5 Ways That Colleges Should Improve the Freshman Experience

For incoming freshmen starting college can be a very exciting and somewhat stressful time. Colleges and universities do their best to ensure that freshmen have a smooth transition. However, sometimes they need more than just the usual icebreaker social events to become more acclimated to campus life.

Reflecting on my own college experience as a recent graduate, here are five key areas that my university and probably many others could improve upon, particularly for freshmen.

  1. On-Campus Mental Health and Public Safety Services Need to Be Highlighted More      

Between orientation, syllabus week, and just getting used to their new surroundings, freshman are inundated with information. This can be overwhelming which is why universities need to consistently emphasize the mental health and public safety services available on campus.

Students should know how to request an appointment with a therapist from the wellness center and what on-campus hotlines to call if they aren’t feeling safe. For many freshmen this is often their first time away from home, so it’s important to make the campus feel like a safe environment from the start. 

  1. Having a Food Pantry on Campus

Within the college sphere there tends to be a stigma around student hunger and food insecurity. Having an unlimited meal plan or money to eat out is a luxury for some students, whereas many others have to plan their meals according to a strict budget.

One of the ways more colleges can combat this issue is by having a food pantry where students can get boxed or canned goods and fresh produce for free. Although most freshmen live in dorms it’s still great to stock up on essentials like cereal, ramen noodles and snacks; especially if they can’t have their car on campus to go to the grocery store.

  1. Opportunities to Explore Their Major/Minor Early On 

The freshmen course load may not be the most exciting because it’s filled with general education requirements. Students should be able to see what their desired career field has to offer from the very beginning so that they can make informed decisions about the path they’re on.

Peer-to-peer mentorship opportunities for freshmen to network with upperclassmen who currently have internships as well as alumni would be beneficial for understanding the next steps to take. Ultimately, there’s no harm in planning ahead especially since many students enter a competitive job market after graduation. 

  1. Encouraging More Study Groups

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Trying to study a semester’s worth of lecture notes, especially during midterms and finals week, is hectic for any freshman. Studying with a few extra people sometimes can be really helpful for exchanging notes and coming up with unique ways to memorize the information.

An easy way colleges could do this is by having sign-up sheets in the library or student center for groups of freshmen taking a particular course to study together on certain days. This would also work over Zoom or Webex if the group can’t always meet in person. It’s another great social opportunity to meet and talk with other freshmen who are most likely going through similar experiences during their first year as well.

  1. Reinforcing a Healthy School-Life Balance

Freshman year is all about students learning about what works best for them. Do they prefer an 8 am class or an evening class? How many credits are they taking? What clubs and activities do they want to be involved in? And the list goes on.

Colleges need to ensure that students don’t feel pressured into spending too much time studying or taking on too many extracurricular activities. Sending out reminders about self-care through campus newsletters and hosting events for students to mentally unwind would be beneficial for any freshman. 

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