The most important advice my mom gave me before I left for my first year of college was to “advocate for yourself.” As a first-generation college student, my mom struggled to navigate the complicated university system. She rarely asked for help and yet she graduated from a top liberal arts college. She went on to receive two graduate degrees while funding her own education. Even though my mom did well in school, she reminded me to plan out my education carefully.
At the time, I didn’t know what this meant, as my entire education has been predetermined. I took the same classes as everyone else, except for AP classes. I had no choice in the teacher or subject matter. But, college is different. You organize your schedule to your own liking each semester. You can check which professor is teaching and drop the class if it isn’t working out. Instead of one counselor for the whole school, you have a wide range of advisors itching to help.
And so, the best advice I can give you is to shop smart for your education. You are in control of your education for the first time —
take advantage. You should graduate with a wealth of knowledge and personal experiences. Make every dollar you pay worth it — whether it’s excellent lectures, great internships or a new passion.
Picking professors can be intimidating because they often teach the same subject in different ways. Picking the right one is essential to your success. It’s helpful to check out websites like Rate My Professor and the University’s Data and Analytics page. It’s also important to remember how you learn best, whether by lecture, discussion, or something else, so you can pick the best professor for your specific learning style. After the first day, read over the class syllabus. If the schedule looks too busy or too hard — drop the class. If the professor doesn’t sound flexible or even rubs you the wrong way — drop the class. They won’t be offended or take it personally because they have taught hundreds of students.
As I started my freshman year, I was determined to not drop a class. I thought it was like giving up or proclaiming to the entire class that I was too dumb to take the course. But, there were several classes I wish I had dropped. Either the professor was too hard or I wasn’t excited about the subject. So, be flexible with your classes and credits and build a schedule tailored to your needs and interests. At the University of Utah, you have 10 calendar days into the term to drop. That’s plenty of time to figure out if you think you’ll do well in the class and save your money if you won’t. If that’s not enough time, you can withdraw. Withdrawals have a negative connotation, but it’s better than failing a class or lowering your GPA.
Asking for Help
A little over half of the undergraduate students in 2015 were first-generation college students. These students used financial aid resources but didn’t use academic advising at the same rates as other students. Even if you aren’t a first-generation student, reaching out to academic advisors is the most important step you can take to shop smart for your education. There are many advisors at the University of Utah that can create a customized plan for your education. An academic advisor can help you learn and save you money. The help they provide is fundamental to the quality of your education, so don’t be afraid of asking for help.
Succeeding in college isn’t just about being intelligent, it’s about being savvy with the money you spend and the choices you make. Your education is an investment for your future, so treat every decision you make like your college acceptance. I always feel like everyone else has college figured out except for me, but that’s not true. College is stressful and can be overwhelming for everyone, but with the proper tools and guidance, you will succeed. Be confident in yourself and your abilities, and remember if you ever need to cry, the Marriott Library is the best place to do it.