The EU Freshman Experience

Category:  News
Wednesday, April 26th, 2017 at 5:15 PM
The EU Freshman Experience by Dakota Palmer
Graphic: Shelby Kirk

It’s 7 a.m. on the last Monday in August, a freshman who is living away from home for the first time is groggily getting ready for his first class.

He wakes up, startled by the presence of his roommate, since he’s not used to living with someone else in his room.

He brushes his teeth, gets dressed and treks to his first class, nervous about starting over.

Starting college can be rough for many. You’re away from home for the first time with a completely new workload, completely new classes and completely new people.

But — as some Edinboro freshmen noted — with the proper resources and opportunities, college life can be made a little easier.

According to the working groups presentation Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker discussed in March, nearly 29 percent of EU students leave after their freshman year. Assuming the estimated cost of attendance per year at Edinboro is $26,038, that means the university is losing approximately $5.9 million from that 29 percent.

So, the question becomes: what reason would they have to leave? And what can Edinboro do to retain them? We spoke to several Edinboro students who are remaining at the university, but who still encountered issues in their first years.

Lizzie Birmingham said she’s experienced both academic and personal difficulties this year.

“With academics, I found myself doing poorly because I didn’t really care about it,” she said. “Now I regret not taking it seriously from the beginning.”

She thinks Edinboro could have different programs that the students can attend that will help them academically and socially. She also said she lives on campus and thinks it makes it easier because everything is within walking distance.

She continued: “One thing that I would change about my freshman year would be to get involved more. I wish that I would have joined more clubs and organizations.”

Tristin Hanzely, another freshman, said, “Academically, there haven’t been too many difficulties, other than sometimes expecting to get away with more than I actually can.”

She also mentioned that she has experienced some financial difficulties, in addition to trying to figure out the FAFSA. However, she believes her social life has been successful.

“I spend nearly all my time with the same group of five people,” she said. “I’m not sure if having a good group of five people or going out constantly and meeting new people is a better way to go about school, but I love my friends.”

She doesn’t have any complaints about her freshman year, saying: “I think people who have a bad first year are not taking the opportunities seriously. I go to every visiting artist; I try to go to the theater and any other University Programming Board events. There isn’t any reason for people to complain that there isn’t anything to do.”

Hanzely considered attending Slippery Rock University, but she realized she wanted to study art. She would have studied biology at Slippery Rock, but learning about the art program here changed her mind very fast. She lives on campus and thinks it is “super helpful.”

“I think living more freely (not with your parents) gives you more responsibility that is important to learn,” she said.

“But it isn’t totally free yet, so there are still people to fall back on (roommates, resident assistants) to help you out if you need it.”

Alexander Sandford, business major, said: “Some difficulties I’ve had this year were learning to establish study patterns and learning to manage my time better. I’ve also had  trouble writing college-level papers.”

Sandford said he thinks it would be beneficial for Edinboro to focus more on activities for freshmen to meet more upperclassmen, rather than staff lectures about how to survive college.

“As I got more friends above the freshman level, I learned a great deal on how to actually deal with school better than I did from any of the campus’s attempts to lecturing me how to do better,” he said.

In his first semester, he got involved in various clubs and organizations such as marching band, symphonic wind ensemble and Phi Mu Alpha.

“I feel like being a member of these groups helped me make a lot of good friends quickly,” he said. “Marching band also allowed me to move into my dorm a week early, which made me feel a lot more comfortable in my environment, and Phi Mu Alpha has introduced me to a lot of people that do everything they can to help me succeed.”

Sandford noted that he’s had a good experience with living on campus, saying he and the people who live on his floor built a very strong community.

If he could change one thing about his freshman year, he would have tried to attend more university activities.

“I find a lot of the recitals and concerts in the music buildings are incredible, but sadly poorly attended by students, and that goes for a lot of really good events the campus puts on.

Mikala Wells said college has been a very different experience than what she expected. Wells said the workload was less overwhelming than she worried it would be, but when many assignments are due at once, it can be difficult to keep up.

She also said it’s hard to be away from home, as she lives nearly six hours away.

“I’m not used to living alone or going so long without seeing my family,” she said.

“It can be intimidating being in a totally different environment, especially when a lot of Edinboro students are relatively local. No one thing has been terrible, but stressors tend to pile up.”

She said more organization on campus would be nice “as certain inconsistencies and vague administration (choices) made things confusing and frustrating at times.” Also, she would enjoy seeing more food options on campus because she believes many of the food choices are unhealthy.

Finally, she would like to see more ways to know what’s happening on campus, because she feels like she gets all of her information from fliers.

Wells is part of the Illustration Club and the Drawing and Painting Club.

She continued: “They’ve presented opportunities for me, and I’ve learned a lot from the upperclassmen. It’s nice getting to know people and being involved in activities related to my interests.”

According to Wells, living on campus can be a double-edged sword: on one hand, it is efficient to live on campus because she doesn’t have to worry about traveling every day and she can access facilities at odd times and can worry about things like food.

“However, sometimes it can feel like being trapped on campus, without other places to go,” she said. “So, you have less to consider on your own, but you’re stuck with what the college provides, in a way.”

Wells said if she could change her freshman year, she would try to put herself “out there” more, do more things and meet more people.

“I’ve been antisocial, exactly, but seeing other people makes me realize I could’ve reached out more or gone to more activities.”

She said she would have liked to have had a better time in general and not be so worried and stressed over things.

Instructor in the English and Philosophy Department, Caroline Campbell, said that she sees a lot of freshmen struggle in their first semesters, mainly because they are adjusting to college life in general.

Her advice to freshmen is to communicate with their professors.

“Communicate if they are struggling and absolutely seek help before it gets too late,” she said.

She also mentioned it is important to get involved in various clubs and organizations on campus in order to assimilate. She said to get to know other freshmen and “other upperclassmen, as well, to give themselves a ‘home away from home’ kind of feel.”

Ashley Wassel, an academic success coordinator at the center, said that freshmen are the most frequent visitors at the Academic Success Center. Wassel said the center proactively reaches out to all freshmen during their first semester at Edinboro, and encourage them to come in and meet with them.

Wassel works with freshmen on a wide variety of topics, including transitioning socially and academically to college.

“In regards to academics, many students struggle with the change from high school academics to college level academics,” she said. “Freshmen often tell me that they never learned how to study in high school. However, at the college level, students are expected to apply the knowledge and skills that they learn to other situations.”

She went on to explain how new students also have a hard time adjusting to the amount of study time required outside the classroom.

“Being a full-time student is similar to having a full-time job; students should be spending 40+ hours a week working on academics,” she said.

She meets with freshmen throughout both the fall and spring semesters, but she has more freshmen appointments in the fall. Additionally, she tries to meet with all of the students in the College of Science and Health Professions at least once during their first semester.

Wassel encourages all students to get involved on campus.

“There are many different clubs and organizations at Edinboro,” she said. “Getting involved helps students connect with the university, as well as connect with other students who share similar interests.”

Dakota Palmer is the news editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at

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