Welcome, SUNY Ulster incoming freshmen! Many of you are probably both excited and nervous about your first semester at college. With a little effort, your first semester (and all of the following) can be successful. Here’s a few tips to help you on your way!
#1: Check Your SUNY Ulster Email
Once you’re enrolled, all important emails from Ulster will come to your @my.sunyulster.edu address. It’s how your professors get in touch with you, as well as one major way to get campus alerts and financial aid notifications. Other students and staff will often use it to contact you as well. Faculty are legally bound to contact you through Ulster email, so do your part and help them (and yourself, nobody wants to show up for a cancelled class) by checking it at least once a day.
#2: Attend Campus Connect
This one is mandatory, actually, but there’s a reason it is! Campus Connect is the SUNY Ulster orientation, and it offers the opportunity you need to find out all about being an Ulster student, from where different offices are to what career and internship options are available. It’s also a great way to meet the SUNY Ulster community. When you attend, you should also plan to take some time after the program is finished to look around campus and find the rooms your classes will be in this semester.
#3: Understand Your Finances
Federal financial aid is a huge part of just about everyone’s SUNY Ulster life, but what about all the other resources? Think about financing beyond just FAFSA, because there’s also local scholarships, the College Scholars Program, and, now, the Excelsior Scholarship. Don’t miss out on any opportunities! Plan ahead; even though federal aid may cover Ulster at the moment, if you transfer to another school, scholarships can be extremely helpful.
#4: Explore Ulster and Portal Resources
Make sure you know where everything is! Campus Connect is an excellent start, but take some time during your first few weeks of class to explore the campus and browse the portal. You can find a lot on the portal and Blackboard if you figure out how to navigate them and get a general idea of where everything is, which is especially important for taking online classes. Touring the campus is important for knowing where you can get food, hang out, use computers, and get information from different offices.
#5: Create A Schedule and Get Organized
If you have a schedule that includes both classes and work, make sure you budget your time wisely and well ahead of time! It’s recommended that you set aside 2-3 hours each week for every credit hour to give yourself time for assignments and studying. That’s 30-45 hours a week beyond classes, jobs, and family time if you take the average workload of 15 credits. For the first semester, it’s especially important to have this time available, since you’re still finding your own speed for college work. If you plan to set this much time aside and use it wisely, you should find yourself right on track throughout the semester. It’s a lot easier to deal with end-of-semester stress when you know you’ve kept up with assignments since the beginning.
#6: Attend Class and Pay Attention
Establishing good habits when you begin college will benefit you for the remainder of your college life. Possibly the most important habit you can adopt is to attend class and pay attention. Students who drop out tend to have a few factors that don’t change no matter their personal situation: for one reason or another, a. they don’t attend class, or b. they attend but spent the entire class period using their cell phone. Remember that doing either of these things frequently not only gets you dropped from the class, but also means you’re missing important material that will be in essays and exams. Paying attention usually means better grades, and getting better grades means many more opportunities are available to you for scholarships, transfer, and personal enrichment. Focus on your class for the hour that you’re in it.
#7: Get Involved
Make friends early on! There’s so much to be said for having a few people that you love to spend time with at Ulster. On a winter morning when it’s 5 degrees outside and the thought of your math class isn’t quite incentive enough to get out of bed, knowing you get to see your friends can be the push you need. Joining a SUNY Ulster club and participating in campus activities is a great way to meet new friends. You can also just start a conversation with someone in class, or a group that looks interesting in the cafeteria. There’s plenty of options if you make an effort!
#8: Try to Plan for the Future
Obviously, your first order of business is to get acquainted with SUNY Ulster life, but it’s never to early to explore career, internship, and major opportunities. At the very least, get to know your advisor, and be ready to plan next semester’s classes.
#9: Connect with Your Professors
Your professors aren’t just there to teach classes and go home. Most will have office hours you can go to when you need help for a class. If it’s a professor in your major, connecting is twice as important, since they can advise on job opportunities, colleges, and anything else related to your career. One or two will end up giving you your letter of recommendation if you transfer, so get to know them early on.
#10: Have Fun!
This goes without saying, but it’s important to enjoy your time at Ulster. College isn’t endless studying and suffering; you’ll meet interesting people and learn really cool things in classes and on campus. Relax once in a while and just enjoy being a student!