ADVICE FOR FIRST YEAR STUDENTS
Making Transition, Building Foundations, and Making Connections
Your first year at Case is the "connecting" year. It's the year you make the transition from high school to college and begin new relationships. It's a time to discover new activities and new venues that interest you. It's a year to begin building your education, molding your career and shaping the person you eventually will become.
Now is the time to start looking at scholarships and fellowships. See what types of scholarships are available. What, if any, are of interest you. Begin to build your academic foundation and your "scholarship resume." Begin by searching the lists of scholarship (both Case specific and national opportunities) and see which ones match your academic and career interests. Not all scholarships are for everyone. Visit the individual scholarships webpages and read what the scholarship is about. Review the biographies of the past winners to see the sort of activities in which they were involved.
In the first year you have the flexibility to shape your years at Case. Use your first year to explore your options and make connections. Continue to build on what you have learned in high school or life experiences. For example, even if you have placed out of foreign language classes or you do not need anymore to fulfill your breadth requirements, do not squander what you have accomplished. Foreign language skills are important for many scholarships and fellowships, as well as for study abroad opportunities. Use this time to extend your competency with advance language courses. Take a multi-disciplinary approach to foreign languages and enroll in history, political science or religion courses that will give you a greater understanding of language and culture. Participate in experiential learning opportunities or community service programs that can help you with fluency and cultural awareness.
Begin to get involved in extra-curricular activities-athletics, community service service organizations and student organizations. While you may not be holding leadership positions at this time, you are beginning to build strong foundations and becoming engaged on campus. You will learn a lot from these activities, particularly as you begin to take on more leadership roles in the organizations. Select your activities wisely. Do not over-extend yourself and spend too little time on school work. Chose your activities wisely. It is not about how many activities in which you can participate, but focusing on ones that really matter to you, ones about which you are passionate and are willing to give sustained time and attention. The Office of Student Community Service can help you identify community service opportunities.
Take advantage of the innumerable (and often free) opportunities available on campus, from lectures, to special events, to reading the daily newspaper. Get involved, build foundations for your first year and beyond. Sample activities include:
These visiting lecturers, performers and special events can enrich your experience, introduce you to new interests and provide contacts. They can also help you continue to explore and provide the foundation for your personal and academic development.
Get to know at least one faculty member each semester. It is important not just for scholarships, but for your academic success as well. Talk with professors and instructors outside of class, discuss research opportunities, job (paid or unpaid) opportunities in their labs or area of research, and independent study or internship prospects. When you have had a successful experience, ask your professor or instructor to write a letter of recommendation for you. Whether applying for a scholarship or to a graduate/professional school in the future, having recommendations from faculty who have really gotten to know you well and can write about specific experiences it much more useful and powerful than a non-specific, general letter.
Chose your internships, co-ops, research and work experience with care. As with extracurricular activities, it it not all about quantity, but quality. Think about how your the experience will play in to your long term goals. Look for opportunities that tie in to your academics and extra-curricular plans. This could be in the form of an internship, a co-op, a summer research position, or many other opportunities.
Seek out research opportunities. These opportunities can be directly related to one of your classes or through a special research program or work experience. The SOURCE office can help point you in the direction of how to find and apply for research opportunities. Remember to think of research in a broad sense, not just what you do in a lab. Research happens in all disciplines, not just in science and engineering. Research offers you the opportunity to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the subject and demonstrates a commitment to inquiry beyond your course requirements.
Maintain a resume or portfolio of all of your activities and honors. Document what you have done, the dates that you did it and what you did. This documentation will come in handy as you apply for scholarships, graduate/professional schools or jobs. It will also help potential recommenders write a strong recommendation for you, if they have a list of your activities and honors.
Focus on your academics. Many of the scholarships place a high emphasis on academic achievement. If you develop a strong academic record, are thoughtful and intentional about your extra-curricular activities, you will position yourself to apply for a range of scholarships and fellowships.
Discover your passion and interests. Whether you apply for a fellowship or scholarship or not, use the next few years to discover and pursue your interests. As a first year student, you have time to explore many options. Use this time to find a discipline or area of student that excites you and build on those classes and experiences.