Seminar on first year of college gives all of campus valuable advice

Credit: Jonathan Carreon/ Credit: Jonathan Carreon/

Upperclassman panelists shared their personal experiences on topics ranging from forming relationships with professors and making the most of internship experiences to balancing school and fun at the “What I Wish I Had Known When I Was a Freshman” seminar last Thursday.

The informal discussion centered on the stories of four successful upperclassmen.

The goal of the discussion was to find out what they learned during their time at Carnegie Mellon and how they handled their respective first years of college. The panelists were Elizabeth Bahati Mutisya, a senior business administration major; Nicole Rappin, a senior self-defined music history and cross-cultural communications major; Marianne Pan, a sophomore biological sciences major; and Lei Fan, a junior electrical and computer engineering major.

The event was part of a series of “Study Skills” workshops that provide help throughout the semester and focus on selected study strategies.

The underclassman attendees participated in the discussion by asking questions about the panelists’ experiences, and sometimes even answering the questions of others.

The panel talked openly about issues that affect the ways that students allocate their time, such as “Is it more important to go to the office hours of my TA or my professor?” and “Is it hard to balance the demands of Greek life with school?”

“You are going to have to make decisions you don’t want to make,” Mutisya said, “but you need to have fun.”

Students were also encouraged to persist in making the most of their experiences at Carnegie Mellon, especially when it came to finding an internship or doing research.

Pan advised that “when one door closes you can knock on it [and] be annoying” when she related her experience of finding an internship by e-mailing veterinary professors at Ohio State University and asking for an unpaid position after being turned down for all of the other internships she applied to. Pan succeeded and is planning on conducting research at Ohio State this summer.

Although the event was targeted toward first-years, Reweina Tessema, a sophomore psychology major, commented that she “liked the way that they refuted some assumptions about Carnegie Mellon” and “would recommend events like this to freshmen and sophomores — anyone would benefit.”

Tessema found that hearing the students’ personal examples and stories “made the advice seem more real.”

The event was sponsored by Academic Development’s academic counseling program. According to its website, the program is an “assistance program that helps students acquire more effective and efficient study skills.” The program uses a combination of student academic counselors, group workshops, and individual sessions that focus on creating good studying skills to help students of all years to succeed.

These workshops and sessions help to teach important skills such as textbook reading, lecture note taking, time management, and exam preparation. The Academic Counseling program is designed to help both students who are having academic difficulty and those who just want to improve their study skills.
Academic Development has additional sources of help for first-years called “Fast Facts for Freshmen” that complement the goals of the recent panel discussion. According to its section on the Academic Development website, “This series provides practical advice from Carnegie Mellon students and faculty about many of the new challenges that first year undergraduates face during the first few weeks of college.”

Online pamphlets give advice on classroom strategies, note-taking, working with faculty, managing time, handling coursework, and strategies for studying, testing, and taking advantage of the academic support services all over campus.