First Semester of College Reflection

Hello Hawkeyes,

I have officially finished my first semester of college, so what did I learn?

1.) College is what you make of it

Going to college just to go is not an experience. The fun you will remember is from the effort you make putting yourself out there for the world to see. Make friends, join clubs, attend campus events. But, whatever you do, just do something.

Goal for next semester: Attend more club events and talk to mentors more.

2.) Change up your study spot

Studying outside of your living space will help alleviate distractions. I study at the Iowa Memorial Union because of its proximity to me and because I can change up my study spot a lot within one building just by going to a different room.

Goal for next semester: Try studying somewhere new every week.

3.) Find friends that will hold you accountable

Friends will help keep you going in a social or school setting. Having friends that know you well enough to study, attend meetings, or work out with you will help in motivation and sticking to a schedule.

Goal for next semester: Branch out and find more people I have things in common with.

4.) Stay organized

College will keep you busy. Between classes, work, studying, eating, workouts, and meetings, you may not have much time for yourself. Keep an updated schedule and a clean room. This will allow you to know what you are doing, when, and where your stuff is.

Goal for next semester: Clean out my desk drawers and keep them clean!

5.) Set goals

Goals will keep you motivated with what you want the most. Be brave, daring, and work towards self-improvement. Setting an “outrageous” goal isn’t scary if you break it down step by step, so shoot for the stars.

Goal for next semester: Keep an updated goal sheet on my desk.

 

Self Care During Finals

Finals are stressful, but a lot of stress can be alleviated with self care. Are you taking care of yourself during this time?

Here are some things to keep in mind with finals approaching:

  • Take a break
      • You deserve it. You have made it through an entire semester during a pandemic. Don’t stress out studying now.
      • Watch some TV, go out to eat, hang out with some friends, or something else just get your mind off of school for awhile.
  • Treat yourself
      • Yes you need a break, but make your breaks beneficial for your health, too.
      • Take a long shower, use a face mask, or eat some junk food. The point is to do something nice for yourself that you don’t get to do often. Use this as a motivator during this stressful time.
  • Study
      • Of course you can’t prepare for finals without studying, but study with purpose.
      • Put your phone and any other distractions away.
      • Study for short periods of time with plenty of breaks, because the last thing you want to do is try and cram in information just to forget it by tomorrow.
      • Change up your scenery. Study somewhere where you feel comfortable, but try and get out this week to a spot where you know when you are there, you are there to study.
  • Sleep
      • Do not stay up late studying. You are going to want to be well rested for all of those tests you are preparing for.
      • Losing sleep means losing information. It will take longer to focus the more tired you become, so pick up the books when you are more well rested tomorrow, because they will still be there.
  • Stay healthy
      • If you go out in public to study, keep your mask on and wash your hands often.
      • Don’t forget to eat your meals and drink lots of water. I find myself lost in my studies and missing meal times, don’t let this happen to you during finals because you need all of the energy you can get.
      • Keep up your basic hygiene. Save time for the daily things: shower, brush your teeth, and comb your hair. The more you make this week normal, the easier it will seem.
      • Take off some steam at the gym. Even if it is just a short workout, it will get you up and moving out of your study spot for a while.
  • Take it one day at a time
      • I get that you are stressed and have a lot to do, but take a second to make a list of things that have to be done, and divide it into a daily agenda. This will help you stay task oriented.
      • Have confidence in yourself.
      • Stay positive, you just have a little bit of the semester left to go. Go Hawks!

Advice for a First Generation College Student

How do you stay afloat, updated, and on track? Going to college is a challenge on its own, but to go to college and have no family member to rely on for college experience questions makes it even harder.

I am a first generation college student, and sometimes I feel like I blend in to the crowd, but many times I feel like I am out of the loop. I’m not going to lie, trying to figure out how college works on your own is hard. There are going to be times of shock where you learn something that everyone else just seems to know. But hey, you have to start somewhere.

My advice to you is to get involved and meet with as many advisors and professors as you can.

Getting involved in student organizations, Greek life, or even volunteering will give you a sense of community. Just like Greek life, many student organizations assign newcomers a “big” or a “parent”, which is like a student mentor for the organization itself, but these are also people you will grow close with and be able to ask a variety of questions to.

However, you are not limited to just asking questions to this mentor figure. Joining any community or group on campus of any sort will provide you someone to talk to. Just find someone you bond with. Don’t be afraid to be outgoing, and if needed, start the conversation yourself. “Hi, I’m new here,” is not a bad thing to say, and in fact that’s how I got pointed towards some of the best and most knowledgeable people I have met. It seems like everyone will excitedly talk about themselves and their college experiences, so learn from this. Even if they are a freshman, maybe they know a fun fact about the university, a neat program offered, or a cool study spot that you don’t know about. Take knowledge from anyone.

The University of Iowa offers a Living Learning Community for first generation college students. This means you will live on a residence hall floor with people just like you. You will learn together about the college experience. To learn more about the First Generation LLC, click here.

Also sponsored by the University of Iowa is the Iowa Edge program. This is an orientation to campus and college life.

As for meeting with advisors, this is crucial for first-year college students. Academic advisors will keep you on track to graduate and provide you with various opportunities that you may have never known to exist. This can range from first generation college student support groups, scholarships, or even simply something your advisor believes you may find interesting. Your academic advisor will be your greatest asset to guiding your college experiences. Of course, schedule however many meetings you are required to have, but schedule a few more. Really get to know your advisor so they can help you in the best way they see fit. After all, they are the one person on campus who seems up to date and knowledgeable on everything.

As for other advisors, this can range from professors to program mentors. Really, anyone can be an advising figure, you just have to meet with them regularly and ask them to share their knowledge. I have found going to professor office hours and just having a conversation with them has provided me a lot of knowledge about the university that I would have not otherwise gained, so don’t be afraid just to talk. It doesn’t have to be a formal advisor-advisee format.

Overall, my advice to you as a first generation college student is to be outgoing and meet with as many people as you can. You learn through experience, so don’t let an opportunity pass you by.

If you would like to learn more about being a first generation student at the University of Iowa, click here.

For resources to look into, click here.

Study Spots at the University of Iowa

Have you found your favorite study spot on campus yet? Looking to change things up a bit? Check out some of my favorite study spots below!