Freshman Friday: Things I wish I knew as a freshman

November 11, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today Nell, our Communications Intern and a UM senior, provides some advice she wishes she had as a first-year student. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.
"advice" booth
I’ve had some of the best years of my life at this school, and I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. I remember my first night in the dorm, first time in a dining hall, first college exam, and first frat party. Now that I’m a senior, I can reflect on the things I wish I knew, or would have done differently. Here’s my list — feel free to learn from my mistakes, but be sure to make plenty of your own!

Academic and Career Planning

  • Choosing your college major doesn’t necessarily mean choosing your life’s path. As you grow as a person, your interests and goals will change, and that’s ok. Study something that interests you, and figure out how to apply the skills you acquire to a career.
  • Don’t put off taking the classes you’re dreading. I dreaded Statistics, so I waited until I was a junior to take the class which is required for my major. By that time, I had lost most of my (minimal) math skills from high school, and I felt silly asking younger people for help.
  • Advising is a two-way street. Your assigned academic advisor is a great resource, however, they’re not going to come to you. We go to a huge university, so you need to be proactive in mapping out your academic plan. The same goes for career advising. Don’t wait until you’re a junior or senior to visit your advisor — go early and often.

Coursework and (Social-)Life

  • Sleep is as important as studying and shouldn’t be compromised. If I had known this as a freshman, I probably wouldn’t have spent so much time sleeping in the League,  nor would I have spent so much money on Redbull. 7 hours of sleep a night, you can do it.
  • You should never need to pull an all-nighter. Know when your exams and papers are and plan accordingly. Sleep is essential (see above).
  • Librarians can be an amazing resource for any type of research you need to do. They WANT to help you and they are some of the friendliest people you will encounter. If you need to find a book or online source, simply find an information desk and ask for help.
  • It’s always worth keeping in touch with a good friend. Your social circle will grow as you move through school, and some friends will get pushed to the edge of that circle. Regardless of how far apart you live or how busy you are, make time for the friends who matter.


  • One bad grade won’t ruin your life. If I could go back in time and tell my younger self one thing, it would be this: chill out. Bad grades happen.
  • On the other hand, too many bad grades will ruin your GPA, and that’s hard to fix. If I could go back in time and tell some of my friends one thing, it would be this: freshman year grades matter. Some people I know are still trying to raise their GPA after a lackluster freshman year performance.

The list could go on and on, but as long as you remember that college is all about balance, you’ll have some of the best years of your life; I certainly did.

Photo credit: laughlin/CC BY 2.0

Freshman Friday: Major Decisions

November 4, 2011

fortune cookie: "Any decision you have to make tomorrow is a good decision"Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today we’re talking about selecting a major. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.

One of the most exciting things about being a first-year student at Michigan is the 200+ areas of study that are available to you as you get closer to selecting a major. On the other hand, one of the most stressful things about being a first-year student is picking one of the 200+ areas of study that are available!

Whether you find that variety exciting or overwhelming, two things are important to remember as you consider your Winter semester courses and eventual selection of a major somewhere down the road:

1. Your major does not necessarily = your career

2. The skills developed through your coursework can provide a great foundation for many different career paths

You can (and should!) meet with an academic advisor to talk through specifics about courses, requirements, majors, etc. Try to gain a better understanding of your fit with and interest in the coursework — not just in terms of subject, but in the type of work as well. For example, are you interested in courses that are mainly based on problem solving (e.g. Economics, Physics), or courses mainly based on research and evaluation of information/evidence (e.g. History, Psychology)?

We also have a host of ‘major to career’ resources on our website, such as our career guides which list ideas of skills and potential career paths based on specific majors. And you can always make an appointment with us to talk about how your current interests might lead to a variety of different careers after graduation.

Photo credit: Aqsa Hu/CC BY 2.0

Freshman Friday: Contract for Success

October 28, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today we’re talking about the Contract for Success. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.

Earlier this semester, you may have seen the 2011 LSA Welcome Video from Phil Deloria, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. He provides some great advice for first-year students, and mentions the LSA Contract for Success [pdf] as a tool to help you intentionally focus on developing your skills, and develop the story of your career at Michigan.

While it was created by LSA, for LSA students, the framework it provides — engagement on campus (both inside and outside the classroom), and self-awareness/reflection — is useful for any University of Michigan student interested in getting the most out of their time here. To learn more, you can visit And be sure to meet with us here at The Career Center so we can help you think about the ways to fulfill your contract, and reflect on those experiences!

Freshman Friday: Exploring Careers

October 21, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today we’re talking about career exploration. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.

I recently came across a great article, The 10 Worst Mistakes of First-Time Job Hunters. The whole thing is worth a read, but one item in particular struck me as very relevant to first-year students:

“I would have done more to figure out what my career goals were.”

Your first job out of college is unlikely to be your dream position, if you even know what that is. Indecision can hold you back, so set up some informational interviews to try to narrow your focus.

Don’t be afraid to try something that you’re initially lukewarm about, said Pollak. “I don’t believe in dead-end jobs when you’re early in your career,” she said, “because everything is experience.”

There’s actually a couple great pieces of advice in there for first-year students, even though it’s aimed at seniors. The first is that you should be considering your career goals now, even though those goals might change throughout your time here at Michigan. Your time spent as an undergraduate is a great opportunity to explore different career paths through opportunities like internships, volunteering, part-time jobs, coursework, and student organizations. For most people, their ideal career path doesn’t come to them like a lightbulb above the head — so you’ll need to make a concerted effort toward exploring multiple options (we can help with that).

The second piece of advice embedded in the excerpt is the idea that you don’t need to ‘officially’ decide on a path before you start exploring. Some people mistakenly think that deciding to explore a specific option somehow implies commitment to that path. Because of this, they spend an inordinate amount of time in a sort of “career exploration limbo.” Your time is wasted if you neglect to explore your options because you’re not “100% sure” that particular path is right for you. Worst-case scenario, you might find out for sure that a particular career is not right for you. While it might seem counter-productive, that knowledge is actually valuable. A better understanding of why you didn’t like something can help you better identify what you will like as you explore other options.

Take a look at the rest of the tips in The 10 Worst Mistakes of First-Time Job Hunters, and make an appointment with us to talk about what you can do now to avoid running into those problems yourself!

Freshman Friday: Emerging Wolverines

October 14, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today is a reminder about a great program for first-year students. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.

So, this is your first Fall Break! You made it, half-way to the end of the term – congratulations first-year students!
wolverine cub in the wild
But, now what? Not sure about majors? Thinking about internships, but don’t know what that means? When asked “What are you going to do after graduation”, do you know how to respond? You just finished 6 weeks of classes, and now you are being asked to plan out your life? Never fear, Emerging Wolverines is here!

Emerging Wolverines is a group experience for first-year students to learn about themselves and what their career interests might be. Students in the group will take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (Free of charge) to learn about their personality types. Then, we will work in groups of similar type to explore majors, careers, campus involvement, internships…you name it, we’ll explore it.

By working in a group environment with other first-year students who are sharing the same concerns (and an enthusiastic Career Coach), students will gain confidence answering all sorts of questions about their future.

To participate, simply tell us why you want to join the group!
Email a short response (500 words max) to by 10/20.

