First-year advice from a West Chester graduate

You probably thought you had read the last of my featured writing in The Quad when last spring’s final issue was circulated with my article reflecting on my time at WCU impending my graduation. Well, I am back, but this time as a graduate student. As I start this new chapter, I thought this might be a unique opportunity to share some advice with the incoming class of 2022, or anyone new to campus, for that matter.

This is an exciting chapter in your life as you transition from one phase into another. It can be both exciting and nerve-racking. Maybe you are feeling unsure or confused about how things work, and this might be the first time you have ever been away from family and friends you have known all your life. As I reflect on my own experiences, I thought it best to share with all of you what I would go back and tell myself if I knew then what I know now.

First, call your mom or whoever happens to fill that parental role in your life. They worry about you, and they want you to be successful. I would go days without calling my mom. The transition into school can be a hectic one, and you may be distracted by obligations or things you deem more important.

Maybe you are thinking that now you are an adult and that you do not need your mom anymore. Well, I am here to tell you that you do. School can be draining and overwhelming at times, and it is good to have that outside support system backing you up and reminding you why you are at WCU in the first place.

“Do not let failure discourage you. It is merely a stepping stone in the right direction.”

Next, be open to new experiences and opportunities. College is probably the one time in your life where you have the opportunity to encounter and interact with as many diverse individuals and groups that you probably will never find anywhere else. This is your opportunity to get involved in clubs and organizations that you may not have encountered before or may never again. That is a unique and sacred opportunity that you should not take for granted.

I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime with people in the organizations and clubs I became a part of. I never would have had the chance to meet if I did not step outside my comfort zone. Take full advantage of the Involvement Fair, or go to West Chester University’s website to look up the hundreds of organizations on campus. Be open to the things that come your way and even if you doubt it for a second, take the chance because it might just be the best thing you ever did.

Third, find your niche and your passion. College is also that one time in your life where you really do have the opportunity to try, try and try again. I came into my undergraduate years undeclared and I took every general education class under the sun until I finally found my passion. Do not let failure discourage you. It is merely a stepping stone in the right direction. If it doesn’t fit, you are that much closer to making it all work. Whether it be with an area of study, a hobby or anything else, if you are not sure what direction to take, do not be afraid to try many different things until you find the one that works.

Next, if something makes you uncomfortable, speak up if you can, or walk away. Like I said, college is a time of new experiences and that means you might encounter things you have never had to before or something that makes you uneasy. I am here to tell you it is okay. It is okay to not agree with the rest of the group. It is okay to speak up about something, but if you are not comfortable enough to say something, it might be okay to walk away from the situation.

Now, everything so far was pretty generalized and could apply to any university or college across the county, but we are at the amazing West Chester University, and it is essential I advise you on the uniqueness of this place.

Pay attention to your meal plan. For some reason, people think meals roll over to the next semester. They DO NOT. All of the meal swipes you do not use this semester will be credited to the university. You do not want that; that’s like giving them free money. Utilize your meal swipes before they are gone. Furthermore, your FLEX does carry over. If you do not use all of your FLEX by the end of the semester, it will continue to carry over until you graduate.

If you live in the dorms, or even if you live off campus, READ THE STUDENT CODE OF CONDUCT. There are things in there that you need to know. All kinds of situations may arise and you may not know what to do or you may think that something is allowed, when really it is not. For instance, you are not allowed to burn candles in any dorm rooms whatsoever—just something you might find will come in handy.

Utilize the library. The library is a great resource. I know that sounds silly in terms of talking about the library at a university, but it is true. Familiarize yourself with the different floors and help desks. Most importantly, the library remains a great place to study. The various floors of the library require different levels of quiet. The higher the floor number, the quieter it is, and they mean it.  You so much as whisper on the fifth floor, especially during finals week, you better believe you get a dirty look, or someone might even tell you to stop talking. Do not let that scare you, though; it really can be a great place to focus on your studies. Also, you can take advantage of the Writing Center on the second floor. They would be happy to help you with any assignment for any class when you need it.

Build relationships with your professors. This is important. I have had the pleasure of being in the classrooms of some of the most intelligent and empathetic people I have ever met. That is honestly one of the reasons I have continued my education here.

Faculty and staff here at WCU want you to be successful, and they are more than willing to help you. All you have to do is talk to them. Initiate those lines of communication. Your professors know things about your field of study that you do not; they have resources and contacts that can help you get to where you want to be. Go to their office hours when you need it. Do not be afraid to ask questions when you need help.

Explore the Borough and the town. One of the most unique aspects of attending WCU is the Borough. There are over 75 restaurants and shops located within walking distance from campus. It would be crazy not to take full advantage of that. They lend to great opportunities to work and also great opportunities to make plans with new friends.

I would recommend Couch Tomato, Market Street Grill and West Chester Coffee and Ice Cream Bar, but that does not even begin to scratch the surface. On a nice day, take a walk into town, or maybe take advantage of the new Uptown loop on the shuttle buses.

Obviously, I could write a never-ending list of things I wish I knew or advice I thought could help someone adjusting to WCU. Altogether, there are so many things that you have to look forward to in these coming years. I know if you take it head-on with a positive outlook and willingness to be open minded, You can get so much out of it. I wish you the best of luck in everything you do, and at any point if you doubt yourself or are unsure, I want you to remember that this is just another part of life. Also, you should walk into town and get yourself a sweet treat. You deserve it.

Kaitlin Brinker is a graduate student with a degree in communication studies. ✉ KB835149@wcupa.edu.

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