Freshmen Survival Guide | News from CoB | SIU

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Freshmen Survival Guide

May 20, 2016, Katja Sonkeng


With 2016’s spring commencement officially in the books and the Class of 2016 sent off into the real world, it’s time to turn our attention to the Salukis of the next generation, as they get ready to head to college in their individual journeys to full-fledged adulthood.

Graduation season is a period of celebration. It’s also a reflection on a chapter of life that is coming to an end, and what lies ahead after that. Some graduating seniors – and a few upperclassmen of SIU’s College of Business – recalled the challenges they faced during their freshman year in college, and they offered some practical tips for incoming freshmen on how to navigate through the first year at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Moving away to college and leaving behind the familiar, safe surroundings of your home with family and friends for the first time in life takes plenty of courage. It’s certainly a daunting and challenging – but also rewarding – experience. The fear of making new friends, of exploring new places and learning the ropes of campus life, of figuring out where everything is on campus, of stepping out of their comfort zone, and especially of belonging and fitting in are just some of the many challenges every freshman faces while also struggling with financial burdens and staying afloat in classes that often come with overwhelming expectations.

But let’s not forget the new independence that college life offers to recent high school graduates being on their own for the first time. Being suddenly thrown into a world of no curfews and ground rules laid out by parents, but confronted with the responsibilities of grocery shopping, doing laundry, and keeping up with coursework and going to classes, can take a toll on students emotionally, mentally and physically.

Not surprisingly, all of the practical advice offered by the College of Business upperclassmen boils down to this: Manage your time efficiently. That’s the key to make the first year in college the best time of your life.

Manage your time wisely: The key for success in college

Anthony Reed, a junior majoring in finance and minoring in accounting, has this recommendation for incoming freshmen: Use a planner to help balance school and extracurricular activities.

“Based on my experiences, it’s easy to forget assignments’ due dates or important events when you have other obligations to attend to,” Reed said.

Reed, from the west side of Chicago, is in his third year as a Saluki, and he serves as a portfolio analyst for the Saluki Student Investment Fund. When he’s not assisting in making calculated trades in the Burnell D. Kraft Trading Room, he splits his spare time between playing basketball and building model cars.

Similar words of advice come from Josh Lohmann, a graduating senior in accounting and finance. The Nashville, Illinois, native served as one the student co-coordinators for the popular annual SIU Accounting Challenge, and he knows firsthand the value of using an organizer.

“The semester goes quickly, due dates come up without notice, and it is crucial to write everything down in a planner to ensure a successful college experience,” he said.

Network as much as possible

Equally important, according to Lohmann, is for freshmen to network with faculty, professionals and potential employers as soon – and as much – as possible.

“My job offer at KPMG was obtained through interviewing and networking with KPMG employees,” he said. “You never know when an opportunity will arise – and the more you network, the more potential job offers or internships you will get.”

Polish up your résumé

When it comes to networking, Lohmann emphasized the necessity of keeping application documents constantly updated and ready to submit when opportunity knocks.

“Get your résumé polished up immediately,” Lohmann said. “Internships and leadership conferences are being offered more to lower-level (sophomore and junior) students than in past years.”

For this reason, Lohmann said that “it is crucial that a student has a résumé that stands out to recruiters.”

Take advantage of helpful resources on campus

Here’s an important note: You are not alone. It may seem that way during the first few days of college, but Lohmann noted that there are plenty of helpful resources available on campus.

“The Business Placement Center and the Advisement Office in Rehn Hall are great resources for résumé tips and feedback, and any other questions concerning your classes or choice of major,” he said.

Get involved and have fun, but stay on top of your classes – and don’t overburden yourself with extracurricular activities

Elijah Jeremiah “LJ” Barber, a sophomore finance major, learned his lesson about balancing class time and fun time the hard way in his first year as a Saluki. His advice for the next generation of incoming freshmen is to carefully consider the amount of coursework and organizations they wish to take on.

“I guess one of the biggest problems I have is trying to stay focused,” Barber said. “In my first semester, I was in 13 organizations and took 18 credit hours.”

This past spring, Barber cut his course load back to five classes and four organizations, primarily to free up time to attend conferences and listen to guest speakers on campus.

At the same time, it’s important to get involved and try out different clubs and activities that are offered on campus. At least that’s Victoria McGuire’s main piece of advice for the next Saluki generation. McGuire, a management senior and former SIU cheerleader, encourages Salukis of all stripes to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities that college life provides.

“Get involved!” she said. “There are so many things available to you to take advantage of. Join registered student organizations, professional clubs and associations. Anything you can do to network, learn and grow.”

McGuire, a native of Marion, Illinois, is a member of the Accounting Society as well as Beta Alpha Psi, and she acknowledged the challenges wrought by the total freedom first-year students suddenly encounter.

She reminded prospective SIU students to put their education first.

“This is such an exciting time in your life!” she said. “You are going to be given freedom that you are not used to having – but, in addition, coursework that is much more demanding than what you were used to. Have fun, but remember to stay on top of your classes and homework.”

Build relationships with your professors

One more recommendation comes from William Schefelbein, a junior majoring in management at SIU’s College of Business.

“Put yourself out there, have an open mind, join as many things as your schedule allows and get to know your professors,” Schefelbein said. “Faculty, staff and future employers want to see that initiative and drive students have not only in the classroom, but in their extracurricular activities as well.”

Schefelbein, from the Dunlap/Peoria area in Illinois, practices what he preaches. He is involved in the Saluki Student Investment Fund and the College of Business ambassadors program, and he serves as a student committee member for the Big Event and as a small-group leader for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship.

Be outgoing and ask for help

Ultimately, the best way to thrive and navigate the first year of college is to reach out to upperclassmen for guidance. They’ve been in your shoes, and they know how valuable it is to befriend fellow Salukis in the shared quest to learn the ropes of college life.

The best piece of advice, therefore, is simple: Never hesitate to ask for help. That’s something many experts and administrators believe is exactly what a new student needs to do to succeed in college – and in life.

With 2016’s spring commencement ceremony just a few days old, Danna Lewis, the director of the SIU College of Business Placement Center has a message for incoming freshmen who are getting ready for their big move: “We are just a phone call away.”