Manage your time, get involved

Manage time wisely. Get involved in the community. Don't forget to exercise. These are just a few of the words of wisdom from six Class of 2016 graduates who returned to campus January 6 to share their strategies for success in college with the group who is next to join them, the Class of 2017.

[The alumni] gave some great advice," said Senior Bilal Wurie, who will attend Harvard University in the fall. "Wurie said. "The overwhelming message was: Manage your time well. Pick your classes well. Research the professors so you have a good experience. And make the most of it. Opportunities are everywhere at college — like hearing a guest speaker or joining a new club — but they won't help you if you don't take advantage of them. You just have to go for it."

Charles "Chuck" Branche '16, who studies at Ohio Wesleyan University, was among those who promoted the importance of time management. "College is hard, and things pile up pretty easily," he told the seniors. "If you keep putting them off, eventually you're going to wind up overwhelmed."

"You don't have that many assignments, so you can say, 'Oh, I have nothing due this week, so I can just coast,' and then the next week comes and you have two tests and a couple of papers," Washington & Lee freshman Joe Gagnon '16 added. "That was the biggest adjustment for me, making sure you're doing something every day or else you get behind." Gagnon also advised seniors to take advantage of Advanced Placement (AP) classes to test out of prerequisite courses and to "find out who the good professors are and take them" rather than choosing classes on subject matter alone.

Loyola Marymount freshman Harry King '16 offered reassurance to seniors still grappling with what they want to study in college. King, who switched his major from philosophy to film midway through the first semester, encouraged the seniors to be open-minded.

"Don't just pick a major because it's something you were good at in high school and that might set you up; go for something that interests you," he said. "Be true to you. You don't have to know right away, but don't just stick with something that doesn't interest you because it's safe."

Much time was dedicated to the important topic of navigating the college social scene — and all six Class of 2016 Bears had the same message: Get involved.

Columbia University student Jack Pingle '16 joined the school's sailing team... and encouraged seniors to branch out. "The first couple of weeks of college, you want to meet as many people as possible," Pingle said. "You'll be much happier if you do."

Wesley Pan '16 agreed. He joined the rugby team and the Corps of Cadets at Virginia Tech and said being a part of these groups has given him both structure and a sense of camaraderie. "My [Cadet Corps] company commander told me this saying that helped me a lot: 'Be comfortable being uncomfortable,'" Pan said. "You guys are all seniors, but pretty soon you're going to be freshmen again. And you'll probably be a little uncomfortable, but just know that everyone else is that same amount of uncomfortable."

"For a lot of you guys, college is going to be exactly what you expected, but for some of you guys, college is going to be very different than what you were told. That's OK," King added. "You just have to embrace everything, hang out with people you wouldn't usually hang out with, lose your ego, be friends with everyone, and have a great time. Find what you want to do and do it."

The alumni also weighed in on practical matters. University of Maryland freshman Clayton Henschel '16 addressed the issue of finance management. "The big thing I would say is to try to avoid eating out because it can get expensive," he said. "Keep food in your dorm. And, if you have a meal plan, make sure you use your meal points first."

Branche urged fellow Bears to work out because a steady diet of dining hall food and inactivity can lead to unhealthy weight gain. And he cautioned against early morning classes: "Trust me, you won't get up."

The event was organized by Landon's Office of College Counseling.