Don’t panic! Advice from professors

The first week of classes may leave many new students with unanswered questions, but a few of South Dakota State’s professors came together to give advice to incoming students.

New Jacks are entering “syllabus week,” which means a lot of new things for first-year students: new schedules, new home, new friendships and new things to worry about. 

For those who have not decided on a major, University College professor Amy Pedersen said uncertainty about an area of study is common, and just fine.

“Take some time to get to know yourself and what you are looking for in life,” Pedersen said. “Many adults don’t know what they want to do and are unhappy in a career because they didn’t take the time to learn about themselves and use a process like we do in Exploratory Studies.”

A 2013 CareerBuilder study showed that 31 percent of college graduates ages 35 and older never work in their major field of study.

English professor Lynn Hublou said a great way to get to know yourself is to expand your horizons and get involved outside of class.

“Students need to plug into the experience,” Hublou said. “Embrace every opportunity because their time here is so short and these opportunities may not happen again.”

Freshman music education major Alyssa Anderson wondered how she could get involved at SDSU and what would look good on a resume. 

Pedersen said the opportunities to make friends at South Dakota State are endless and that finding others with similar interests will make students more comfortable in their new community. Being involved in campus clubs or volunteer organizations are great résumé-builders as well.

Kevin Moody, a freshman music education major, said his greatest concern about college was being lost in the shuffle of his social life and his class schedule.

Biology professor Samson Smith said the best way to achieve a balanced schedule in the first year is knowing when there is free time to accomplish tasks can help keep students on track with responsibilities.

“Visualizing your time like this is the first step in seeing some little blocks of time that can be used more productively right at the beginning of the term,” Smith said.

Hublou stressed the importance of studying at the college level, which includes staying on top of assignments, preparing for exams and checking the syllabus. 

“A university education stands for something in the real world, so treat it with that same importance,” Hublou said. 

Smith said students need to learn how to be responsible for themselves when it comes to schoolwork.

“It will be very tempting to rely on your professors and classmates for reminders when an assignment is due or when an exam is scheduled,” Smith said. “The burden of planning your time is now squarely on you.”

Making connections with peers and instructors should be done sooner rather than later, Pedersen said. Getting to know classmates during group work and connecting with professors will serve as a network and resources throughout your college career.

Hublou said an open mind is one of the major keys to a successful school year. 

“Challenging yourself to try new things will lead to an overall successful college experience,” Hublou said. “Welcome new ideas, embrace the possibility of your perspective changing, and be open to the diversity that surrounds you.”