Lessons Learned from Freshman Year at UIC!

I took my last final exam and I can now finally say that I completed my first year here at UIC! So I thought—why not share some of the things that I learned with all of you?

Here are some of the most important lessons I learned in my freshman year of college:

  • Don't be overwhelmed if you don't know what you want to do.  Coming to UIC, I had this false idea that everyone had their career paths mapped out. I soon found out that this definitely was not true. I know that at first, I wasn't exactly sure of what I really want, and frankly, I am still not entirely sure. I found that it is okay to not have an exact plan of what career path works best, as long as you have an idea of what interests you. By knowing your interests, and taking the classes for your selected major, you will soon find what you like and what you don't like. Don't be surprised if you find yourself not liking some of the things you do because as freshmen, we still have some time to explore different things. After all, college is a learning experience.


  • It is not about the grade. In high school, I was often so caught up on the “grade” that I got in each of my classes. I thought that the grades I got reflected how smart I was because I was under the impression that colleges won't accept you if your grades are bad. Soon, I found myself to be stressing over the grade, rather than the learning. Then one day, I finally asked myself—Mariya, are you ACTUALLY learning? This is why in college, I promised myself to take everything as a learning experience. It is more important for me to learn the material and understand everything, rather than just focusing all my time on getting an A. I soon learned that by focusing simply on learning, I was more prepared when it came time for my exams—and guess what? I was able to get the grade that I wanted!


  • Each professor is different. This lesson I learned almost goes back to the first lesson. After my first year of college, I slowly began to understand that each and every professor is different—they all have their ways of teaching and in the end, it is our job to actually learn the material and do well. In some of my classes, I had over 100 students, so we had lectures and PowerPoints, in other classes there were just 20 people and I got the chance to get to know everyone. Depending on the class size, the professors taught differently—and they graded differently! Freshman year truly taught me that the grades you get aren’t really a true reflection of your work or ability. I remember having to work hard in classes because the professor’s teaching style was different.  I also found some of my professors to be very generous while others were very picky. In the end, I learned that it is important to be flexible when it comes to different teaching methods!


  • Go to your professor’s office hours. Office hours are hands down one of the best resource available for students to take advantage of. When classes are big, and lectures are long, it can be quite hard to understand every single material that was being taught that day. This is why often times, I would go to my professor’s office hours. This is great because you can actually make a connection with your professor, and get exactly what you’re looking for. I remember going to one of my professors one day because after getting back an exam, and I didn’t understand why I was marked off for a problem. Turned out I did the problem right, and I got back the points I got marked off for! I learned that the times I went to office hours actually made a great impact towards my grade.


  • The importance of a part-time job. During my freshman year, I learned the importance of a part-time job. After conversing with some of the upper classmen, if there is any perfect time for one should get a part-time job it should be their freshman year because latter years DO get HARDER. A part-time job is great because it can help you save some money on the side for future use!


  • Take advantages of all the opportunities. At UIC, I learned to take better advantage of all the opportunities I get because who knows when I will ever get the same opportunity again. My economics professors taught me to look at my opportunity costs and to weigh the costs and benefits of the choices that I make everyday. This is why it wouldn't make sense to miss class, or not go see a professor, or miss that networking event if you don't have anything better to do. Right?


  •  Find a Balance. I found during my freshman year that it is very important to have a balance between class/work and having a social life. Although it can be difficult to attend student org meetings, go to class, work, and hangout with your friends--I learned that it is doable if you manage your time wisely!


  •  Get involved early on. Taking part in some kind of a student organization is the best advice I can give to anyone!  This is because not only will you feel more involved at school, but you will also meet new people and create unforgettable bonds! Also, joining a student org is a great way to meet students who are older than you who can assist you with the various questions you may have!