Dear Freshmen: Everything You Need to Know about Your Virtual Semester
Tips and tricks, formulas, and advice that are guaranteed to help you with your first year at Zoom University.
Hi there! 👋 My name is Janice and I'm a rising sophomore majoring in Marketing and Entrepreneurship. I'm writing this article to tell you: it's going to be okay! Sure, Zoom University wasn't what we had in mind, but there are still so many amazing opportunities at Rutgers (or the university you're attending) that you just might not know about. My goal for this article is for you to leave with something to do after reading to the end.
I've included some tips and tricks, formulas, and advice that are guaranteed to help you with your first year at college. Implement some of these into your Freshman Year so you can come to campus one day all ready to go!
Here's a video that the Rutgers Entrepreneurship & Innovation Living Learning Community featured me in. Most of the advice is applicable to any university, so feel free to watch and learn some of my most important tips. Keep reading if you'd like for a more detailed summary!
1) Know Your Websites (& BOOKMARK them) 💻
Most of the time, universities have 3 major, official sites you should often refer to:
A browser-based application used by students to register for classes
Always keep a watch on WebReg so you can create and adjust your classes for the fall and spring semester when the time comes
University pages normally have a website explaining all courses and their course number, which you can copy and paste it into WebReg to sign up for a class
Typically during your freshman year, your classes will be generated so you don't have to stress out to establish your own schedule. You still want to use this if you want to change your courses, however, or plan for the spring semester.
A tool designed for students and parents to view and plan academic progress, such as credits for your major, minor, or concentration
If you want to see what credits you still need for your core curriculum, use this site to check what areas you still need to fulfill. You can also check how many credits you have.
Displays all the relevant content and services at the university, such as current GPA, class schedule, financial aid awards, and term bill.
If you're ever wondering about something related to university logistics, this site probably has it.
I highly recommend creating a Reddit account or joining your university's subreddit page! They always have a good mix of helpful questions, memes, news, and advice.
2) Join organizations! 👥
The college experience is all about meeting new people. Even if you can't meet them in person, you can still "meet" them virtually— this is more important than ever because when you go back on campus and want to get involved with student organizations, you'll already be acquainted with some of them and have an easier time making friends.
Joining and trying out lots of different clubs was one of the highlights of my Freshman year. It allowed me to meet countless amazing people, go on trips, do fun activities, and make memories. And to be honest, I believe organization involvement is more important than classes,
Currently, every student organization is brainstorming ways to reach out to this year's freshmen. How do I know this? I'm on e-boards and committees for various clubs and ALL of them are trying to find innovative ways to reach new members this year. Most clubs are want to stay relevant and involved with the university, so do some digging and find out which ones are right for you! Each university has a page of student orgs and clubs, so taking a small incentive to go to one of their virtual info sessions or meetings will go a long way.
The best "formula" I found worked well for me and my peers was this:
1 big organization + 2 professional clubs + 2 "fun" clubs = good balance of professional development and social life ☺
Organizations- This is a bigger organization or cohort that sometimes functions differently than a club. Good examples are business fraternities, student cohorts/programs, cultural cohorts (ex. Korean Students Association), and etc.
Professional Clubs- These are smaller, student-run organizations that are narrower in interest. These are related to your major or field of study where you can learn and develop your interest. Some examples include finance clubs, STEM clubs, Student Council, Women in Business, and etc.
"Fun" clubs- These are clubs you go to for recreation. They tend to be more social where you can meet people with similar passions and even learn something new! Some "fun" clubs include rockclimbing club, crotchet club, jiujitsu club, e-sports club, and the list goes on. Just have fun and try new things!
3) "Talk" to at least One Professor 👩🏿🏫
I can't stress this enough. Getting to know at least one professor than just attending classes is extremely important! Here's why:
They'll be the ones to write your recommendation letters for internships, programs, scholarships, and exclusive opportunities.
They're the ones you go to for research opportunities.
They can give you career advice and even introduce you to their network.
You don't have to befriend them or be their favorite student, but it helps A LOT if they know your name and have an idea about your interests and passions so they can help you. And FYI, professors love helping students, it's a good feeling when they know they've made an impact through their work! Going to their virtual officer hours for extra help, asking them for their opinion/advice on a certain topic, or telling them that you really enjoyed their lecture is a great way to start!
You can start by shooting them an email introducing yourself, stating what class you're in, and proceeding to deliver your message. When I introduced myself to my entrepreneurship professor and asked for advice on a startup idea I had, he gave me his raw and honest feedback, advice, and even connected me to his relevant network (industry leaders, business owners) so I can do further research for my idea! He even wrote my recommendation letter for a cohort I wanted to apply for. This could be you in the next couple of months!
4) Pick up an activity/passion project 💡
Let's face it. There's only so much you can do with clubs and classes. After a while, it will start to feel repetitive! Hence, learning a new skill or starting a project of your own will keep learning fatigue at the door. Learning something fresh such as photoshop, an instrument, or another language will keep you busy (in a good way) and it's a great conversation starter when you talk to someone!
Do something you can also continue once you're in college. It will be a great learning experience and something you can even talk about in your resume! For example, if you take up a course on Python or UX/UI on Coursera or Linkedin Learning, you can even mention it in interviews. One of my friends even started writing a book! You can read all about it here.
For me, my passion project was building my own business (this is a much heftier approach and you don't have to do something groundbreaking). It started out just as an idea, but it was enough for me to enter a few business competitions and talk to professors. Any activity/project that's a combination of your academic interest and personal passion is a killer formula for doing something you love and learn from at the same time! You don't have to devote every waking minute to this project, but even a couple of hours a month will add up.
So, I hope you have a good idea of what to do once you've clicked off this article. Here's a quick recap of what you need to do:
Bookmark all of your University's important sites
Join at least one organization, two professional clubs, and two "fun" clubs
Get to Know a Professor
Pick up a personal activity or project that's a combination of your academic interest and personal passion
If you've done all four, I can guarantee you'll notice a big impact at the end of your freshman year. Just because everything's online doesn't mean it's an end-all-be-all situation! If you have any other questions or need specific advice you can always find me here or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading!