May means Commencement, and Commencement means the final step on the path from high school to college.
As seniors prepare to cross that stage, turn that tassel and search for the cap they were warned not to toss, serious consideration for the life change they are about to experience takes a back seat. It might have been a few decades ago, but I vividly recall the culture shock I experienced when I started college a three-hour drive away from my high school and my family.
The desire to succeed and just the right amount of fear of failure helped push me through my freshmen year, along with a guy named Gary who taught me how to take notes, study and balance academics and social life.
I could blather on and on about the key things that this year’s seniors need to know as they prepare to head off to college, but the likelihood of them listening to a guy who was in school when mullets were actually in style is remote at best. And yes, I rocked a sweet mullet as I played air guitar to Night Ranger.
Instead, I reached out to some college students who recently were roaming the halls at Smith-Cotton High and Sacred Heart. Advice from someone in their generation likely will resonate more with the Class of 2017.
Wade Hagebusch, a 2014 graduate of Smith-Cotton, is a hospitality and restaurant administration major at Missouri State University in Springfield. He encourages college freshmen to avoid the temptation of returning to their hometown a lot their first year.
“Going off to school can be a different experience for everyone, so what has worked for me may not work for others,” he said. “One thing that I have noticed some do … was to go home too often at the beginning. I know that parents probably don’t want to hear this (my mom especially) but new students should try and remain on campus as long as they can – especially in their first semester. These weekends and holidays will be a great opportunity to make new friends and get the most of your time away.”
For Keyaire Marshall, that “time away” is compounded. As a guard for the William Woods University basketball team, the Class of 2015 Sacred Heart graduate must deal with road trips that take him away from campus and out of classes.
“I think my main piece of advice to all new college students is to learn to manage your time now,” Marshall said. “Time management is especially important for college athletes. Not only do you have the extra time constraint of practice and games, but you also have to take into consideration travel time and the multiple hours of class time you will miss. Use every minute you can to stay ahead and do not procrastinate.”
The challenges of time management and proper priorities don’t affect only those who are going away to college. After graduating from S-C last year, Eli Kemp is finishing his freshman year at State Fair Community College. His message is a simple one: Get to class.
“Although it will be hard to resist the urge to skip, seeing as how this decision is entirely up to you as opposed to high school, it is important that you are present every day of class,” he said. “Even on days where all you do is sit and listen to lecture, whether you take notes or not you will still hear information and follow along in the class more effectively by just being present. This will help avoid falling behind. Also, it isn’t uncommon for teachers to assign work in class for participation.”
New surroundings mean new people, and Hagebusch sees this as an opportunity to make meaningful connections.
“Don’t be afraid to live with a random roommate in the dorm,” he said. “I know that not everyone will get placed in an ideal roommate situation, but my random roommate from freshman year has become one of my best friends that I’ve made in college.”
He also encourages incoming freshmen to get involved in campus activities and to check out fraternities and sororities.
“One of the most influential parts of my college career has been my fraternity. I believe that it has helped develop me into a better man capable of taking on responsibilities and challenging my time management skills to a great extent,” he said.
When I arrived on the campus of Franklin College, the last thing I intended to do was join a fraternity. Less than a week later I was moving into the Phi Delta Theta house. We excelled academically and I made bonds that have lasted a lifetime. The fact is, Greek life is different on every college campus.
“There are a lot of negative connotations floating around about Greek life, but I would encourage students to go out and see for yourself,” Hagebusch said.
The key to it all, Hagebush said, is to find balance.
“Doing well in school is why you are in college, but you need to have a social life as well. Finding the ideal balance between work and play will be different for everyone, but just remember that social interaction plays a huge part in character development throughout college,” he said.
— Bob Satnan is the communications director for Sedalia School District 200.