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Advice From Seniors

A pathway through a forest with the sun shining through the leaves

To know the road ahead, ask those coming back -Chinese proverb

Recent JMU Grads were asked: Looking back on your academic career at JMU, what is one piece of advice you would give to incoming freshman that you wished you had received? Here's what they said...

Open Your Mind To New Possibilities

"Take chances and do something different and unexpected. Don't be afraid to get involved!"

"My only advice would be to branch out as much as possible, because it is never in your life going to be as easy to make friends as it is freshman year. I would recommend that people not live with friends from high school but take a chance with someone new."

"Get involved, make friends outside of your suite or hall."

"Don't limit yourself. Try every class; hang out with every group; go see all the plays, concerts, speakers; take advantage of Skyline Drive and all the amazing outdoor adventures around Harrisonburg."

"Enter JMU with an open mind. Try new things. Branch out and get out of your comfort zone. You can meet hundreds of people this way and develop new interests."

"Get involved with people and causes you're passionate about."

"Take classes on topics that you have never taken before, even if it seems hard or funny or no one else you know is taking, if it seems cool to you give it a try. That is what the add/drop time is for. And you never know you might find some new subject you really love!"

"Don't hold back, give it all you got. Find a balance between true, wholesome friends and academic accomplishments of which you can be proud. Be open for change and influence and learn from others as much as possible. Let your surroundings influence you instead of trying to mold them into something familiar."

"Get out there. There is so much to do that you need to be proactive and if something interests you do not let fear or passivity slow you down."

"Try and do as many different things - clubs, events, elective courses - as possible. Dip your toes into every available pond. Don't stay in your dorm room; get out and do something new and exciting!"

Ask For Help

"It is not a sign of weakness to ask for help - whether it be from a professor, a friend, or campus life services about a roommate change. I spent too much time trying to tough out situations that could have been easily solved had I not been to proud to ask for help."

"Forget pride, if you do not understand what is going on in class or in your homework, GO TO OFFICE HOURS ASAP."

"ASK QUESTIONS! Don't be afraid to ask a teacher for help, the more questions you ask, the more answers you will get and you will be better off in the long run. I missed out on a lot of opportunities by not asking for help or direction."

"Keep yourself informed!!! This is not high school and people won't be telling you when certain things need to be done...or even that they are your responsibility. Don't let yourself fall through the cracks. It's a big school and you can miss out on a lot if you don't keep yourself up to date."

"Set up meetings with your professors if you have any concerns, questions, or comments. I have never found a professor at JMU that wasn't more than willing to be there for me."

Take Academics Seriously

"No matter how intelligent you are (or think you are), there's a subject out there that will humble you. Make sure you challenge yourself in your coursework, otherwise you're wasting your educational dollars."

"Take Gen Ed.S. seriously! They are harder than you think and can significantly bring down your GPA."

"GO TO CLASS!!! The fewer classes you skip, the better you will do in them. You can study your book and other people's notes until you know every word, but it can't make up for going to class. I learned this the hard way!"

"When reading is assigned....read it. Read it as soon as it is assigned. Not only will you understand what is going on in class, you will be able to avoid the unbearable night before stress before tests as well as avoiding embarrassing moments when called on in class."

Worry about what you are learning, not just cramming for a good letter grade."

"Stay organized. Time management is the key to success, especially at a school like JMU where everyone is so involved in a thousand different things."

"You NEED to study first semester, even if you think you can get by without it, like in high school."

"You can't study like you did in high school and expect to receive the same grades - you have to work much harder if you want to excel."

"Don't mess around your freshman year and spend the next three years trying to fix the GPA you received first and/or second semester freshman year."

"At a university, you need to be very conscious of your workload and assignments for the entire semester. At the beginning of the semester, a student should plan out how he or she will accomplish all of the goals and assignments for the class so that stress is kept to a minimum later."

"Go to every class, it is the best way to get good grades. Even 8 am classes, and no matter how little sleep you got the night before. Only miss one or two classes each semester in each class."

"Utilize FYI writing center and your professors and your roommates and hallmates when it comes to writing papers. I became such a better college writer with the assistance of others to proofread and help structure your paper"

"Take Freshman year more seriously, at least in the academic department. For me, my goofing around Freshman year was the difference between graduating with a 3.0 and a 3.5."

Get To Know Your Professors

"Talk to your professors, ask questions in class, and go to office hours. It is beneficial when your teacher is familiar with your name and face."

"The professors love when you seek them out for advice and help. It is part of the college learning process I believe to have a good professor-student relationship. They are much more helpful and friendly in a one-on-one setting."

"Get to know your teachers - they're not only good resources of information during college, but many can get you connected with jobs afterward."

"Talk to your professors!! If they can see that you show a genuine interest in the subject, they will be willing to help if you need it."

"Volunteer to work with professors in your department and help with their research."

