Undergraduate Programs

10 Pieces of Advice for a First-Year Student

Cassidy Marshall, class of 2025, poses in front of the Clarkson University Golden Knight statue.
Here I am in front of the golden knight statue.

Going into your first year of college is a big step, and may seem daunting, but everyone who is here had to take that first step into their first year just like you! My name is Cassidy Marshall and I am a Communication, and Media Design major with a New Product Development and Marketing minor. I started my first year at Clarkson in the fall of 2021 moving from New Hampshire to Potsdam. As a rising junior, I have some advice that I wished I knew in my first year at Clarkson. From orientation to the final weeks of the spring semester, here is a list of my top ten pieces of advice for a successful first year.

10. Familiarize yourself with Clarkson’s social media and website

If there is one piece of advice I could give to you as incoming students, it’s to take advantage of the social media student pages even before you get on campus. Clarkson’s 2027 Instagram page is a great place for you to not only meet people in your year but to discover what clubs and organizations Clarkson has to offer.

After you check out all of Clarkson’s social media pages another thing you can do is to check out KnightLife. Knightlife is a website that is all for students! Here you can check out clubs and organizations, events, news, and also some housing forms.

Another thing you can do before you get to campus is use the friends feature on MyCU. Here you can add your roommate or anyone you meet before you get on campus and compare your schedules. I found this very helpful so that my roommate and I could see if we had any classes near or with one another.

9. Go to Residence Life events

Cassidy and Emma, first-year students at Clarkson University win roommate trivia.
My roommate Emma and I won the “Roommate/Friend Trivia” hosted by Residence Life.

Whether it is a floor meeting hosted by your Resident Advisor (RA) or a fun event like Clarkson Jeopardy, Our Office of Residence Life (Res-life) puts on various events throughout the year. Some are even for your specific year, building, or floor. One of my favorite Res-life events was “Who knows their roommate best?” This was an event that was held at the beginning of the spring semester, my roommate and I won by a landslide and we had just met at the beginning of the year. Events like these are a great way to meet new people and get some free food. At this event in particular we had some ice cream and we walked away with a snack basket as a prize.

8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Finding your classes is something that I thought would be a lot easier than it was, thankfully I ran into some upperclassmen that walked me through my schedule and answered all my questions

When it comes to being in a lecture, if you are lost or have a question my advice to you is to ask it, because if you are confused there is definitely someone else who is confused too. Don’t ask too many questions, though, as you don’t want to take up too much lecture time. Most classes have a Teaching Assistant (TA) that you can reach out to if you have additional questions or require some extra help, or you can reach out to the faculty member directly or visit them during office hours.

7. Go to the events during Orientation Weekend

First-year students arrive on campus a few days before the rest of the upperclassmen, and thus there are events specifically for you! Glowfest and Holcroft Night are two of the most exciting events you only get to experience once. I know some first-year students have skipped these events in the past and it is one of their biggest regrets. Holcroft Night is a time when you get to hear from the Dean of Students & VP of Student Life, listen to the pep band, and celebrate your class with fireworks. After this, you head over to Cheel Lawn and experience Glowfest! With music, dancing, and a lot of glow-in-the-dark paint.

6. Fall, Winter, and Spring Fest are a must!

If the season changes that means there is going to be a fest of some sort at Clarkson! In the fall and spring, this means free food and a free concert! Even if you do not know or like the person who will be performing, it is always a good time to get out and enjoy some music and of course free food from local food trucks. In the winter CUOC (Clarkson University Outing Club) puts on a winter fest filled with sledding in canoes, snowmobiling, hot chocolate, and more.

5. Don’t forget to study!

Cassidy, a first-year student with her friend in their Biology and Society lab course.
My friend Autumn and I in Biology & Society Lab.

I know I have been talking a lot about concerts, events, and festivals but there is a lot of studying and work that needs to be done even as a first-year student. One thing I like to do is study at any place on campus except my dorm room. I associate my dorm with relaxation, destressing, and a place to hang out with my friends. This dynamic worked really well for me and my roommate as we would go to Snell Hall to do homework and study and to our room to hang out.

4. Career Fair isn’t just for upperclassmen!

One of my biggest regrets from my first year is not attending any Career Center events or fairs on campus. I was under the impression that these Career Fairs were only for juniors and seniors looking for jobs when in reality there are so many companies and organizations that are interested in making connections with underclassmen for future opportunities, professional experiences, and even internships.

Other Career Center events such as “Resumania” are geared toward all students who want to get ahead and improve their skills. The Career Center here hosts a variety of events that will prepare you for these Career Fairs and make sure you land the internship or job of your dreams!

3. Check out some sporting events

As you probably know hockey is a big part of the campus culture! While I am a huge hockey fan, there are so many other teams here you can watch play almost every weekend. I met some of my closest friends at a soccer game in the first few weeks of school. Besides the main sports teams, there are plenty of club and intramural sports that are quite popular. Spring of 2021 Clarkson got a brand new rugby field to house our men’s and women’s rugby team home tournaments. There are also club teams for football, volleyball, hockey, and even spikeball. If you are interested in joining a team you can check out Knightlife to see if there is a team, and if not you can always start your own!

Cassidy, a first-year student with her friends at a Clarkson University Hockey game.
My friends and I at a hockey game!

2. Explore Potsdam

Clarkson may seem like it is in the middle of nowhere but in all reality, it is surrounded by so much. If you are into outdoor recreation I suggest you read about all the adventures and things to do around the Potsdam area.

My favorite season here has to be fall, and while it may be short it is one of the best times to get out and make strong bonds with your new friends. I had the opportunity to go apple picking with the Pep band and had some of the best apple cider donuts ever! There are a lot of on-campus events in the fall but also a lot of fall fun off campus and what a better way to get to know your newfound friends than with some off-campus adventures!

1. Take advantage of everything the campus has to offer

You are going to be spending almost all of your time up here, so my most important tip is to learn everything you can do and use on campus. Whether that is the climbing wall, the gyms, the boats from the boathouse, or even just playing pool in the Student Center, there are so many ways you and your friends can have fun on campus for free!

In conclusion, there is a lot of advice that I would give to a first-year student, but even if you forget everything you just learned, you will have a fun and fulfilling first year. It is a “learn as you go, make mistakes, and try again” process. Just have fun and remember you are only a first-year student once so make it count!

Author: Cassidy Marshall

My name is Cassidy Marshall, I'm a Communication, Media & Design Major with a new product development & marketing minor in the class of 2024. I am currently a member of the Pep Band, Kappa Delta Chi, and am a student worker in the Marketing and External Relations Department. In my free time, I enjoy photography, exploring downtown Potsdam, and attending all the hockey games with my friends.

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