How to Win Over Freshmen and Influence People

Being a role model when you’re really not sure what you’re doing in your own life.

role model

by Natalie

Not to toot my own horn, but I am killing it in sophomore year.

In the past two months and seven days, I have started taking classes that I really, truly enjoy.  I have met some wonderful people.  I have written a handful of opinion columns that I’m very proud of (you can find the latest post here).  I started a club.  I finished a play and submitted it to a theatre competition.

But, most importantly, I have learned something new about myself: I’m pretty darn good at giving advice and being a support system.

At the beginning of this year, I began collecting freshman.  Not on purpose.  I didn’t go around with a butterfly net chasing the kids who still wore their high school state speech sweatshirts or letterman’s jackets.  I just, slowly but surely, became very close with a large network of first year students.  And, as I gained this new circle of friends, I gained a reputation for having the answers.  Which, if you’ve read any of my blogs from my freshman year, you’d know I don’t necessarily have.

Last year, I was an absolute disaster.

I spent my days panicking and not attending my classes.  This year, I have taken up the new habit of writing down exactly when I’m going to fulfill my responsibilities.  I’ve also taken to writing out To-Do lists.  Long story short, I’ve got my “poop in a group” this year.

As the year has progressed, I have become well-versed in taking people down, if you will. College is when a lot of people start to have mental health issues.  It’s stressful and challenging and there is a demand for a constant, shiny, happy attitude on college campuses.

It can become overwhelming.

Anxiety and depression are things I developed and learned to deal with last year.  My roommates have also struggled with mental health in their time in college.  So, because we have life experiences with not knowing how to deal, room 716 has become a popular hangout for first years who need help.

It’s fulfilling work, being a role model.  It brings me a lot of pride, knowing that I can help people because I’ve been in their shoes.  I have comforted these lost first years through times of self-doubt and it has strengthened my own ability to cope with overwhelming circumstances.  I have counseled a few of them through existential crises and “what if I hate my major” meltdowns and it has made clear to me that the struggles I faced last year were not unique.

Last year, when I began struggling with my schoolwork and mental health, my dad gave me an analogy that I have used on quite a few panicky freshmen this year:

When you forge friendships, you sign a contract for a shared emotional bank account.  We all have to withdraw sometimes when times get hard and the rent to live in our own heads goes up.  We all deposit into this account when we win the lottery and everything goes right.  Sometimes, you have to withdraw more than you deposit for a while.  But that’s fine because, eventually, you’ll be in a better place with a heavier emotional paycheck and you’ll be able to deposit back into the account when your friends need to withdraw.

There is a lot to be said for making it on your own, but there is more to be said for being able to ask for help.

When you arrive at college, a good thing to do is to seek out supportive friends.  It’s hard to see that at first glance but you’ll quickly learn who of your network of acquaintances is there for you.  Find and befriend your neighborhood know-it-all.  She/he knows where the counseling center is and how to study and how to lighten your load.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

There is no shame in being in over your head.  There is no shame in struggling with your mental health or your classwork.  There is no shame in crying in front of your friends.

There is only shame in being too proud to admit to yourself that you can’t do it alone.

College is hard and sometimes, you just need to withdraw from your shared emotional bank account.

Sophomore Year Update: The Good and the Bad

sophomore

by Ariana

It’s my third semester of college and let me tell you: It does not always get easier.

Unfortunately this reality has been tough to face. The initial weeks of school were pretty calm, but after those manageable weeks I began to get bombarded with papers, group projects, exams. School started to feel like a never-ending uphill battle.

Although this fall has been tough, I keep myself motivated by telling myself that I am almost half way to graduation. I have been setting weekly goals and writing positive notes on my board – and this is something I would highly recommend. I wake up extremely early and seeing those positive words and weekly goals helps me start the day, which now starts at 5:30 a.m. five days a week!

My roommate and I go to the gym every day at 6 a.m., which is the best time for me to go because of my schedule and because starting my day with my workout means more energy for the rest of my day.

But though school has definitely been more work this semester, it has also gotten better in other ways.

