1. A Junior in Your Desired MajorThere are many students who have already started along your desired course of study. Contact admissions representatives who can likely connect you with a friendly face at the school who is familiar with your prospective major, or who is in a program that pairs incoming freshmen with upperclassmen mentors. Why is finding a junior a good idea? He or she is already familiar with the department and its courses, but unlike a senior, a junior will not be leaving campus the following year. If you are looking for a person who can help you make wise decisions for more than one round of choosing classes, a junior in your major is an excellent ally.
2. A ProfessorWhether you know precisely which major you plan to pursue or have very little idea about which courses to take, professors are at the core of your university experience. A personal relationship with a professor, whether this involves an advising session, help with a research project, or simply meeting for a cup of coffee, can be one of the best benefits of college. It is an opportunity to speak with and learn from some of the most accomplished people in the country. Keep in mind that many professors are incredibly busy, so ensure you are always polite and respectful. However, a lot of academic and research opportunities facilitated by professors, so form those connections now.
3. A Resident AssistantA common cause of stress for freshmen (and, to some degree, any student who lives on campus) is housing. Whether you have the best roommate or the worst roommate, a semi-private or shared bathroom, a resident assistant (RA) is your greatest resource. They are trustworthy enough that your institution allows them to wield authority, and they are invested in your personal journey. Not every resident assistant will be your best friend, but familiarizing yourself with their schedule, as well as their academic and extracurricular interests, can help you immensely. If something is wrong and you do not know whom to contact, your RA very quickly becomes a lifeline. Building a network of resources during your first year is also about recognizing what is necessary for your success. If you have a health concern, introduce yourself at the health center for an initial check-in. If you have a difficult time with essay assignments, schedule appointments with the writing center to orient yourself to their services. College campuses are designed to be supportive, but no one knows how to help you unless you tell them. It is important to reach out so you can ensure your own success and determine what kinds of services are available.
Andrea Deck is a professional GRE tutor and contributing writer for Varsity Tutors. She is a graduate student at Columbia University in the class of 2015.