Freshman survival guide: Tips and tricks to navigating your first year at college

Freshman FAQ.jpg
Photo credit: Jian Bautista

There is a steep learning curve to navigating the responsibility, new environment and life changes that come with beginning your collegiate career. Feeling lost, misplaced or unsure are all normal reactions that come with the territory of higher education.

Another obstacle new students are sure to encounter is the UAA parking debacle. Finding a good spot can be the difference between being early to your first day of class or being fifteen minutes late and causing an interruption.

“I like parking on the roof of the [East Parking Garage]… There is always room and open spots there, even when other lots around it are full,” Sonja Barnard-Graval, a junior studying political science, said. “It’s also really close to both the Fine Arts Building and the [UAA/APU Consortium Library] so it’s convenient.”

For many students, finding the balance between social life and school goes hand in hand with mental health and stress.

Besse Odom, an alumna who graduated with a degree in elementary education, lived on campus for two years. Odom says that there is often a struggle of balancing work and play.

“Instead of going out to party, sometimes you should choose to sleep and study for [tomorrow’s] exam… My grades were super low freshman year… but I did have fun,” Odom said.

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Emily Alvy, a non-traditional student, believes that connecting with professors is an underrated component of student success.

“My first go-around in college right out of high school, I was so intimidated by my professors,” Alvy said.

Now, after going back to school as a 26-year-old, Alvy feels more confident in approaching professors for help and assistance and is hoping to graduate soon.

“Teaching is a small part of who they are,” Alvy said. “They aren’t perfect.”

“They all also have struggles… in their lives too,” she added.

Alvy encourages students to reach out to their professors if they are going through personal issues.

Tim Flynn, operations coordinator for the Student Union and recipient of the 2017-2018 Staff Makes Students Count Award, has been supervising students for 15 years at UAA and other campuses over the course of his career. Based on his observations, involvement and connection to community are essential for student success.

“Join or start a club, volunteer for an event… Chances are there is something for you here at UAA, and who knows who you might meet?” Flynn said.

For a complete list of clubs and organizations, visit