I am now living in an apartment instead of the dorms, which also was a bit of a transition, but now I have a kitchen, and with a kitchen comes learning how to cook, which has been more fun than I ever thought it would be. Plus no more gross dining hall food, and no more repeat of the freshman 15! My roommates and I also have a nice big living room, which is a great place to study and invite some of our friends over to as well.

Coming back to school I have also felt a stronger sense of comfort while walking in the halls. I not only know where I am going in life, but also where my next class is. I also feel more confident in my ability to handle change within my different classes and in talking to my professors and asking questions in lecture halls.

So maybe this is something that comes with time, or maybe I am behind in feeling this way?

Either way, I know this feeling is a good one. One thing that I do know is that sophomore year has been a whirlwind. My advice to you is to be ready and stay positive!

Until next time!

-Ariana

October Q: What is your favorite non-class activity/event/club so far in your college career and what did you like so much about it?

clubss

This year we’ve launched a monthly question feature, where our bloggers respond to questions from current high school students. Our October question is: What is your favorite non-class activity/event/club so far in your college career and what did you like so much about it?

Julie (U of MN – TC): The Hmong Minnesota Student Association Club because I will be an actor in one of their biggest events this year, Heritage Day! I can’t wait to act!

Maddi (Cal-Berkeley): I joined the Berkeley quidditch team the second week of school and it was the best decision I’ve made so far. It’s so fun not only because it incorporates Harry Potter and it is an actual workout, but the team atmosphere and the players are the type of people I get along best with

Ellie (McGill): I’m on the Varsity Track and Field team here at McGill so that’s definitely my favorite! I have made some great friends who love to run as much as I do, and I’ve becomes a much better competitor as well. Another big plus is that it keeps me in shape.

Alia (MCTC): I’m a co-leader of the writing club at my school and we have had awesome turn outs and really interesting people come to our meetings. We have students write from a prompt we provide and then they share their writing with the group. I enjoy being a co-leader because I get to decide stuff and make colorful crazy posters. We’re having a halloween party soon, the school gives us money to do this kind of stuff and it’s going to be so awesome.

Lucillia (St. Thomas): My favorite non-class activity so far would have to be Art club. Before I came to college, I was never really interested in art, but after going to a couple of meetings with my friend, I really began to really enjoy it! Though I am terrible at painting, I look forward to going each week!

Natalie (Concordia): I founded a Feminism Club on campus and it has been such a wonderful experience.  It has been so inspiring to hear messages from people who don’t know much about feminism thanking us for creating a safe space to learn about equality.

Midwest to West Coast

UC-Berkeley

by Maddi

Flying from Minneapolis to San Francisco International Airport, the first sign I saw when I stepped off the plane had directions to a yoga room. Needless to say, I had arrived in California! Too many suitcases and boxes in hand, my mom and I made our way through three-hour traffic over to the East Bay and our hotel right near my new school, the University of California at Berkeley.

yoga room

Move-in day was relatively smooth. My mom seemed to die a little inside each time she saw the size of my room, but I got the bottom bunk, which had been my main focus. To all future college dorm residents: the bottom bunk is essential to your overall happiness, so sacrifice other battles to win this one.

Along with the great bed situation, my randomly selected roommates turned out to be awesome. Picking random is a risk, but it also allows for the chance for you to meet people you might not normally reach out to, which is something that I definitely recommend.

So far, during the one month that I have lived here, Berkeley and life in California have lived up to almost every positive stereotype and expectation that I’d had coming from Minnesota.

It wasn’t just California’s weather that drew me here, but the stereotype that the people are generally open minded and progressive. The atmosphere of the student body and the type of people living in Berkeley were really important to me, and I think that these are factors that can greatly affect your adaptation to college, especially if you’re going far from home. I was able to bond with my floor-mates and most people I met quickly due to our similar values and mindsets. My Spanish class bonded right away through our discussions on Donald Trump and immigration, for example.

Another enticing feature of Berkeley for me was the stereotype that students were not only socially aware and passionate about creating change, but that they were less mainstream and a little weirder than most student bodies. This is something that I found to be true as soon as I moved in, and is one of my favorite parts of being here.

