Advice for first years in and out of the classroom

In Class

David Bauer ’22

“Keep in mind that there are plenty of people that you should feel encouraged to turn to for help and guidance. Early on, it is wise to talk with professors in your field of interest as well as students who are further along in their academic career than you. I promise they are almost always exceedingly friendly! This will not only aid you in crafting your four-year plan, but will hopefully help you discover your true passion, whether that is the major you were initially interested in or not.”


Anna Clements ’22

“I think the main piece of advice I wish I had gotten before I got to college was that at a liberal arts school, what you major in often doesn’t matter that much. If you’re looking at a particular graduate program, you might need specific prerequisites and that kind of thing, but in general what matters to employers is that you have a degree and the other skills you have developed in addition to academics. So study what interests you! Let go of the idea that you need a marketable major and find one that you feel strongly enough about that you can’t help but do well.”


Rhea Alley ’22

“What I wish someone could have told me during freshman year is to not undermine your own potential and to realize that your path may not be as you envisioned. In freshman year, I was a nervous, pre-med biology major hopeful who was too afraid to make new friends or even go on a plane all by myself. However, now I’m a psychology/Asian studies major on the public health track who has happily adventured abroad to Asia AND I have made friends with the same people I was intimidated by at orientation! College can seem so daunting, with newfound independence and a harder course load, but I assure you, when you actually live the college experience it’s a lot more fun!”


Rachel Ropella ’20

“Connecting with other students in your major, asking upperclassmen for advice and reaching out to have conversations with professors during my freshman year made a world of  difference. You never know what friendships and opportunities will come your way at St. Olaf if you’re willing to put yourself out there.”

Out of Class

Alexa Sorenson ’22 

“I wish someone had told me that college isn’t going to teach me everything that I need to know! I definitely came into school having been indoctrinated to think that a college degree is the end-all-be-all and that my St. Olaf education was my ticket to being the best human I can be. As I’ve spent more time in school, I’ve come to understand the importance of seeking education outside of the walls of higher education institutions. Although I value my formal education and love the community I’ve found at Olaf, one of the things that I think we all need to know is how to analyze and deconstruct harmful institutions. That’s something that St. Olaf isn’t going to teach us, because they would be putting their own institution on the line. To put it succinctly: I hope incoming students know that St. Olaf is a special place, but that they should be critical of the education they’re receiving therein.”


Morghan Park ’21

“The biggest thing I wish I knew my freshman year is that it is really normal to feel really high highs and really low lows during your first year at college. There will be moments, maybe months at a time where you feel incredibly happy and comfortable knowing you chose the right school, but there will also be many moments of feeling incredibly homesick, overwhelmed or like you don’t fit in. It may seem like you’re the only one feeling these hard feelings, but you’re truly not alone. As I got older and closer with my friends at Olaf, we all started sharing our stories from freshman year and I realized so many people felt the things I did, it’s just that none of us talked about it at the time. If you’re struggling with adapting to college life, share those feelings with your friends or roommates because more likely than not, they have felt the same way at some point.”


Asa Gold ’22

“Try to figure out what you like, how you prefer to spend your time, and what makes you feel secure, safe, at-home, etc. I think a lot of the struggle of the first weeks and months of college is feeling like you have to do [insert activity/way of socializing here] to get through college. But the fact is, eventually you will discover that you might like to spend a lot of time alone, or that you need a lot of social contact or that sometimes you really need friends and other times you prefer doing stuff on your own. And eventually you will either find others whose style matches yours, or at least find a way to honestly communicate your needs. So pay attention to that early on, and do your best to figure out those needs without feeling like you have to follow someone else’s model or copy what other people are doing. It’s up to you.”


Eugene Sandel ’22

“Don’t lock yourself into one thing if that’s not what you want. You don’t have to be known for something specific like music, or sports or sciences, just do the activities that bring you joy and your identity will show itself.”

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