Photo credit: Karin Jonsson/CC BY 2.0

Freshman Friday: On the importance of journaling

October 7, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today we’re focusing on the importance of journaling — your future self will be thankful! You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.

journal pagesKeeping a journal can help you take periodical reflective pauses to understand the meaning, implications, and consequences of what you are experiencing in the classroom and in your activities. We are not talking about a daily journal, but rather of a collection of occasional entries triggered by an incident, a reading, an encounter, and so forth. Journaling is not only a way to record the facts that you observe and your feelings about them; it is also an important step in becoming a reflective practitioner. As an added bonus, your journal will also become a helpful resource when you prepare your presentation materials for job/internship searches and graduate school applications. Think of the steps of journaling as:


Here is a possible framework for your entries. Include:

  • the cause, description and outcome of a critical incident, reading, class, project, patient encounter, etc.
  • your feelings and perceptions of the situation
  • actions taken by you and/or others during the situation
  • changes (if any) in your future behavior and/or steps to take as a result of this experience

If you want to become proficient at putting together a successful written presentation (i.e., resume, cover letters, application statements, etc.) and in person (think of interviews) start journaling now!

Photo credit: joannao/CC BY 2.0

How one first-year student took advantage of The Career Center

October 4, 2011

The internship search can be a somewhat daunting task for a first-year student still exploring a variety of career interests, and still trying to find his or her place here on campus. Today, sophomore Lauren Gardner shares her experience seeking out internships last year, and how she took advantage of the resources our office has to offer. Lauren was an intern last summer with Red Frog Events, an organization that will be in attendance at Fall Career Expo, and a co-host of the upcoming Marketing & Event Planning Immersion Excursion over fall break.Lauren Gardner in Chicago

Coming to the University of Michigan, like a lot of incoming freshmen, I thought I had made up my mind on what my major was going to be. Everyone kept telling me that I was going to change as I tried new things, but I believed that I knew what I wanted and nothing was going to stop me.

One year and at least six different majors later, I’m still undeclared.

Looking back today, over a year later, one of the best influences that I found on campus was the The Career Center. They helped me find a direction and path for my college education. It all started with a simple career-assessment test, which showed me where my skills and interests lay. From there, I made an appointment with a career counselor, who helped me prepare everything I needed for my internship search.

Second semester of my freshman year, taking my first step into the Winter Career Expo was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. The Union was filled with recruiters and upperclassmen — I felt like I was going to stick out like a sore thumb. But I built up the courage and did what I came to do. After waiting in line for over an hour, I finally was given the chance to speak to a recruiter for Red Frog Events, an event planning company based out of Chicago, IL. They were so popular among the recruits that I just assumed they would forget about me — a little freshman, with limited experience, vying for an internship that only one out of every 150 candidates receive.

With each step in the interview process, from the phone interview to the in-person interview, The Career Center helped me prepare with helpful advice, useful online tools and practice. At the same time, I fell more in love with Red Frog Events and their incredible work environment—complete with a zip line, slide, tree houses, candy machines and fully-stocked bar. When I received the phone call telling me that I’d gotten the internship, I couldn’t help but squeal with excitement!

The opportunity to work for Red Frog Events was one of the greatest summers of my entire life. I learned new things about myself that I didn’t even know I had in me. As the youngest person in the office, at just 18 years old, I came in on day one thinking that I was going to have no chance in a sea of older, smarter and more experienced peers. But boy, was I wrong! I did not get lost among my co-workers, but rather, I flourished. They brought out the best in me, in ways I didn’t even think possible. My fellow Tadpoles were more than just co-workers; I consider them role models and friends—even today after the internship has ended. Red Frog gave me the chance to travel all around the country, plan events for 20,000+ participants and work in many different areas such as marketing, social media and sponsorship. I came out at the end of this past summer a new, more organized, more confident and happier person. Red Frog taught me to dream big and ever since, I’ve never looked back.

Freshman Friday: Fall Career Expo

September 30, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. Today’ we’re focusing on next week’s Fall Career Expo. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here.

You’ve only been here for a month, so it may seem a little weird to suggest attending a career fair. And yet, take a look at what our peer advisors have to say about attending Fall Career Expo during their first two years here at Michigan:

Lizzy, now a senior majoring in Spanish and Communications, has been going to Fall Career Expo since she was a first year student, even though she knows it’s not common for students to attend in their first year:

“Going as a 1st year and sophomore gave me a chance to try out wearing a suit, shaking hands and waiting in lines.  It was great practice: getting comfortable talking with employers and building relationships for this year.”