Anything and everything goes here – whether that concerns clothing or recreational activity or whatever else. I joined the Berkeley Quidditch team and am currently enrolled in a Harry Potter class called “UC Hogwarts.” These were two of the best decisions I have ever made. The unique personality of the student body largely corresponds to the cultural diversity of the campus, and this is another factor that I have found to be really important.

Over half of my floor is international and thus racially and culturally diverse. In the one month I’ve lived here I have already learned more about east Asian and Indian culture than in my whole life up until now!

school board

Just as Berkeley exceeded my social expectations, the rigor of the academics was by no means exaggerated!

I walked into my first day of chemistry class with 400 very intelligent students to find a rotating blackboard filled with foreign concepts entitled, “A review of the fundamentals.” That being said, don’t be discouraged from applying or attending a prestigious school. I soon realized that most people were in the same boat as I was and I’ve developed good study habits that benefit my schedule.

I look forward to providing more Berkeley updates throughout the coming year!

Apartment Living – Freshman Year

apartment

by Lulu

“I’m actually living in an apartment with three other girls!”

“Wait, so are you a freshman?”

I completely understand the reasons people may assume I’m not a freshman due to my living circumstances; however, I indeed am a freshman. The reason I’m living in an apartment is because there was a huge number of incoming first year students who wanted to live on campus.

There are only nine residence halls and over 5,700 seeking housing at the U of M – Twin Cities.

Although I applied for housing in early April, I didn’t receive my housing assignment until late August. Even then, I was assigned to expanded living with students much older than me. My family and I felt like the situation wasn’t ideal and would not have been a great match. I was initially bummed about the situation because I was hoping to gain the freshman experience in the dorms and live in “Superblock” where all freshmen live; however, I’m extremely grateful to be living in an apartment in Dinkytown with three amazing roommates.

During the first week on campus, I was reminded of the few disadvantages of being in an apartment. Even though I live right in the heart of Dinkytown, I was placed in a Welcome Week group with commuter students. It wasn’t the best situation, because I was looking forward to meeting other freshmen nearby and this week was designed for that opportunity exactly.

Afterwards, it just wasn’t as easy to meet other freshman friends as it would have been living in the dorms. However, I have definitely found a lot of great friends through various connections as a result of making an effort to meet new people and willingly putting myself out there.

In general, the main difference is being even more independent than living in a dorm. In addition to finding a balance, transitioning into college life, and settling in, I have more responsibilities such as paying for monthly rent and utilities. At first, it was a bit of a foreign concept to have to buy everyday living items like paper towels, toiletries, kitchen appliances, and other similar things; however, in being able to say that I hadn’t had to purchase those items prior is pure privilege. I’m very fortunate to have a meal plan, because I don’t have to worry about cooking and buying groceries.

Don’t get me wrong, though, because living in an apartment has numerous perks that I’m very grateful for.

There is a lot more space, so there wasn’t as much of a concern for packing items and worrying about it all fitting into a cramped dorm room. I have the privilege of having a bathroom with a tub and shower rather than a communal bathroom for the entire floor. Additionally, there is a laundry machine and dryer in my unit, so I don’t have to stress about stolen clothes or waiting my turn.

Overall, I’m living in a great apartment with gorgeous views of the downtown skyline and Dinkytown. I couldn’t be more thankful.

The Transfer Student Transition

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by Cara

Sometimes, I feel like I’m a freshman again.

I pronounce the names of campus buildings wrong. I panic when random people ask me for directions to the library. I almost walked into the wrong classroom during the second week of class.

Last month, I started my sophomore year of college and my first semester at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities.

As you may remember, I attended the University of St. Thomas during my freshman year and decided to transfer because it wasn’t the right fit for me. I hoped to have more academic and social opportunities at the U of M, and so far I am pleased with my experience!

I didn’t have transfer orientation until the end of June. Compared to my freshman year orientation, this year’s orientation was shorter and more focused on class selection. I researched and printed out two schedule options before my orientation, so when I finally met with my academic advisor it was easy to explain what classes I wanted to take.

Since I’m done with the majority the U of M’s general education requirements, every class I’m taking this semester was selected because I wanted to take it. I’m taking the first journalism course required for admission to the major, two political science courses, microeconomics, and a 1-credit, online public health course.

