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Destler Dodge

My GPA for spring semester in my freshman year was 1.44. As I logged into SIS and tried to process the number staring blankly before me, I couldn’t think; my mind rushed and my heart raced. I tried to convince myself that I had done better, that maybe some grades hadn’t gone through and it was a mistake, or that my professors screwed up. But deep down I knew that was a lie.

Coming fresh out of high school, I wanted to make it big. I wanted to carry as much as I could and prove that I was capable of spectacular things. I looked into all sorts of different minors, different clubs and different extracurriculars. I had graduated high school with an A average, and had juggled with jobs before, so I felt confident in my ability to do it on a larger scale. This is a level of confidence a lot of eager freshmen display, but the reality isn’t as simple as that.

Not to sound like a parent here, but this time in your life is incredibly important, which is why it’s important to:

Take Things Slow

An important piece of advice is to keep things manageable at first. You’re freshmen, you have a whole four or five years to go out and experience everything both RIT and life have to offer. Pursue your major, or if you’re undeclared, try a little bit of everything — you never know what might stick. Once you have a major declared or a path you want to follow, give it your best, but don’t feel like you have to do everything at once. In short, know your limits, but don’t be afraid to push the envelope every once in awhile.

Get Involved

Pretty much everyone between now and graduation will tell you to get involved with extracurriculars, and for good reason. A study performed by Erin Massoni from the College of DuPage concluded that “Students who participate in extracurricular activities are less likely to drop out and more likely to have higher academic achievement.”

Additionally, learning new things and meeting a whole host of new people can be really beneficial to your social life and self-improvement. Fourth year Mechanical Engineering Technology student Joseph Kren experienced this while signing up for Naval ROTC.  

“I lacked discipline to stay focused in what I needed to get done … I needed to put priorities first,” Kren said. “What helped me survive was building that focus to do what I needed to do.”

It’s also important to realize that your interests will change over time. Something you might have liked in high school might not even appeal to you now.

Don’t be Afraid to Take a Day for Yourself

College is often portrayed as being a constant slog, with classes and work piled on top of naps and brief coffee breaks. While this isn’t always the case, there will be times when things really pile on top of each other and you’ll feel congested and boxed in. This is why it's important to give yourself a couple of hours to regain your strength and keep pushing forward. It may even be helpful to organize everything you need to get done to plan for the future.

“If I felt overwhelmed, I’d write whatever I have to get done. So then I’ll work on primary things, then I’ll mix with smaller things later,” Kren said.

This is an important time in your lives, and you've all worked very hard to get here. I know you want to take on the world and that day will come, but remember to take things easy and do your best while you're here; you pass this way only once.