College is a learning experience and starting out as a freshman or a sophomore can be intimidating, but thankfully, seniors have passed down some advice.
Seniors have been there and learned everything from not partying on a Sunday night to the best way to study for an exam. Some current seniors will be graduating Saturday, and others will be graduating in May.
David Laughhead (senior, political science) served as student body president from 2018-19 in addition to being the vice-chairperson for University Senate and Phi Sigma Kappa president. He spoke of the importance of getting involved on campus as it can help one find their passion like he did.
“As a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do career-wise or what my passion was until I got involved on campus,” he said. “I joined student government, and I immediately found my passion. For me, that passion was to help and advocate for others.”
He said that because of student government, he changed his major from biology to political science.
“It was the best decision I ever made. I finally felt confident in what I was going to school for, and the classes were better suited for what I wanted to learn.”
Katie McLaughlin (senior, English) has been a member of the Cook Honors College and had the opportunity to study abroad in Spain. She advises underclassmen to reach out of their comfort zone and make connections with other students and faculty on campus.
“Focus on exploring relationships just as much as you focus on your studies,” she said. “College is a strange space. It’s the only place where you spend the majority of your time surrounded by like-minded, similarly aged individuals who are all learning and exploring the world together.”
She recommends hanging out in common areas, asking the people sitting around you in class to grab a coffee or going to your professor’s office hours and talking to them.
“Get to know the ladies that make your sandwiches,” she said. “Studying is important, but if you always have your head shoved in your laptop, you’ll miss part of what makes college so great— the people. Grab a drink with a new friend and discuss the philosophical ways of this world.”
Other students like Keris Ladd (senior, criminology and criminal justice) had similar advice about getting involved on campus and meeting new friends, saying that it “will make your college experience so much better.”
McLaughlin also spoke about how “it is OK to not be OK.” While being social is important, peer-pressure is real, and it is perfectly fine to be one’s own person. It is OK to decline a date, fail a quiz, change one’s major or feel depressed. Everything is not going to be sunshine and roses all the time. In fact, do not let it be.
“Do what scares you,” she said. “Ask that person you like out on a date. Wear the crop top. Dye your hair, cut it, give yourself the 70s fluffy bangs and shag cut it like all of TikTok is obsessed with.
“Raise your hand and ask your professor the question. Go on the study abroad trip even if you do not speak that language.
“Switch your major. Switch it again. Switch as many times as you need to. Allow yourself to not know what you are doing. Admit you are afraid and live anyway.
“After these four years, 98 percent of the people who were judging you in the Oak Grove as you confidently rocked an off-kilter outfit will not matter. They will not remember you, and you will not remember them. Make mistakes and seek out adventure. You never know what or who you might find.”
Trying new things is also the advice of Alexis Sterner (senior, communications media) who recommended taking a mixture of classes in different subject areas. If one enjoys space, try taking an astronomy class. “Branching out” is how Sterner became a creative writing minor.
It is also perfectly acceptable to ask for help when one needs it, and one student who advocated for it is Megan Keyser (senior, natural science/pre-audiology and deaf studies). She is the president of IUP Sign Language Club, treasurer of IUP Women and Gender Studies Club, and member of Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Eta Sigma, Delta Alpha Pi and the National Society of Leadership and Success.
“Stress can put a dampener on the college experience, and stress is OK,” she said. “But don’t let it consume you, and it is OK to ask for help if you need it. Being a STEM major can be tough, but all of the professors are truly there for you, especially in the biology department.
“IUP offers free counseling services which are a huge help if you need it. Also, take advantage of the tutoring in Stabley, or in your departments if it is offered, and attend supplemental instruction sessions.”
Supplemental instruction, common in many science classes, is when a student who has excelled in the class before, teaches review sessions and creates practice tests. This is just one example of the many resources available to struggling students.
Being new to college is tough, but with the advice of these seniors, it can make it more bearable. Giving advice to underclassmen is always the best gift you can give.