How to Make the Most of Your Freshman Year of College | IES Abroad Staff Advice

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Anna Egan

You’ve moved in to your dorm room, started your first few classes of what?

This week, we spoke with IES Abroad staff about the many ways in which you can set yourself up for success this year. From thinking outside of your major to finding the friends who bring out the best in you, your freshman year is the perfect time to set the foundation for the rest of your collegiate career.

Check out some of our advice for making the most of your freshman year of college:

bob horan

Bob Horan, 
Student Outreach Coordinator


“To me, one of the best ways you can take advantage of your freshman year in college is to develop relationships with your professors. You likely will have more than one class with them and it never hurts to be on their good side. But, while your college career progresses, you’ll realize how valuable your relationships with professors will be, as they can serve as professional references, give you career advice, and make you aware of research opportunities that you might have missed out on otherwise.”

Kandice Rose

Kandice Rose, 
Diversity Relations Manager


Explore different course subjects. Many times freshmen enter college knowing what they plan to do with the rest of their lives, which is great. However, it also means that they can get stuck in a rut of only attending classes that they think pertain to their future career. By exploring outside subjects, freshmen can discover new friends, new interests, and possibly even new career paths.”

Rob Hallworth

Rob Hallworth, 
Vice President & Deputy Director of Academic Programs


Don’t let a preconceived notion of what your life goals should be dictate the path you take in higher education. It’s ok to explore and change your major.  You may enter college convinced that you’re going to be an accountant or a teacher or an engineer. Almost everyone has general education requirements that they dread, but there is room within those to explore alternative paths and find what you truly want to study and devote yourself to in your career."

Abby Baric

Abby Baric, 
Senior Communications Manager

Make connections anywhere and everywhere. College is a time for meeting new people and trying new things. Think about your interests and your career goals. Is there a club you could join, or a teacher or an on-campus group you could reach out to about something you want to get involved in or learn more about?

Make it a goal to have at least one or two new ‘meet ups’ a week. Maybe it’s going to an open meeting of a new group, or organizing a coffee with someone. I found that having a few meet ups a week meant I had something to look forward to, I could build up my networking skills, make new connections, and spend time engaging in new and exciting things. You’ll be surprised at how far this will take you throughout your college career and beyond.”

Michael Green

Michael Green, 
Senior Associate Vice President, College Relations & Advising


Get a part-time job, at your school, in a field you’d like to explore as a career. There are often great opportunities for students in a full range of fields including communications, computer science, hospitality, public safety, and even study abroad, that will get you some practical experience.”

Amy Ruhter McMillan

Amy Ruhter McMillan,
Senior Associate Vice President, Marketing


Plan ahead. I went into my freshman year knowing I would study abroad. It was one of the first things I discussed with my advisor—how to make it work and what I needed to do. I felt it was imperative to my education and my own personal growth to do so. After making a plan with my advisor, then I concentrated on my studies and on making life-long friends who would want to study abroad with me!”

Evan Vandermeer

Evan Vandermeer, 
Program Advisor

“As far as academics, don’t be afraid to take courses that challenge the way you currently think. The word way is significant here, and can also be understood as direction. Are you irreligious? Take a class on Buddhism. Do you consider yourself apolitical? Take a class on political philosophy. Do you hate poetry? Take a class on Emily Dickinson. The university should not be an intellectually safe space. If you want to actually challenge yourself and grow as a thinker, you need to expose yourself to modes of thought and ideas that shake you up. If you cruise along and merely pay attention to the things that snugly affirm your outlook, the only thing that’ll grow while you’re in college is your age.”

Hernando Sevilla-Garcia

Hernando Sevilla-Garcia, 
Diversity Relations Manager


Don’t be scared to push the boundaries. Even as early as your freshmen year, establish yourself on campus by seeking leadership opportunities in organizations, go into office hours to personally connect with professors, reach out to upperclassmen on advice to navigate the complex world of higher education.  When it comes to study abroad, now more than ever freshmen are inquiring and even going on programs as early as their second semester. Ask questions about study abroad and ask them often, it’s never too early to start planning.”

Anna McCloskey

Anna McCloskey, 
Marketing Manager


Start an online portfolio and build your digital presence. Use it to showcase your significant research, internships, projects, study abroad experiences, and other aspects of your college career that you’re proud of. Maybe even start a blog or podcast within your portfolio! Four years from now you’re going to need to show what makes you a great candidate for a job, grad school, or another post-grad route you take. A strong digital portfolio filled with great intellect, experience, and personality will help you stand out.”

victoria bruick

Victoria Bruick, 


"There are always going to be more opportunities to get involved with than you have time for, so take your first term or two to try out different academic, philanthropic, athletic, and social organizations. Once you've tested the waters, pick one or two campus organizations that you enjoy most to really get involved with. Deeper friendships and more meaningful leadership experience are going to come from investing in select activities than if you spread yourself too thin. There are 24 hours in a day, but you still need to eat, sleep, keep up on coursework, and take time for yourself!"

John Colhouer

John Colhouer,
Data Specialist & Strategic Project Manager


Critically think about what classes you take, but don’t let that dominate your choices. While you may or may not have decided your major, compliment those required classes with topics that make your education better rounded. This speaks volumes about your curiosity both inside and outside of your major for your future career.”


Throughout our conversations one key piece of advice stood out: start thinking of study abroad! Check out some of our best places to study abroad, contact a volunteer student Ambassador to learn more about their experience, and follow us on Instagram and Facebook for your daily dose of wanderlust.

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Anna Egan

IES Abroad News

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