Personal & Professional Enrichment

Coming to MSU? Here are a few tips from a brand new alumna!

By Taylor Whittington

As my time on MSU’s campus comes to a close, I have spent many nights reflecting on my four years. I still have the picture of my soon-to-be roommate at the time and I took the first time I had ever stepped foot on campus–we were both wearing Spartan gear, posing on Spartan Statue with the biggest smiles on our faces. Following the visit, I was in awe at how large the campus was (little did I know it would take me until spring semester freshman year to be able to navigate campus on my own), nervous knowing I will know no one the first day of classes, and anxious about my prospects for success.

Like a number of my peers, I am a first generation college student. This label means something different depending on who you ask, but to me, leading up to my arrival on campus, it left me feeling overwhelmed and terrified of failure because I knew the types of opportunities that laid ahead for university graduates. There is no blueprint I could follow or how to books to read about succeeding in college, and being surrounded by so few who have successfully taken and completed this journey, I felt as though it was an impossible feat. For all of you who can relate to this narrative and especially for those about to start your journey as a Spartan or are finding the motivation to make it to graduation day, I will be discussing some of my tips for success at MSU. Of course, this list is personalized and one-size does not fit all, so take from it what you will. Hopefully, though, you will find some of my tips helpful. (P.S. this is not an extensive list, and these are not in any particular order.)

  • For first generation students, international students, those in developmental writing, and those receiving pell grants, there are specialized resources available to you! Whether this be one-on-one academic support and special events that afford you the opportunity to talk with other students who are facing the same challenges as you through the Spartan Success scholars program to one-on-one financial advising to answer any questions you have, MSU does not fall short on trying to help students achieve. It is important to mention that many of the aforementioned resources, including academic and financial counseling, are available for those students who do not fall within those groups as well! Be sure to take advantage of any and all of these resources because not only are you paying for them, most everyone is kind and really do care about you.
  • Make time for activities and issues you are passionate about. Whether you enjoy watching Squirrels, reading graphic novels, singing, politics and student government or volunteering, there is a group on campus for everyone. These groups allow you to interact with like-minded people from various backgrounds who also want to make a difference in their community. It can be easy to get lost in the everyday humdrum of work and class, so take a break from your busy week and spend time doing something you love! After all, looking back, my most memorable moments are those spent with friends I have made from getting involved with campus life. Going with this, utilize these groups as platforms for change you want to see throughout the University. YOUR voice does matter and you CAN make a difference, no matter how big or small through your actions.
  • Study abroad. I cannot stress this enough. As a tour guide a couple of years ago, this was my favorite topic to talk to incoming students about because as cheesy as it sounds, study abroad changed my life. While I realize it can be extremely expensive, there are a lot of opportunities to attain scholarships through the Office of Education Abroad and your college and/or department. I know without these and my part-time job, many of us who do go could not afford to. Depending on why you are studying abroad, you may have a broader range of countries to choose from, and in some cases, the country you choose to study abroad in is cheaper to live in than in the U.S. because the U.S. dollar goes a lot farther there. It does not always work out like this, but it is something to consider.
  • Go to your professors’ office hours. I know in high school office hours are not a thing, but they are one of the best avenues you can take for success. Why you may ask? Because it is one-on-one time you get to spend with your professor, where you can talk about whatever it is you may need help on or really for advice about anything. Office hours were easy for me because I am in a residential college, so I lived in the same building I had classes in my freshman year and as a senior still take classes in that same building. Your professors may not be as accessible to you in terms of location, but most are willing to set up a time with you outside of their office hours if need be.
  • Cheer on an MSU sports team. I am not much of a sports person myself, but there is no cooler feeling than being surrounded by 50,000 of your fellow classmates cheering on the football team, or being in the Izzone getting to see the basketball team dominate their opponent literally 50 feet away from where you’re standing. Even if you go once, it is an experience you will never forget. If you’re lucky enough, you might even get to take a picture with Sparty.
  • Throughout your time at MSU, you may begin to feel like you are trapped in a bubble. I know I did. It is not to say there are not a plethora of things to do on campus, but if a cure for the campus blues is to spend time off campus in downtown Lansing. If you have never heard of it or are reading and have never been, this part of town is a hidden gem! I confess, I have not spent enough time in this part of town, but there are so many unique shops, businesses, and nonprofits doing great work. Not to mention the great restaurants and food trucks that can be found here. When you’ve been eating the dining hall pizza for multiple days in a row, it never hurts to branch out and try new things. Two of my favorites are Meat BBQ and Cosmo’s Pizza, and a must try that is still on my bucket list is Golden Harvest. You will not regret giving them a try.
  • One final piece of advice is to use these four years as a growing experience. You may come into MSU thinking you know it all and that you have everything figured out. Maybe you do, but if you’re anyone like me who does not, be open to new ideas and experiences—try that Tae quon do or underwater basket weaving class—because four years seems like a long time when you first arrive on campus, but it truly will fly by in a blink of an eye.

Thanks for reading, and GO GREEN!

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Taylor Whittington was a student employee (Professional Enrichment Assistant) in the MSU Alumni Association and just graduated in May 2018 from Michigan State University with a Bachelor’s in Social Relations & Policy/Bioethics/Science, Technology, Environment & Public Policy from James Madison College. Next fall, she plans to begin a Master’s in Public Health at that school in Ann Arbor.

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