I was able to set up my schedule so that I’m done with class everyday by the early afternoon, and I don’t have any classes on Fridays! Back when I was researching colleges, I always checked if the school offered the majors I was interested in, but I didn’t look in depth at their class offerings.

If you are a student looking at colleges, think about more than just your major!

Does the school offer alternative class arrangements such as online classes or classes held only once a week? I love being able to take two of my classes online. It allows me to work at my own pace and re-watch the course lectures, if I don’t understand the content the first time. Are all students required to take the same general education courses such as Biology 101, or do you get to choose which science course you take? I enjoy having many course options to fulfill the U of M’s requirements.

Freshmen at the U of M have a whole week of activities to welcome them to campus, but transfer students have a smaller offering of events. I went to a few of the events such as one at the student union where there were different free foods to eat and activities to do on each floor.

The main way I’ve made new friends is by meeting friends of my friends! I attended business camp at the U of M’s Carlson School of Management the summer before my senior year of high school, so I already knew students on campus. Since they have already been at the U of M for year, they are able to show me around campus and tell me about the different student groups. I love to go to events held by the many cultural student clubs on campus. We learn something new about another culture and get free food! My favorite event I’ve attend so far is Wam-O-Ram! It was held in the U of M’s Weisman Art Museum. There were free screen printed t-shirts, free pizza, a mini concert, and of course viewing of the numerous art pieces.

As a transfer student it can take a little extra work to make new friends and get involved on campus, but I am pleased with my decision to transfer. I can’t wait to see what other experiences I’ll have during my first semester at the U of M, and I am excited to share them with all of you!

Apartment vs. Dorm Living

Gatehouse_Email-Feb9th-Dorms

by Elliane

I would like start out this blog post by saying that I am really enjoying second year, much more than my first.

That being said, my life is very different now compared to my first year. Last year I lived in the dorms here at McGill University, with a single room, communal bathrooms, and a mandatory meal plan.

Now I am living just off campus with my best friend for my roommate, I don’t have to wear flip-flops in the shower, and I can eat all the pasta and peanut butter I want.

In my opinion it is very important to live in the dorms or some type of university housing (rather than an apartment separated from the institution) during the first year away from home.

There are definite pros and cons to dorm living. Some pros include: inclusive community, pre-furnished space, not having to make your own meals, and (usually) close to campus. Of course, every person is different and some of those pros may seem like cons.

Dorms are a fun place to spend your time and meet new people. My dorm last year had a bunch of parties (even a prom!) but was very study-friendly during finals and promoted a nice studious environment. There was a no tolerance bullying policy and the entire residence system is considered a “safer space.” I met my best friends in “rez” last year, even though I am not the most social person. In saying that I think there is definitely a place for everyone and people for every person to meet in residence. This is why I think spending your first year in residence is important because then you have people to spend the rest of your years with (and maybe the rest of your life.)

Living in my apartment for the past month (4 weeks today!) has been such an amazing time. My first piece of advice for apartment living would be to choose your roommate wisely. Mine is my best friend Harriet who I can easily describe to be my other half. We know what annoys each other, we understand each other’s limits and respect them, and (most importantly) we have so much fun!

Even if your roommate is not your best friend, make sure you get to know them and spend some time learning about how you work together. Alternatively, if your roommate is your friend, establish some “roomie rules” because living together can be stressful.

Another upside to living on my own is that I get to cook for myself. I am an avid baker and a decent cook so I do enjoy setting aside time to make a nice meal. Let me tell you, though, there are some nights when I get home and think to myself “Nope. Sandwich tonight.”

And you know what? That’s okay! Living by yourself and being an adult, everyone has those days when they slip a little so don’t beat yourself up if you feel your “adulting” (as we like to call it here) slipping.

This year I am definitely more conscious of what I’m buying and how I’m spending my money. I’m not sure if it’s because I am living on my own and paying for groceries but I think that must be a factor. You would be surprised to see how much groceries cost and how quickly they add up!

