Dear freshmen, your first year matters

Assistant Director Marie Smallwood, MS smiling in her office of the Career and Professional Development Center.
Photo Submitted by Tenae Taylor.

If Bailey Haynes could do it all over again, she would.

A senior music education major, Haynes wishes she understood the importance of individuality while building a social life during her first year in college. If she could go back, she would.

“When I was a freshman, I would think to myself, ‘My friends are never busy.’ So then, I tried to make myself less busy to hang out with other people,” Haynes said.

According to Haynes, your social life should involve a balance of academic support and fun.

“You will have friends that will only go to class when they feel like it,” Haynes said. “It’s better to always go to class and get to know your professors and classmates.”

With a newfound culture and many things to get involved in, it is easy to succumb to peer pressure as a freshman. Haynes believes that the easiest way to preserve your sanity is to not be afraid to stand alone.

“Sometimes, you just really have to do your own thing,” Haynes said.

Jillisa Plummer is confident now, but struggled with getting involved on campus as a freshman.

A senior theater and performing arts major,  Plummer did not understand the significance of indulging in campus resources until later in her undergraduate career.

“My freshman year, I just went to class and went back to my dorm,” Plummer said. “I didn’t get involved in anything.”

She continued, “If you’re a freshman, don’t let fear stop or hinder you from taking advantage of all the opportunities available on campus.”

Plummer also stressed investing in a planner to help with time management and scheduling.

Haynes and Plummer are not the only ones who have solid advice for freshmen.

Marie Smallwood, an assistant director at the FAMU Career and Professional Development Center, encourages freshmen to make good grades and to start creating a career plan as soon as possible.

“Your GPA is very important to the hiring process— insert serious face emoji — because it’s how employers determine how serious you are and how knowledgeable you are in your field of study,” Smallwood said.

She continued, “I encourage students to attend as many career fairs and expos that we offer because these events help expose students to résumé building and employment opportunities.”

Brenda Spencer, the director of Academic Enrichment Programs, describes the first year in college as the foundation of the undergraduate experience.

“What happens in the first year of college can positively or negatively impact a student’s academic and future professional success,” Spencer said. “If students lack a good foundation in the first year, this will make it a little harder to obtain good grades in the second year and beyond.

“If students do well in their first year of college, opportunity will follow,” she added.

According to Spencer, more often than not, having a 3.0 GPA is a requirement for securing an internship, a departmental scholarship, research opportunity, club involvement, and other campus-wide opportunities.

Spencer works closely with initiatives like the First Year Experience Peer Mentor Program, which helps incoming freshmen develop academic and social skills by connecting the students with upperclassmen who serve as role models and guides.

“The FYE program helps students to successfully transition to FAMU — both academically and socially,” Spencer said.

In understanding that the first year in college can be anxiety inducing, Spencer prompts freshmen to maintain a positive attitude and take everything one day at a time. She urges students to exercise, eat well, use campus resources and to stay connected with family, friends and the FAMU community.