to take advantage of a lax attendance policy and go out for Taco Bell instead? Personally, I did both.

The secret is to take college seriously, because it’s your future that depends on it. However, you also should be aware of when you need to take mental health days. I learned very quickly that being overwhelmed and underfunded is the quickest way to develop negative feelings towards a college experience. I had to step back for a semester even though I knew it would extend my time at the County College of Morris by at least a year. One semester I only took the two courses I could afford, worked some extra hours and used some of my free time to join clubs. It was also at this point that I had to begin mastering time management, which has allowed me to take on additional classes, jobs, internships and clubs. This turning point in my CCM career made all the difference. The transition from student, to club member, to student leader was fulfilling, and it completely changed how I approached college.

I wish I knew when I started CCM that college was more than just going to class, work and then home. CCM has so much to offer and I still meet students who didn’t know we had access to a gym and a swimming pool, students who don’t know what an articulation agreement is, and students who didn’t know career services would help them build a resume. These are all things I had to find out for myself because there are no morning announcements and no letters sent home. It’s up to you to make the most of this and take all the opportunities that arise.

I understand it’s difficult to be happy here at first; all of your friends are off at four year schools, but resenting your time at CCM will only hold you back in the long run. Whether you are here for financial reasons or academic ones, the faster you realize that you are getting a valuable education, the faster you start enjoying the time you spend here. The rumors you’ve heard and the pity filled looks from peers in high school are not indicative of CCM

I wish I knew that college would provide me with more opportunities than one person can handle. You can’t take on every job, every internship and every club, and that’s okay.

I wish I knew that stigmas are more easily erased through accomplishments than through Facebook comments.

I wish I knew earlier that student leadership came with perks like free food!

I wish I knew earlier about the scholarships CCM offers, because they would’ve really helped me out when I first started and I was struggling to pay tuition.

I wish I knew that the easiest way to get the schedule you want is to really learn how to advise yourself. You know what you can handle better than any professor does. Be sure to mix together courses that vary in interest to you so you don’t end up with a hellishly boring semester, and try to line up some courses that may even go together, such as American Government and the History of U.S Minorities. Some of the content in related courses overlaps, which can help you gain better understanding from different perspectives.

I wish I went on more field trips and dabbled in clubs outside of my comfort zone, but I didn’t, and that’s okay. The point is, we all had different experiences here and I wish I had known earlier about all the things I mentioned. But in a way, learning the hard way made my experiences that much more valuable.

I am indebted to my time at CCM, but not to a financial institution. Instead, I owe my accomplishments to all the faculty, staff and student leaders who made CCM an unforgettable place. So, if I could tell my freshman self one thing, it would be to just pick a club and join it, because it makes creating friendships so much easier, and it makes college more manageable having a support system of likeminded students to help you when you need it. Stop fretting about not having friends and thinking no one talks to each other and start the conversation. You never know what kind of background stories you will get to hear, and you will make some great friends along the way.

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