Tips from a Current Student

Hello everyone! My name is Evelyn, and I’m a sophomore English major (and prospective Film minor) from Shanghai, China.

To start off, congratulations on being accepted to UCLA! We’re so incredibly proud of you, and we can’t wait to see what amazing things you’ll accomplish here. Having lived in a few different countries before, deciding to attend UCLA was by far one of my most radical decisions, and I don’t regret it at all.

Your journey has just begun. You’ve passed application season, and you’ve received your admissions results. The next step? Adjusting to college life.

I know preparing for college can be daunting. Let me tell you, feeling overwhelmed and confused is completely natural. Truth is, the transition process can be rough, but fear not! Today, I’ll be providing a few tips to help you make the most of your first year experience.

1. Don’t box yourself in. Try new things. UCLA has tons of student organizations, classes, and research/job opportunities, all of which encompass practically every field you can think of. Stay open-minded, and push yourself to join new clubs, try new classes, and meet plenty of new people! Curb your nerves and reach for chances to get to meet new people, or join new events. And if you aren’t feeling it? That’s okay! On a campus so extensive, you’re bound to find your niche and network—but to do that? Don’t limit yourself.

2. Plan your classes carefully. It’s tempting to go all out on fun and extracurriculars, but remember, we’re all students, first and foremost. Consult academic counselors (Academic Advising, CAM on the Hill, departmental advising, etc.) for guidance on how to maximize your schedule. Schedule your timetable to best fit your lifestyle and needs—for instance, if you aren’t a morning person, maybe those 8 AMs aren’t for you. With this in mind, consider checking in with your advisors to stay on track. You’ll start with this at orientation!

3. Go to office hours, and get to know your TAs. You’ll probably hear this from everyone—it’s that important. It might seem scary at first, but taking the time to speak with your professors and TAs, especially for more difficult classes, can be a lifesaver. Regularly attending office hours can show that your dedication to the class, and can make a huge difference when you need extra help in the future.

4. Take care of yourself. Prioritize yourself, and know your limits. While it’s great to take initiative and experiment with new activities and classes, your health and safety is of the utmost importance. Let new relationships progress naturally instead of forcing them, don’t saddle yourself with too much coursework during your first quarter so you can ease your way into college life, and sleep. It can be tempting to skim over assignments and lectures if they’re not mandatory, but when midterms and finals hit, the buildup can be feel overwhelming if you’re not spending your time wisely. If you are feeling stressed, speak to a professional for destressing advice/activities (i.e. CAPS, RISE). Know that it’s better to say no and communicate your feelings about different responsibilities and obligations clearly than shouldering everything at once.

5. Explore your resources. This is another big one. Seriously. UCLA offers so many free resources and utilities–don’t let them go underused! Make the best of student discounts, the gyms and rec centers, the free printing and cheap coffee (i.e. SEAS Cafe, anybody?), and countless gadgets and study spaces. Shake up your habits once in a while—try a new study spot, drop by a free movie screening, sit in on a club meeting, do DIYs at the MakerSpace. Explore Westwood and LA, and try expanding your reach beyond just the Hill or campus. You’re in one of most vibrant cities in the world, in one of the most diverse campuses in the country. Make the best of that, especially early on!

I get it. Some of these tips might seem pretty abstract, especially when you first start life on campus. In truth? That’s totally fine. Frankly, the transition process can differ for everyone. Maybe you like socializing and meeting new people; maybe trying new things scares you a little. Maybe you’re still apprehensive about where you stand, be it with regard to your interests, your studies, or more.

Regardless, UCLA has a place for you.

Oftentimes, it’s through countless trials and errors that we manage to truly cement ourselves, to discover our own pursuits. I, too, had my fair share of ups and downs as I tried to navigate my first year immersing myself in a completely new culture, with such a rich environment bustling around me. The beauty of student life is that no matter what happens, what you experience as a college student can make for some of the most memorable and intriguing times of your life, because you and everyone around you is continuously growing and changing.

I hope these tips help you navigate your first steps as a college student. Your journey is entirely your own, and what happens is entirely up to you to decide. I know times may be uncertain and difficult, and your upcoming decisions are weighty. Don’t worry! Adjustment takes time and patience. No matter what you decide, and what potential highs and lows may come, UCLA will support and provide all the opportunities you need to grow and develop as an inspiring individual. I believe in you.

To all the future Bruins reading this, congratulations again—and good luck!