"Take advantage of the office hours - they are set for a reason and are meant to help you. Plus, taking the time to meet with the teacher shows your interest, and that can make a difference on border grades."

Maintain Balance

"Play hard and work harder (and not vice versa.)"

"I noticed that I had to study and take the time to do it and stop listening to my friends to get things accomplished. I even had to tell some of them goodbye and leave me alone, because they were very bad influences."

"Live every moment like its your last because it ends sooner than you think, and you don't want to look back wondering what if."

"That it is okay to have a life and do well at JMU. There are so many clubs and activities that don't interfere with your class schedule."

"Party responsibly and call your parents at least once a month so they know you're not dead."

"Don't take your academics so seriously that you forget to have the time of your life. You have the rest of your life to be a grown up and work for a living. Enjoy being young."

"Enjoy the time you have in college and don't wish graduation to come sooner."

When Picking A Major...

"Don't choose a major just because you feel that you need one. Wait until you figure out what you want to do with your life."

"Know what you need to graduate! Don't depend on anyone else to know it for you."

"Find out about all the majors and minors you are the least bit interested in. Then find out about all the classes in them, the prerequisites required, and how classes from different disciplines can complement what you really want to do. Look into double majoring/minoring."

"Do not be afraid to ask for help when you are trying to determine your major. It will save a lot of time."

"Don't be afraid to switch majors or try new things. The ability and flexibility JMU gives its students regarding majors and fields of study is exceptional."

"You don't have an advisor like high school. There are people there to help you, but you must find them and ask them the questions that will give you the help you need. If you don't stay on top of deadlines you could get yourself into deep water, or end up taking more classes than you really need."

"Try your best from the very beginning and be sure to check with your advisor when scheduling. Try to outline a plan for which courses to take each semester and have tons of backups, because you'll need them!"

"Don't worry about majoring in what will make you more money or what will look good to others, major in something that you will enjoy doing and then figure out how you can make it into a career."

"Visit the academic advising office and really get to know the programs and different degree requirements."

"Major in what you want to, not what your parents want you to. It's important to enjoy what you are learning about in order to do well."

"I would advise incoming freshman to meet with their advisers on a regular basis to discuss their progress and their schedule of classes. I waited too long and had many surprises, forcing me to take summer sessions and cause undue stress!"

"Be prepared to take responsibility for planning your own 4-year academic course...advisors cannot be expected to know everything and will not ensure that you graduate in four years."

"Visit the Career and Academic Planning Resource Center in Wilson Hall!"

Join An Organization

"I wish I had understood that getting involved in clubs, sports, volunteering or any other organizations REALLY helps your motivation. I found the more active I was, the happier and more complete I felt."

"Join as many clubs and organizations that you can handle. There are groups that I didn't even knew existed until my last year. You will find people with all sorts of interests!"

"Getting involved is so important, but does NOT have to be done immediately. I felt it was nice to do it gradually because just getting acclimated to college is so hard that adding things such as activities and organizations can make it harder. Every organization I did changed my life in some way, I wish however that I knew it was okay to ease into things and I didn't have to jump right in."

"Joining clubs and working on campus is the best way to meet people. They have common interests and are generally the type of people you want to spend time with."

"Make sure you become involved in at least one extracurricular activity every year and hold an office in at least one."

Start Planning For Your Career

"Do internships early. Focus on getting a career so you have one waiting for you when you graduate."

"Start looking for a job before graduation. Build your resume by doing one or two volunteer opportunities for over one year's time. Get an internship or two."

"Sit down and think about exactly what you want to get out of college. Talk to professionals in the field you want work in. Ask them how they got there, where they see themselves down the road, what is a typical day like, etc. Find out which profession aligns closest with what you plan to get out of your college experience."

"Get internships during the summers don't just lifeguard and wait tables. I got internships, and it has prepared me beyond belief for the real world. They are invaluable! You are basically SOL if you didn't have at least one during your college years. It's very competitive out there, and internships makes you look prepared and driven to grad schools and employers."

Other Thoughts...

"Don't feel obligated to go out to parties to meet people or to be cool. Take advantage of TDU and all on campus events. They are tons of fun!"

"I would give this advice, it is okay, if you don't feel like you fit in the first two seconds that you are on campus, give it time and you will find your place."

"Be courteous to your roommate no matter what situation you find yourselves in. It will make your year go much smoother." "Stay on campus two years."

"Take more pictures!"

"Eat at Kline's."

"Eat at D-hall more."

"College is going to be a blast . . . but it will also be tough. Freshman year you'll have to adjust to being away from your family, friends, and home for a very long time and sometimes this isn't easy. All I can say is stick it out . . . after freshman year adjustment you are sure to have a blast! You will go through hard times and loss, but you'll also meet many fabulous friends and professors who will help you along the way. Be prepared to do some growing spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and socially, because that is what college and JMU is all about!"