By Mary Ellen Aldrich, Community Editor
The first semester of any freshman’s college experience can be the most difficult. For some freshmen the first semester acts purely as a transitional period in which they take it easy and take as few credits as possible. Other freshman will be a bit too enthusiastic for their own good and take a few too many credits that first semester. When starting college, it’s fairly common to start with the “I can conquer college and keep on task and get it all done” attitude that often fades as the semester goes.
By the end of the first semester of the 2016–2017 school year here at USM, freshman have had the chance to get a bit of the college experience and to figure things out to a certain degree. At this point many freshmen have resolutions or ideas for the next semester. ROTC Army Cadet Andrew Chasse, a freshman environmental studies major, said that the first semester has gone pretty well for him. Even though he’s done well this semester, Chasse said, “I would like to change my style of doing assignments on time.” Chasse said that he is definitely coming back next semester. “Unless they give me the boot,” he said.
Procrastination is something freshman often have trouble with, thinking that their assignments can wait until tomorrow, or that they won’t take very long so there’s plenty of time to finish them. This procrastination can be a big problem when assignments start to pile up and students get overwhelmed and then shut down. However, some students perform best while under that sort of pressure.
Emily Torres, a freshman psychology major, had a few things to say about her first semester. Torres said that she would have liked to have known she didn’t need to stress out about how difficult college is, because as far as she’s concerned, it’s not as bad as it’s made out to be. Torres has missed her puppy over the course of her first semester, but said, “When I get home my puppy gets really excited, so it makes [being away] worth it.” Something Torres found surprising was the number of good friends she made in the first semester. It’s something she wasn’t expecting, but she’s glad it happened. Next semester Torres plans to be more on top of her assignments next semester. “I will try to procrastinate less next semester,” she said. “It’s a bad habit that I’ve had for a long time, and I know I should work to shake it.”
For Nautijaye Heard, a freshman biology major, the first semester wasn’t as easy as it seemed to be for Torres. Heard had taken college courses in high school and was really successful. Because of this previous experience, Heard thought that college wouldn’t be much harder. But she said that it actually was harder than she had thought. “I really am responsible for myself for the first time in my life,” Heard said, “and to be honest, it’s really hard to do.” Next semester Heard plans to work really hard on procrastination and self-discipline. “I have to put my work ahead of having fun or even sleeping sometimes,” she said. Heard is planning to leave next semester because she doesn’t feel like USM is the right place for her right now. Heard isn’t sure if any college is right for her right now. “I just need a minute to collect myself before I make any more big decisions in my life,” she said.
Taylor Moyer, a freshman who declared a major in psychology before deciding to major in social and behavioral sciences, had a less-than-easy first semester. Moyer came to USM from New Hampshire not knowing anyone and not knowing what to expect. When she first arrived at USM, she found it difficult to make friends, especially being from out of state. “For me, as a socially awkward girl,” Moyer said, “it was hard to make friends and adjust to university life.” Moyer did eventually meet some friends and got involved in a Christian group on campus called The Navigators.
Moyer, fueled by a passion for helping others, first planned on majoring in psychology and becoming a clinical psychologist. After realizing she wasn’t going to be able to do this in just four years, as she would have to attend graduate school, Moyer decided to pursue a more practical plan. That’s when Moyer changed her major from psychology to social and behavioral sciences, planning on working in the field of social work.
A full course-load isn’t the best approach for everyone. Some need to take it slower, whereas some can power through a typical four-year degree in three years. For Moyer, the four-year plan wasn’t looking like it would work. After dropping out of a class and possibly failing a second one, Moyer decided being a full-time university student wasn’t the best way for her to earn her degree. With out-of-state tuition being much higher than in-state tuition, and with the added stress of being so far from home as well as not thinking she could handle a second semester as a full-time student, Moyer decided to transfer to a community college in New Hampshire.
What Moyer has learned from her first semester is that it’s okay to take the time you need to get through a degree and that asking for help as soon as you begin struggling in a class, as well as not procrastinating, are all good things to keep in mind. While the financial cost of remaining at USM, and various personal factors, ultimately led to Moyer transferring, she still values the time she spent here. “My time here at USM is an experience I will never forget, I have made amazing friends,” she said.