This one is for the students out there who believe they have it all figured out. This one is also for the students out there who don’t believe they have it all figured out. I know how it feels to be in both of these positions. As a graduating senior *wipes tears,* I have experienced so much that has shaped me into the person I am today. My little freshman self had her life planned out. She knew the classes she was going to pursue, the clubs she was going to join, and the friends she was going to have before making it to campus. Spoiler alert: I pursued different classes, joined an array of organizations, befriended so many extraordinary people, and did so much more. It took some time to realize, but college taught me that some of the best things grow outside of comfort zones. By stepping out of mine, I learned more about myself and enjoyed my college experience more than I could have imagined. Of course, it was a learning process, so if could go back in time and advise myself as a freshman, I would say this:

  1. Introduce yourself to your professor. Class sizes are so small at SMU, so your professor will likely know who you are before the end of the first week. Make yourself stand out by actually telling your professor who you are, why you are taking their class, and what you hope to gain out of taking it. Professors are more inclined to help students they actually know.
  2. Do not be afraid of challenging courses and professors. This does not mean you should not be prepared for them, it just means you should not be afraid to pursue them! For me, they often served as the greatest learning experience. Rigorous coursework improved my study habits, challenged my way of thinking, and sometimes introduced me to areas of study I never knew I was interested in.
  3. If you are confused about something, it’s likely that another person in your class is too. Two minds work better than one, so get to know a few people in each of your classes and exchange numbers with them. Also, utilize SMU resources to improve your performance in class. Familiarize yourself with the Altshuler Learning Enhancement Center. Their tutoring services and academic success programs saved my life at one point.
  4. If there is an on-campus event occurring and you are free, attend it! If it means you have to go alone, that’s okay too. You will meet new people, familiarize yourself with an organization you may want to join, and have a good time.
  5. SMU has over 200 student organizations. It is so important to find the ones you are drawn to, join them, and acquire leadership positions within them. At the top of every semester, SMU hosts an event where students can learn more about all of the student organizations on campus. Attend this event. Student organizations enhance the student experience and give you lifelong friends along the way.
  6. Lastly, sunshine all the time makes a desert. Take it easy and let go of perfectionism. Set aside some time for yourself every day to decompress. Treat this time like it is your homework, and don’t end the day without completing it.

I overcame a lot in the last four years, so I hope this survival guide prepares you to better embrace your college experience. There is so much in store for you!

Best of luck, and Pony Up!
Leena Kamal
SMU Class of 2021