Tuesday, August 23, 2011 myBiz Blog
Advice for first-year students from an upper classman by Katie Coon

Post by Belle, a junior majoring in marketing and management and human resources.

The first time I walked into Grainger Hall, the only thing I remember feeling is overwhelmed. Overwhelmed at all it had to offer, and how I would fit into it. Going into my first year as a pre-business student, many of my peers and I found the business school an intimidating place. It was difficult to navigate, and even more difficult to try and figure out everything that was going on! I fervently wished for an upperclassman who had gone through what I was to lend a helping hand. Though I had to learn the hard way, myBiz can provide you the answer to many of your questions and more! Here are the 7 things I wish I’d known fall of last year as a pre-business freshman:

1. Free food is everywhere!

Orientation events, club kickoff meetings, student org fairs, Welcome Week events, dorm activities, etc. almost always offer the added incentive of free food. Attend as many orientations and events as possible- not only will you find out more information about activities that interest you, but you can also pick up some pizza along the way!

Last year, I found that many of peers simply didn’t take the time to look for resources available to them. Student organizations are incredibly valuable when it comes to building leadership, fostering teamwork, and of course meeting new people! (See below) The earlier you go out and take advantage of these opportunities, the more you’ll know and have an edge over your peers. Keep these dates in mind for fall:

  • School of Business Wisconsin Welcome: Thursday, September 1 - Friday, September 9, 2011. http://ww.bus.wisc.edu/undergraduate/welcome/ (Be sure to RSVP for certain events at the bottom of the page!)
  • Campus Fall Student Org Fair: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 at the Kohl Center starting at 5 p.m.
  • School of Business Student Org Fair: Wednesday, September 14, 2011 in Grainger Hall from 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
2. Networking can be fun, and rewarding

Networking doesn’t always mean going out and building professional relationships- it can mean reaching out to other students by making a new friend or chatting with a professor after class. College is the best time to start building your network (and do it early) because you’re constantly meeting new people. The connections you make now could land you a job after college! The friends and connections I made my first year gave me advice on classes, finding internships, and even on applying to the business school.

After you meet someone, it’s also important to take it a step further with a professional-oriented social media site like LinkedIn. Keep in mind LinkedIn isn’t just for professionals!  There are numerous advantages for college students: potential employers could find your resume, you will stand out since students make up less than 20% of membership, and you’d be on what’s considered the industry standard networking site.  I created my LinkedIn account last year knowing that connecting with my professors and peers now will pay off in the future.

3. Upperclassmen are more friendly than they may seem

The last thing I wanted to do as a freshman was talk to upperclassmen. Already so familiar with campus, they seemed intimidating and unapproachable- it was difficult enough meeting people my age! As classes began though, I realized that in college, upperclassmen are peers. The age gap that seems impassable in high school becomes much smaller in college.

Outside of class, the upperclassmen I met gave me great advice on everything from getting around campus to choosing courses.  I felt so much more prepared to tackle new student orgs, try new classes, and attend new events because I got advice from upperclassmen who had been exactly where I was.

4. Using academic resources (like the Business Learning Center) isn’t nerdy

Classes at the college level, you’ll soon figure out, are more rigorous than those in high school in many ways. The first being the amount of independent study you’ll be required to do. That being said, I found Econ 101 one of the most challenging courses of my freshman year. A core pre-business class, I knew it was something I needed to succeed in.

The Business Learning Center (BLC), located on the second floor of Grainger, was instrumental in helping me get the help I needed. The first time I walked into a session, I was surprised to find many of my classmates already there! Don’t hesitate to contact the BLC for help in any quantitatively based business course like economics, accounting, math, or statistics.

5. It’s never too early to start preparing for interviews and internships

As freshmen, your focus will be on transitioning to college and keeping your grades up, but that doesn’t mean internships are only for upperclassmen. Something I figured out early on was that the Business Career Center (BCC), located on third floor of Grainger, gives great career advice no matter your year in school. Familiarize yourself with the process of writing a resume and cover letter, getting it edited, and how to start looking for internships.

One of the best things I did for myself last year was visit the BCC and meet with my career advisor. I got great advice on how to prepare for interviews as a freshman, and how to proceed in the future. Even if you have a lot going on your first year, always keep your future career goals in the back of your mind!

6. It’s ok to be “undecided” about a major

Few first-year students know exactly what they want to study when they start school in the fall. So if you’re unsure of exactly which direction to go in, you still have a lot of time to figure things out! It’s perfectly fine to try lots of different things until you find one that’s right for you, even if it may not be within the business school.

If you already have a specific major in mind, check out interest-specific student orgs to learn more and get a head start. Don’t feel pressured to choose a major though- the average college student switches majors three times before they graduate. I’m already one-third of the way there!

7. For some things, be prepared to be unprepared

The bottom-line is that as a freshman, lots of things will be new and unfamiliar to you. But by the time second semester rolls around, you’ll wonder why you were so nervous in the first place. No matter how prepared you feel for anything you might come across, know that you can’t be prepared for everything. You’ll face challenges, but overcome them. Mostly importantly, never be afraid to ask for advice!