Students walking in Columbus Circle on the NYC campus


Starting Off on the Right Foot

September 26, 2022

Nicole Sheehan

Nicole Sheehan

The transition from high school to college is one of the most transformative experiences in a student’s lifeā€”it can also be one of the most challenging.

From choosing a major to building new friendships with classmates and connections with professors, first-year milestones can greatly shape a student’s overall college success. New York Tech’s Office of Undergraduate Student Success and Advising is ready to lend a helping hand.

Nicole Sheehan, director of undergraduate academic advising, sat down with New York Tech News and shared valuable tips, information, and resources to help first-year students make their transition to college go as smoothly as possible.

What are the top three tips you would give to all New York Tech freshmen?

  • Engage. There are so many opportunities to engage with activities on campus that will help you get to know other students as well as the campus. In fact, every new undergraduate student is assigned to their own Peer Success Guide (PSG) who is an upperclassman in the same or similar field. Your PSG will be there to answer your questions on a peer level, will organize social and informative events, and will be there to help you throughout your first year in college.
  • Ask your questions. Your first-year advisor is there to help you register for your fall classes, but they will also be there throughout your first year as you acclimate to college life and help explain the associated policies/procedures. Your advisor is also there to answer any questions that might come up during the semester or year and will help keep you on track for graduation.
  • Talk to your professors. Your professors will hold office hours that are there for you to use. Take them up on it! They are eager to meet you and to help you understand the course content. They are also a great resource for any questions you might have about your chosen field.

What are some ways that students can get the most out of each course?

  • Get to know your classmates. Connect with at least two classmates during the first week of class and get their names, number, and email. This will be helpful if you miss a class and will allow you to form a study group.
  • Take good notes. Let’s be honest, it’s hard to remember everything a professor says by just listening to the lecture. Taking notes effectively will ensure you remember more information from your lecture to refer back to in the future. If you need help effectively taking notes in college, you can attend a note-taking workshop.
  • Avoid cramming for quizzes and exams. Plan to study for a couple of hours a day at least three to four days before your exam.
  • Attend class and submit assignments on time. Don’t lose credit for something you can avoid with proper planning.
  • Get to know your professor. They are there to help you learn the material and provide office hours for more personalized support. If the course is particularly challenging, sign up for tutoring (and do it early) in order to make sure you stay on pace with class.

How can students develop meaningful relationships with their professors?
Use your professor’s office hours. Even if you don’t have a specific question, use that time to say hello and maybe have a quick chat about any tips they might be able to offer in order for you to succeed in that class. Having this quick informal meeting will make it easier for you to ask for help if you need it as the semester progresses.

In addition, the chairperson of your program may not be teaching you in your first semester, but they are a great person to get to know early on. They will be able to provide guidance on any nuanced questions you might have about your classes, inform you of opportunities to engage in research, and talk to you about internship and career opportunities in your chosen field.

What is the best way for students to discover organizations or activities outside of their studies?
There will be tons of opportunities for you to engage with organizations and activities outside of your studies. You will also see flyers on the walls, announcements on the digital signs, and tons of information on the website. In addition, the folks from the Office of Student Life, as well as those in our Office of Career Services and Experiential Education, among others, will be sure to promote the opportunities to you in these various ways as well as by email, so check your New York Tech email!

Your PSG will also inform you of events and opportunities.

What advice do you give students who are discovering their major?
Not all students are 100 percent confident in the major they chose. In fact, you would be surprised at how many students change majors. It’s okay to explore other options. Talk to students in other majors of interest, talk to faculty or the chair of those programs, talk to your first-year advisor, and visit our Office of Career Services and Experiential Education for support.

How can students get help if they are overwhelmed?
College is a big change. It’s natural to feel these feelings but it’s important to get help. In addition to the people in your life whom you might confide in, we offer free, confidential counseling through the Office of Counseling and Wellness. The licensed professional counselors can help you develop the resources and practical strategies to enjoy the social and academic success you deserve.

This interview has been edited and condensed.