Kyle McCarty/Mustang News

Freshmen: Don’t panic! Your first year is tough. It’s hard to transition, classes are confusing and information is flying at you from all angles. Just take a deep breath and read through these tips.

Beth Miller, assistant vice provost for University Advising, and Cassie Pitkin, academic adviser for the Mustang Success Center, are here to help.

Will the workload in classes kill me?

No. You’re not going to die in classes. Classes are harder, but they’re also more liberating. According to Pitkin, it varies by class.

“I think that’s going to depend on what type of class (freshmen are) in,” Pitkin said. “They definitely have to put in more work in college than they did in high school.

Miller agreed, adding that transitioning to the quarter system can be tough.

“A lot of it has to do with the pace of the course,” Miller said. “You’re going from a semester type of system to a quarter system, and that pace can be really challenging for students when they start. Getting used to having midterms by the second or third week of school is really difficult, so there’s a lot of adjustment period for first-year students.”

Will I know my professor at all?

Well, that depends on how much effort you put into it. Miller explained that it’s not the faculty’s choice, it’s the student’s.

“The professors really want to talk to the students,” Miller said. “I’ve been here for a couple of years and I have been really impressed with how approachable the faculty are at Cal Poly. Students sometimes need to make the first step, which is going to office hours.”

Pitkin suggested students have something to talk about as well.

“Ask them questions about the class,” Pitkin said, “but also ask them how they got to be in the position that they’re in. Get to know them as people too.”

How will I afford to buy books?

It’s easier than you might think. According to Pitkin, books are relatively affordable at Cal Poly.

“The prices are fairly reasonable,” Pitkin said. “I would say Cal Poly does the best they can in keeping prices down, but buying books is different than what they had to do in high school.”

In addition to reasonable prices, Cal Poly buys books back from students after they finish using them. The Cal Poly bookstore website explains this in more detail.

According to the University Store website, “to get the best buyback price for your textbook, the best way is to sell them for a retail buyback value on campus — this occurs during the final week of exams and the first week of classes. We are only able to offer buybacks on books that will be used for classes in the next academic term.”

Will I have any friends?

Absolutely! Pitkin has lots of experience helping students get connected, and offered a few words of wisdom.

“I think it always seems like it’s easier for everyone else to meet friends,” Pitkin said, “but at the same time there are a lot of opportunities through programming in the residence halls, Week of Welcome (WOW) and in classes. (Freshmen are) always being introduced to new people, so if they’re willing to start up a conversation it’s usually a lot easier.”

Miller also noted that some students just need a bit of time.

“I think it takes a while to make connections,” Miller said. “Some students make them right away, and I think coming to Soar and WOW actually really helps. I think those small groups are where those students make some really good friends.

Miller added that housing helps students connect with each other as well.

“Living in the residence halls is a huge help,” Miller said, “because you’re living with people who are all in the same situation as you’re in. You’re all starting school for the first time, for the most part.”

How will I stay on a budget?

Saving money is a bit tougher than making friends. However, Miller suggested students follow their expenses.

“I would say it’s really tracking where the money is going online through their account,” Miller said. “(Students should) do a monthly plan of their money, then go in and reconcile that at the end of the month with your bank statement.”

Pitkin remarked that the dining plan makes this easier to do.

“Each student has Plu$ Dollars that they will use, so really looking at what they can eat on campus and planning it out ahead of time is the best option.”

Miller added that students should make sure that they spend money on what is important to them.

“Really it’s just making sure they’re not living in the dark, but rather looking at their account and monitoring what they’re spending,” Miller said. “It can go quickly. It’s $5 here, $10 here and it all goes out fast. It’s just really watching where their money is going.”

So you’ll be fine. Just stay on your toes and ask for help. The Mustang Success Center and Cal Poly faculty are always here to help.

“Reach out for somebody right away,” Miller said. “It’s a huge transition and you’re not expected to do it alone; that’s why we have so many resources on campus.”

Check out our Freshman 101 tab for more how-tos, tips and advice for incoming freshmen. 

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