I highly recommend living in an apartment after your first year so make sure you do if you can! Some colleges require you to live in dorms all four years, others it’s only two.

If you are still looking into where you want to go to college, think about what you want to do after your first year and do some research about your prospective choice’s options!

Move-In Day Round II

moving in

By Natalie

I drove up alone this time.

Mom and Dad knew I’d make it just fine and so they stayed in Minneapolis to usher my younger siblings to their first day of school.  I sang along to The Lion King soundtrack and Boston’s greatest hits.

I rolled up in front of Brown Hall after four hours of driving, entirely ready to start my year and entirely dreading having to unpack.  My roommates, Katie and Rachel, and my boyfriend, Nick, all came to help me haul my eight plastic totes full of office supplies, winter clothes, bedding, dishes, and books into my first floor room.

Brown Hall

Brown Hall

I spent a good amount of that afternoon trying to decide where to start.  The floor of our living space (I live in a quad this year so my dorm has two rooms: one for sleeping and one for pretty much everything else) was covered with plastic totes and folded up butterfly chairs.  The three of us navigated an obstacle course of rolled up rugs and bags of pita chips in order to turn the linoleum floor and beige walls into a home.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was stressful.  I nearly cried approximately 90 times that first day back, both from anxiety and from just plain old homesickness – an ailment I managed to avoid on move in day last year.

As I unpacked over the following two days, it dawned on me that I’m probably never going to move home again.

I’m never going to pack up all my things and move back into my parents’ house and live in the basement with piles of my compartmentalized life pushed up against the wall.  I’m never going to have my makeup and hair product strewn across the bathroom counter.  I’m never going to store my dishes in the white faced cabinets in our kitchen.  I don’t live there anymore.

Moving back to college after having four months back in the comfort of my childhood home was hard.  It was a sudden jerk into the reality of laundry and dishes and budgeting when, all of a sudden, I didn’t have my parents to do those things for me.

I traded my parents for two of the best roommates and friends a girl could ask for.  We had a solid sleep schedule (in bed by midnight, out by nine), we spend more time than I could count laughing and talking and creating some of the most ridiculous Snapchat stories ever.  Moving away for good is hard, but it’s easier when you have a good place to land.

This summer was a hard transition for me.

I worried that I didn’t belong in the world of Academia.  I worried that I was going to fall flat on my face again like I did last year.  I spent a lot of my time second guessing my qualification to do anything but be a homebody.  I nearly convinced myself to not go back to school.  But I did go back and it hasn’t been bad at all.  I came back to Concordia with an arsenal of anecdotal advice I racked up last year.

One of the bigger lessons I learned from freshman year that I’ll be applying to my life from here on out is that it’s okay to fail.  There’s no shame in it.

It is okay to take a huge leap or have a hard fall and fail.  It’s okay to try again.  In fact, it’s mandatory.  Another thing I took away from my first eight months at Concordia is that one of the perks of a private education is that you can ask for as much help as you want and no one is going to think less of you for it.

My Desk!

My Desk!

It’s been four weeks since I moved in to my cozy little home and I’ve nestled in.  I got a job writing for my school newspaper, The Concordian (http://theconcordian.org/), I love my classes, and I landed a role playing Marta in this year’s musical, Steven Sondheim’s Company.

All in all, this year is shaping up to be pretty dang great.

Hello Freshman Year!

freshman year

by Sam

Saying hello to freshman year was cool, until I had to say hello to the 5am morning swim practices that came with it.

The past three weeks have been action packed, and quite stressful. From learning how to balance academics and swimming, to making new friends! I’ve never considered myself shy, but orientation left me culture shocked and at a loss for words.

Hamline University is a diverse, open-minded, progressive campus. I’ve found a home, and a calling to grow.

During my first week at Hamline I was a part of a Multicultural Mosaic program, an honors program that focuses around educating people about cultural diversity and sexual orientation, as well as creating a safe community for others to speak about their struggles as a person of color or being a part of the LGBTQ community. Being a part of the Multicultural Mosaic program gave me a deep insight into the struggles of my peers and gave me an environment to develop personally!

