Incoming college freshman often seek advice from anyone they can get it from — friends, family, older students, etc., but rarely do they get to hear advice from the professors themselves. I reached out to UNC professors in various departments to see what advice they would give to the incoming freshmen.
1. Dr. Kelly Hogan — Professor of Biology
"You belong here. There will be times when you may doubt that, but you belong here. You may have the wind taken out of you with some of your first academic experiences — that is normal. You may have breezed through high school — a place that may have not set expectations high enough for someone like you. We set expectations high at Carolina and we will challenge you. But we will provide encouragement and lots of resources for you. Once you get used to your new normal, you'll appreciate how much you are growing academically and personally. If you find yourself struggling personally or academically, don't wallow in it alone thinking it will just get better. Talk to someone. Professors care about your well-being and can be a great first person to talk with. Office hours are for so much more than specific questions about the class."
2. Desiree Griffin — Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience
"Find something you are passionate about and really get involved. UNC can feel like a large campus but if you find your niche — whether it be a particular major, a social organization, a school club, a charity, a church —- then UNC will feel much more like 'home' and you’ll feel more connected to campus and your life in Chapel Hill.
Along the lines of 'getting involved,' I would encourage students to get to know their instructors and engage in their course material. Yes, instructors can seem busy and unapproachable, especially in the larger classes where a lot of freshmen will find themselves; however, if the topic is something you find interesting and want to learn more about, then what better way to do so than by taking advantage of your instructors' office hours? Typically, instructors love talking about their respective fields and are excited when other students show excitement. It’s a great way to know your instructor better, to feel more connected to not only the course but the material and the department, and to learn some helpful tidbits about next steps in your area of interest. It also fosters a more proactive approach to one’s education. Students who are willing to engage, ask questions and apply the material to other courses/aspects of their lives are ones who are becoming critical thinkers and are taking full advantage of their educational opportunities at UNC.
But sometimes it’s all about survival in your freshman year and it’s not easy to balance school, extracurriculars, work, social life, etc. So, most importantly, students need to take care of themselves. Utilize that social support group you’ve developed after finding your niche, talk to instructors if you’re having a difficult time with the material (better to do it on the front end than after you’ve failed three exams) and take advantage of campus resources (e.g., the Learning Center, CAPS, Academic Advising)."
3. Kris Jordan — Professor of Computer Science
"If you've done well in math courses, you should enroll in COMP110 this fall! You might surprise yourself and fall in love with the field with the most exciting and highly paid post-grad career opportunities at UNC. Don't make the same mistake I did when I came to Carolina. Take 16 [credits] at most your first semester. Buy the meal plan below the one you think you'll actually need. Two below the one your mom thinks you'll need. Trust me. Wait until the sun has set before eating Time Out."
4. CJ Skender — Professor of Business/Accounting
"Take out four sheets of paper. Assume you have exactly ten years to live ... and for 60 seconds, jot down all you want to do in the ten years. And then repeat for five years, for one year and for one week. Put those four sheets together and you should discover what is truly important, what makes you happy and what you are passionate about. Plan as though you’ll live forever, live as though you’ll die tomorrow.
Don’t be afraid of failing or of making mistakes — everyone does. If you are not, you are not challenging yourself enough. It’s how you handle adversity that really is key. Take risks … Baseball players who hit the magic, 300 fail seven times out of 10. Strikeout leaders hit the most home runs. Don’t be afraid to travel outside your comfort zone. It’s better to try and fail than not to try at all. Better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.
Give something back and pass something on. To move forward in life and grow, you must do this. The fact that you are here starting college means someone ... or many someones have sacrificed for you along the way. Reciprocate ... It’s what you do for others that ultimately measures your worth.
Enjoy life. Live it to the fullest. Find your passion. Strive to be the best you can be. Believe in yourself. Continue to learn. Surround yourself with good people. Win with humility. Lose with dignity. Dream, laugh, cry, think, pray. Every day. Balance. Act upon your goals. Celebrate your excellence. Take a long look at the view. Call someone from your past once a month. Tell your family and friends you love them. Don’t put off things closest to your heart. Sometimes you can’t find what you’re feeling until all the words run out. Make every day your masterpiece. Act as if everything depended on you. You got to get up every morning with a smile on your face. You’re as beautiful as you feel."
5. Dr. Daniel Cobb — Professor of American Studies
"I would recommend to first-years that they take advantage of every opportunity to extend beyond their comfort zones in terms of the courses they take — to take some intellectual risks by exploring areas of study outside what they may be thinking their careers may be devoted to. Never will you have a better chance to learn so deeply from so many specialists in so many areas of expertise! So dive in and, four years from now, head out into ‘the world’ with no regrets. And, of course, I think you know what I’m really saying: Be sure to take American Studies courses —and maybe even major, double major, minor or double minor!"
6. Dr. Jeannie Loeb — Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience
"Expect courses to be challenging! If you find yourself having trouble meeting the higher bar, do the following: a) take a deep breath, b) cry a little if need be, c) remind yourself that strategy is EVERYTHING. Visit the Learning Center early and often because ALL skills and abilities can be developed!
Attend class. Attend class. Attend class. Attend class. And ... attend class.
Take lots of notes in class and from your readings! There will be a TON of information thrown out at you! Don't just 'sit back and enjoy' hearing and/or reading about things. Take down notes. Normal people will not remember all the information by the time exams roll around. Notes are meant to help you with your memory. Don't know how to take great notes? Visit the Learning Center.
Try new things and get to know new and different people! This is a wonderful time of exploration and you may be surprised at what and who may interest you!
Use a planner (especially electronic ones like Google Calendar and Task Manager). Again, there will be many things to do. Sure, you could use your mental powers to try and remember everything 'in your head' but it's better to use your mental resources for thinking and to off-load remembering deadlines. Don't know the best way to use a planner? Visit the Learning Center."
Class of 2021, both the students and the professors at UNC are so excited for you to start your Carolina journey, and we want you to take advantage of every resource that will help you on your path to success. As you can tell from the advice above, the professors (that a lot of you will probably have next year) want the best for you, and they know what they're talking about, so their advice is golden.
Lead Image Credit: JJ Thompson via Unsplash
Editor's note: Quotes have been edited for clarity.