How I Made my Freshman Year Great by Getting Involved-and how you can too

In what seems like the blink of eye, I’m returning to Rutgers this year as sophomore. Seeing all the freshmen moving in and getting settled is an interesting thing to watch as I was in their position a mere year ago. This year I’m older, wiser, albeit less excitable, and a bit more mentally prepared for all the year has in store for me. But for a moment, I want to remind myself why I loved my freshman year so I’m motivated to have a fantastic sophomore year.

For any prospective students or freshmen reading this, I want to give a shout out to several organizations, people, events, and other things that made my freshman year at Rutgers so great. These are definitely things to look into as a Rutgers student looking to get involved!

If you’re FEMALE and super cool, join the women’s college! Douglass Residential College is the only women’s college at a large public research university in the country. DRC is filled with intelligent strong women who would love to welcome you to the community. If you join DRC, you will live in a DRC residence hall for at least one academic year, and DRC halls are all girls’ dorms (which is great, I promise). You will also be required to take a 3-credit course, Issues in Women’s Leadership aka Knowledge and Power. Most people (me included) don’t want to take this class at first, but I can assure you it became one of my favorite classes that I’ve ever taken. There are also scholarships, research opportunities, Douglass specific clubs to join, leadership positions, an emphasis on activism, and a plethora of events all year to engage you in different initiatives and topics that are designed to be fun, educational, and free if you’re a Douglass women! Specific shout out to Katzenbach Hall, my RA Monica, and my awesome floor mates who made me love my dorming experience last year. JOIN DRC and consider living in Katz. The women’s college is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you don’t want to miss out. You will grow in ways you didn’t know you could. For more information: https://douglass.rutgers.edu/homepage

If you’re INTERESTED IN LEADERSHIP, get involved with the Office of Leadership and Experiential Learning! For first years, contact the leadership office to get involved in the First Year 15 Program. By attending certain events in the fall and sending in a short application, you can participate in a Leadership Fellowship Program in the spring in which you will have weekly workshops to help you become an effective leader as well as completing a group social change project. The Leadership office has so many opportunities to get involved, including the Mark Conference, the Real Talk Leadership Summit, an Alternative Break trip, CampUKnight, and more. Joining DRC was the best decision I could have made after coming to Rutgers, but getting involved with the Leadership office is a close second. Believe in your ability to be a leader. For more information: http://leadership.rutgers.edu/

If you want to WORK/GET AN INTERNSHIP, check out the Student Employment Office and Career Services! I got lucky and qualified for work study, so a job was assigned to me, but there are other jobs you can look for outside of work study for example at the dining halls or in the computing centers. If you’re lucky like me and get work study, it’ll be a great opportunity for you! To qualify, don’t forget to fill out your FAFSA when it comes out in January. In assigning jobs, they take your preferences into consideration to get you a job to provide you with the experience you’re looking for or something fun that you would enjoy. They also ask for your major, so they might take that into consideration as well. To give you an idea, as a pharmacy major who indicated preference for a science lab position, I got to work in a pharmacology lab last semester. So hopefully you’ll get something you like! If you’re looking to get an internship, you may have to your own searching, but don’t hesitate to ask your favorite teachers for letters of recommendation! Apply early and hope for the best. A lot of Rutgers students complete internships in New York during the summer or even during the school year. Also, if you give your résumé to Career Services, they’ll give you feedback on it. Do this as early as you can! Most people wait until senior year to get their resumes edited. Also, if you’re a Douglass women, there is an externship program for winter and spring breaks under the guidance of professional women who are alumni of Douglass College, so that’s another great way to get experience, find mentors, and network with people in the fields you are interested in. For more information: http://careers.rutgers.edu/

If you want to do RESEARCH, you’re in the right place! The Aresty Research Center here is fantastic and has several programs for students who want to get involved in research starting your freshman year. I personally did not get involved with any of these programs, so I can’t give any personal experiences, but they are great opportunities nonetheless. First we have the Byrne seminars you can take as a 1-credit class during freshman year, which are meant to introduce you to research in almost any field. The Aresty-Byrne seminars are similar but typically more hands-on. The summer after freshman year, there is a Summer Science Research Program where students work with faculty members on research projects and even receive a stipend. A similar program that runs the entirety of your sophomore year is the Aresty Research Assistant program in which you will work towards presenting your work at the university-wide research symposium. As you can see, there are many research opportunities to get involved in so early in your academic career. For more information: https://aresty.rutgers.edu/

So get out there, and get involved! Here’s to an awesome year!