I definitely recommend looking into the pre-orientation programs offered at the schools you’re applying for; each school offers a variety of programs for a variety of interests. Being a part of the pre-orientation program here at Hamline has given me the resources to navigate campus and make friends from all over the world.

Although I am still in shock over being a college freshman, I am excited for what this year brings, and can’t wait to share my adventures with you!

Introducing Lydia – Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD)

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Having been a resident of Minneapolis my entire life, I decided to continue my education here. I’m attending the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, hoping to major in Illustration. I graduated from South High School in 2015. I focused on science my entire life up until the last moment, when I changed my entire path to what I love: Art. I finally chose my passion and I hope I can help someone make the decision to follow their heart, too.

  • High School: South High
  • College: Minneapolis College of Art and Design
  • Intended Major: Illustration
  • What is one weird thing about you: I have 17 piercings and 3 tattoos with hopes to get more, plus I have dyed my hair every color in the rainbow – sometimes at the same time!
  • What is your favorite thing about Minneapolis: The Walker Art Center. It’s so peaceful and so interesting. I have nothing but happy memories inside those slanted walls.
  • What is your spirit animal: Ice Bear from Cartoon Network’s ‘We Bare Bears’
  • What is your dream pet: I think it would be really cool to own Cerberus, the three-headed dog that guards the doors to Hades from Greek Mythology – three times the dog!
  • Who is your celebrity crush: I actually am asexual and demiromantic (feel free to ask me what that is.) So unless I was close to any celebrity (I’m not!), I can’t develop a crush.

September Q: What are you doing differently during your second year out of high school?

every-experience-is-an-opportunity-to-learn-and-grow

This year we’ve launched a monthly question feature, where our bloggers respond to questions from current high school students. Our September question is: What are you doing differently during your second year out of high school?

Alia (MCTC): Waiting to buy my text books until I’ve had my classes for at least a week. Last year I ended up not even using some text books and was out the money!

Ariana (UMN Duluth): I plan on spending my time more efficiently and setting monthly personal and academic goals for myself.

Natalie (Concordia University Moorhead): Managing my time better, as well as trying to work out more!

Guanani (Reed College): This year I will advocate for myself more and let people know if they’re making me uncomfortable or offended.

Cara (UMN Twin Cities): I still plan to join clubs at my school, but I’m not going to over-commit myself so I have enough time to study.

Welcome to the New School Year!

back-to-school

Welcome back to school from the CollegeCrewMpls team!

We’re delighted to report that the majority of our original bloggers are returning this fall, as we continue to follow them through their journeys following graduation from Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) high schools. Additionally, we have a new cohort of 2015 graduates lined up to share their stories and advice as well. We’re excited to have some fresh perspectives mixed in with our sage returning veterans.

This past year – our first year – was a great success for our ’14 bloggers and we plan to build on this momentum to provide a broader range of real-world perspectives on life after MPS for our current high school students.

During our first year we had over 40 posts and more than 5,000 views. We hope to increase that even more this year as we have a larger base of bloggers to share their compelling stories.

We’re also launching a monthly question feature, which will focus on specific questions from high school students that are answered by our bloggers from around the country. The first monthly question post will come out later this week, so stay tuned!

Finally, we’re excited to announce the launch of our Twitter feed! Follow us at @CollegeCrewMpls — and also be sure to re-Tweet the Tweets you like so we can get more followers who turn into readers of our blog!

Best of luck back at school this year!

Introducing Dralandra – Augsburg College

meeeHey! I graduated from South High School where I was named by Minneapolis Public Schools as an Extraordinary MPS student (you can check out my video). I was also a South High Kiwanis Scholar. I am passionate about education because I come from a family where education is lost.

I plan to eventually get my masters degree in social work and become an outstanding citizen in my community, but for right now I’m just an Auggie! I am majoring in social work and psychology because I’m passionate about learning human behavior and helping people.

  • High School: South High School
  • College/University: Augsburg College
  • Intended Major: Social Work and Psychology
  • Celebrity Crush: Tupac
  • Favorite thing about Minneapolis: All the opportunities and resources that the city has!
  • One weird thing about you: I like peeling dead skin off of people’s feet
  • Hobbies/Interests: I love writing and laughing!