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The Tiger

Akers: Here’s what I wish I knew as a freshman

Katie Bradham // Senior Photographer

Students grabbing copies of The Tiger’s Welcome to Clemson edition at Convocation last fall.

As my senior year approaches here at Clemson University, I can’t help but reminisce about my experiences as a college student thus far.

I’ve faced many challenges over the last three years. Too many, if I’m being honest. In fact, I have probably made every mistake a college student could make in the span of just five semesters. However, I have learned a lot from these experiences, and I’m here to help you.

If you happen to be in your first year here at Clemson and are in need of some advice or even encouragement, well, you’re in luck. Here are some things I wish I had known as a freshman from an upperclassman.

1. College may not be as easy as you expected.

I remember the good old days in high school when I could pull straight A’s by simply reviewing the step-by-step study guides and quite literally doing the bare minimum. Everyone assured me that since I got such good grades in high school, college would be a cakewalk. Turns out I was lied to.

Many people do find college to be “easy,” and I envy those people. I found out very quickly that this was not the case for me. I was terrible at testing, I found participating difficult, I struggled to manage my time and at many points, I lost motivation.

If this sounds like you, I just want you to know that there is hope. These are all skills that I had to learn through trial and error. I found that testing was easier when I fixed my study habits. I figured out that when I built relationships with my professors, I spoke up more in class. I tried different calendar systems until I finally found the one that worked for me. I worked on my mental health and built connections to regain that drive I once had. It is possible.

2. With that being said, improvement comes with work.

You are the only one that can create changes within yourself. Sometimes you will face difficult, unfamiliar and even uncomfortable situations. If you want to do better on those exams you struggle to pass, you need to take notes, read the textbook, go to office hours, attend PAL sessions and utilize the resources around you.

As I said, this may require some trial and error to see what works for you, but do not give up. When you put in the effort and the work, you will start to see results.

3. You might already be thinking about switching majors, and that’s okay!

When you applied to Clemson and got into that major you really wanted, it felt good. You’re moving forward, and now you’re one step closer to your dream career. That is until you begin your first semester and start to think, “Wait… I hate this.” Most of us have been there.

Take it from me, who has switched majors multiple times. Sometimes life doesn’t go according to plan, and you may find yourself looking into other options. I highly suggest speaking with people in careers that interest you. Job shadowing has also been super helpful for me.

4. Communication really is key.

To make your college experience smoother, it is so important that you communicate with others and make connections. Stay in touch with your advisor and let them know if you are struggling this semester or having thoughts of switching majors. Speak with your professors and make as many friends as you can.

Also, it’s important to note that it’s never too early to start reaching out to potential employers about internship opportunities. Send emails, ask questions and put yourself out there.

5. Remember to have fun and try new things.

College can be stressful, so make sure you have something in your life to bring that necessary balance. Make time for friends, go to that concert, go out tonight, join a new club and just make the most of your time at Clemson University.

I know firsthand how scary it can be to try something new. In fact, I didn’t join The Tiger until the start of my junior year, but I am so glad I did because it has completely changed my college experience. Never let yourself get too comfortable and encourage yourself to embrace unfamiliar endeavors.

Know that it is okay to fail, to learn, to change and to grow. That’s what college is all about. Finding yourself and the path you’re meant to be on. If things seem unclear right now, don’t worry because that path will reveal itself very soon.

Madison Akers is a junior English major from Easley, South Carolina. Madison has been a member since the fall 2022 semester.


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Madison Akers
Madison Akers, Asst. Opinion Editor
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