Tips for Navigating Freshman Year from Students Who Have Been There

by Gina Ender '16

The first year of college is exciting, but students often feel anxiety or homesick while adapting to this new environment. The transition to college looks different for each student—no two experiences are exactly the same. It’s an important time as you shape what this journey will look like for you, and APU faculty, staff, and students are eager to come alongside and support you in this transition. Hear from some of our upperclassmen as they give insight about their freshman experience at APU.

APU’s faculty, staff, and students facilitate a strong sense of community.

A deeply-rooted feeling of family exists at APU, recognizable from the first time you set foot on campus. One of the best ways to build new connections and begin to experience the sense of community is by getting involved. Myriad opportunities exist to help students with this, whether part of a formal group, including classes in your major, Alpha groups, athletic teams, and more, to connecting with peers and those who share your interests in the residence halls, clubs, service opportunities, intramural sports, and more. There is a place for you on campus.

“I felt a sense of belonging when I first came to APU, at registration and Orientation to be exact. I immediately made many friends and was welcomed into the community with open arms. I knew this was the place for me.” Brandon Rodriguez ’18, journalism major

Adapting to college culture looks different for everyone.

Some students find themselves at home the moment they check in for Orientation Weekend, while others may take weeks before they begin to feel settled. Both are completely normal, and there is no right or wrong timeline. The transition process is as unique as each student.

“It gets better. I was really overwhelmed by college at the beginning. I thought just because I wasn’t feeling up to the task, I just wasn’t meant for college and I would be perpetually stuck feeling overwhelmed. But eventually, the feelings began to subside, and I was able to feel more comfortable with the campus and enjoy my first year of college.” Sharon Lee ’18, English major

Find a balance with staying in touch with friends and family at home and making connections at school.

Have a discussion with your loved ones from home about how often you want to be in communication. Schedule times for them to visit you and for you to visit them. For some, phone calls and texts are daily, while others choose weekly or monthly. Seek to maintain those relationships from home, but also be willing to foster new ones at school.

“I usually meet up with high school friends over the weekend. It’s good to keep up those relationships, especially when college can be sometimes unpredictable and scary. It’s nice to have friends who’ve known you for a long time and also know what you’re going through.” Meghan Hui ’18, communication studies major

Academics in college are more rigorous and rewarding.

Give yourself grace in this rigorous learning environment and don’t hesitate to ask for help. Classes are more challenging, but absolutely manageable with the help of caring professors and campus resources such as the Learning Enrichment Center, the Math Center, and the Writing Center. The ability to plan your own schedule in college lets you work at your own pace and pick the courses and times that work best for you.

“Learning is 100 percent better in college than it is in high school. In college it is really fun to be able to dig deeper into subjects that interest you and be surrounded by professors and classmates who really know their stuff.” Lauren Jacobs ’17, English major

Seek counsel from people who know what you’re going through.

Look to upperclassmen, faculty, staff, resident advisors, or small group leaders for advice and support. They are here to help guide you through this transition, and they are eager to pass their wisdom on to you. You can gain insight from Alpha leaders or D-Group leaders, or sign up for a mentor through the Office of Discipleship Ministries. The Office of the Campus Pastors, the University Counseling Center, and the Undergraduate Center for Academic Success all provide support and great resources for students. Some majors even offer specialized mentorship programs.

“My major has this really cool mentor/mentee program that assigns a group of freshmen to an upperclassman. When I started going to events my mentor invited me to and getting to know people in my major, that is when I started to feel connected. Also being a part of Bel Canto, the all women’s ministry choir, and a D-Group helped. When I started saying ‘hi’ to people on campus and vice versa, that’s when I knew I had made connections and the campus started to feel a little more like home.” Cassondra Barnes ’16, cinematic arts

Be willing to try something new, even if it scares you.

Some of the most rewarding and exciting aspects of college are intimidating at first. Whether getting involved in a club, taking a class outside your major, applying for an internship, going on a mission trip, or taking on a leadership position, take advantage of the opportunity to try new things or pursue new interests when you come to college.

“Don’t be afraid to take some risks. If there is an opportunity that will be beneficial but out of your comfort zone, do it anyway. ” Camille Frigillana ’16, journalism

Gina Ender '16 is a University Relations editorial intern and a journalism major.