Advice from seniors to new students

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The course your life will take depends heavily on the four years you spend in college. College is where many of the biggest decisions of your life are made. When compared to an entire lifespan, college takes up a small percentage. However the four years that encompass your college education may be the hardest and longest of your life, especially if you’re not sure what you’re doing. Fortunately, those who are close to completion of their time at Calvin are willing to help those who are just beginning. Chimes asked a selection seniors what advice they would give to new students, so you can have an advantage in tackling the first couple years of college.

If you live in the dorms and are unused to the close quarters and social aspect of the living arrangements, you might be tempted to hole yourself up in your room and use homework as an excuse to not get involved. This might be a mistake, though.

Senior Robert LaPlaca commented, “Time goes by faster than you think.” You don’t want to find that you wasted your college experience by a desk. LaPlaca continued, “You need to find a proper balance between spending time on homework and spending time with people.”

College is a one-time experience for most, and those four years fly by. Senior Alyssa Johansen also commented on the span of time that college occupies. When asked what she might have done differently, she said, “I would have done what made me happy. There are no set rules for what you are supposed to do in college, so ‘do you.’ College is only four years, and most of it is stressful, so make it worth it.”

Calvin hosts a lot of events each year, and it would be a shame to miss out on them. Senior Victor Lynde said, “Go to the big Calvin events like Rangeela, Dance Guild, and Theatre Company performances – participate in them if you have the chance.” At events like these that you can meet people from across the Calvin spectrum.

Seniors will tell you to always keep the balance of homework and socializing in mind.

“Keep up with your work. Don’t think you have time later to do homework, especially in regards to papers,” said senior Molly Van Baren. You are, after all, attending Calvin to get a degree. However, Van Baren continues, “Remember to take time for yourself as well! You need to take breaks and have fun experiences with your friends to stay sane.”

If you’re not sure where to find friends on campus, there are plenty of places to find like-minded souls to make attempts at life-long friendships. Many seniors suggest that you look within your major, where the your peers will have at least one thing in common with you. LaPlaca suggests that you go to your department and get a feel for the environment. He also recommends that you play board games.

Another way to find new people to hang out with is to try intramurals, as senior Kayla Van Eck recommended. She said, “They’re a great way to talk with people you might not have otherwise met.” Johansen advises you to “go where you feel at home. Don’t try to fit in a mold of a person you think you should be, focus on what you want to be a part of.”

LaPlaca advised, “Don’t be afraid to try new stuff.” He regrets that he did not join rugby sooner. It’s something that he would recommend to new students,  though it took him four years to do it.

Senior Kathryn Post had this to say: “Almost every semester I was here, I became involved in a different club or activity. I tried everything from swing dancing to prison ministry to theatre to being a worship apprentice. Because of the wide variety of activities I’ve been involved in, I now have friends and connections in communities all across campus! Trying new things is a wonderful way to invest in your Calvin experience.”

A new thing to try might be a change in your course of study.

“Don’t feel bound by the major you thought you wanted in high school; your exposure to a variety of subjects may lead you in a direction that you enjoy even more,” said Lynde.

Many seniors recommended finding a niche of your own where you can puzzle through your homework, and buckle down to study. Just find something that works for you.

Senior Hannah Butler recommended that you try the coffee shops that Grand Rapids has to offer. She said, “Every coffee shop in Grand Rapids has a character of its own. I would totally recommend finding your favorite this year because it’ll be where you live during finals week.”

Post made the observation that “if you don’t go to half-apps at Applebee’s or the early bird special at Wolfgang’s during your first year at Calvin, you’re doing it wrong.” Explore the city that hosts Calvin, and get to know Grand Rapids. Don’t get bogged down in the soapy film of the Calvin bubble. Burst out and expand your environment.

The first couple of years are when you set up for the rest of your college career. Butler gave this advice: “Lay a good foundation for the next four years. Train yourself to balance studying with cultivating community. If you develop these skills this first year, next year you will have the discipline and skills to enjoy the year rather than stressing. Go to professors for advice, seek out the research librarians, talk to upperclassmen in your field, or schedule a counseling appointment.

Butler is not the only senior who will tell you to go to your professors. They are one of the most available resources to you, yet many do not use them.

Lynde continued the trend of this advice. He said, “Maybe you don’t understand something, or maybe you’ve fallen behind and feel crushed by the upcoming class load, or perhaps you just need advice on what direction to take. Whatever the case may be, talk to your professors. They want to help you succeed, but they can’t help you if you won’t ask ask them.”

College is stressful, arduous and may sometimes seem to be too much. But there are ways to get through it, and there are those who will help you. Use the four short years at Calvin as a chance to try new things, meet new people and discover new interests. You might attend Calvin as a means to get an education, but Calvin has much more to offer. Take advantage of all the opportunities open to you. Above all, have fun.