3 ways to get a head start on your college experience

July 14, 2022

fall open house

When I started my freshman year at the University of Michigan-Dearborn back in 2019, I initially knew very few people. Despite being born and raised in Dearborn, college felt like unfamiliar territory. 

That was until I went on the Wolverine Orientation Welcome (W.O.W.) outdoor trip a week before the semester. This event took place at a YMCA Storer Camp in Jackson, MI. There were around 50 freshmen along with five or six sophomore/upperclassmen counselors. Long story short, this experience changed my life forever and gave me a huge head start going into my first semester of college. Wolverine Orientation Welcome (W.O.W.) group photo

Not only did I learn a lot about the resources and programs UM-Dearborn offers, but I also grew a social network and a new family of friends I could rely on. Our strong bond during the trip carried into the semester, and every day a large group of us would meet at the University Center couches for lunch. 

I had a ton of fun hanging out with those friends during my freshman year, and I still talk to many of them as I head into my senior year. I believe I would not have been nearly as successful in college without them and that experience. 

Unfortunately, this trip has not been offered the last couple of summers due to COVID. However, there are many different ways to get a head start on your college experience, and there is no right or wrong way. 

Here are three things you can do to maximize your first semester:

1. Be Engaged During Orientation

This is one of the biggest things you can do before your first day at UM-Dearborn. As a former Orientation Leader/Orientation Program Assistant, we love answering your questions. The orientation leaders and advisors are there to help you. The last thing we want is for students to come to orientation unengaged. Especially as orientations are starting to return to in-person tours, asking questions and being active benefits you. 

One of the biggest resources we produced during my two years as an OL is the Mastering Maize & Blue podcast series. This is an OL-lead podcast (along with special guests) designed to talk about various programs and resources on campus. I highly recommend watching it so you can learn more during the summer. 

2. Join Freshmen/Incoming Student Programs

Speaking from experience, there are many programs to assist freshman and incoming students during the semester. Two programs that I have been a part of and recommend would be the CRUISE to Success Program and the Wolverine Mentor Collective. 

Connecting to Resources, University Involvement, and Successful Experiences (CRUISE) reinforces what you learn at orientation, helping you grow personally, academically, and professionally. This program typically takes place during your first semester, assisting you throughout your journey and connecting you to new students. Goal setting is a big part of this program as well. 

The Wolverine Mentor Collective pairs first-year, second-year undergraduate and transfer students with a mentor, giving you a one-on-one dynamic throughout the year. Mentors are there to help you achieve your goals, introduce you to programs, resources, and student organizations as well as answer any questions. This program is catered to the student, giving you the option to interact with your mentor in whatever way you need. 

Both programs are worth your while and can help you succeed as you navigate UM-Dearborn. 

3. Explore Student Orgs/Go to Events

My high school used to preach a piece of advice that I still keep in mind today: “Do not be a 2:45 guy.” This means not leaving school and going home after class, but rather staying for extracurricular activities and events. There are so many student orgs that cover a diverse array of interests and topics. There is something for everyone.

UM-Dearborn has student org fairs, which I would recommend attending. Even if you are not 100% sure you would join, at least reach out so you can stay in the loop. Sometimes you might have to get out of your comfort zone, which is a separate piece of advice altogether. Regardless, student orgs provide a much-needed balance to your academics. 

Students also have the opportunity to start their own student organizations. There is so much potential for students to grow through student orgs. Remember that it is not about the number of student orgs you join, but rather the quality of the experience. Try to not flood yourself with so many orgs that you cannot give them all equal attention. Especially during your first semester, join one or two to dip your toe in the water. 

Blog post written by Roman Bruno

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