Chatoris started going to Expo as a sophomore (he’s a Political Science major) and even though he was a little bummed that most of the internships were for juniors, he didn’t get discouraged. Chatoris had a great conversation with L’Oreal; they invited him to their presentation later that night and he stayed in email contact with the recruiter during the year:

“I still gave out resumes and didn’t feel like it was a waste of my time because ultimately it will benefit me.  Going as a sophomore really helped me get prepared for going back this year and re-connecting with L’Oreal and other organizations with internships.”

Our Fall Career Expo is October 4th and 5th, and there are 16 organizations specifically targeting first and second year students.  Start with these freshman friendly organizations and, like Chatoris, build your professional community by asking questions like:
       What types of projects do your interns work on?
       What makes an internship resume standout?
       What’s my next step if I’m interested in applying for your internship?

There are also 80 other organizations attending Expo.  Take Lizzy’s advice and get comfortable chatting with employers.  Some great questions to start with include:
       What advice do you have for first year students?
       What can I be doing in the next two years to make me a competitive internship candidate when I’m a junior?

Here are just a few of the Expo organizations interested in meeting with first year students.  Visit the Expo website to see the complete list.

Aisin World Corp. of America / Aisin Technical Center of America – Marketing/Sales Internships
Red Frog Events – Event Planning Internships
Johnson Controls – Internships in Sales/Marketing, Human Resources, Supply Chain and more
Steelcase – Internships in Supply Chain, Operations, Finance

Our career coaches will be at Expo as well.  Be sure to stop by — we’re excited chat with you and look forward to working with you throughout your Michigan years!

Emerging Wolverines: an exciting group experience for first-year students

September 26, 2011

wolverine cub in the wildEmerging Wolverines is an interactive and year-long group experience for first year students who want to:

  • Learn about themselves in a small group environment with other first year students
  • Explore career and campus opportunities, using the MBTI (personality assessment tool)
  • Gain clarity about present and future goals

Emerging Wolverines will take the MBTI personality Assessment Tool (free of charge) and work in small groups over the course of the academic year exploring how personality influences campus involvement and future career choices. Students will meet approximately once a month in small groups, and will engage in thought provoking activities outside of group time together. Through active participation in group meetings and activities, students will gain a greater understanding of themselves and their future goals as Wolverines!

To participate, simply tell us why you want to join the group!
Email a short response (500 words max) to by 10/20.

Questions? Email us at or contact Amy Hoag or Amy Homkes-Hayes at The Career Center (734-764-7460).

Photo credit: Karin Jonsson/CC BY 2.0

Freshman Friday: What do I do if I missed Festifall?

September 16, 2011

Every Friday, we’ll be highlighting some helpful information specifically for first-year students. You can take a look at all the Freshman Friday posts here. If you’re a first-year with a question you’d like us to address, or an upperclass student with some helpful words of advice, send them to Scott at!

After a false start the day prior, Festifall was moved to last Friday, September 9th. Lots of students made it out and learned all about the various student organizations on campus, but maybe you couldn’t make it. Whether the date change conflicted with your schedule, you didn’t want to brave the weather, or just didn’t know about it, here are some ways to get involved on campus if you missed Festifall:

Check out Maize Pages
A comprehensive directory of nearly 1300 student organizations, Maize Pages is the first place you should look if you’d like a sampling of all the ways to get involved on campus. Recently redesigned, you can easily browse Maize Pages by organization type, or by tags such as “service,” “multicultural,” “social,” and “business.”

Keep an eye out
This is a college campus — there are flyers EVERYWHERE. Most organizations put them up in preparation for mass meetings and large events, and they tend to find the places where freshmen most often pass by: dorms, the Angell Hall posting wall, inside Dennison, and the Union/League are just a few examples. Put your phone back in your pocket as you walk through campus and see if anything catches your eye!

Health-oriented volunteering
If you’re considering medicine or any other health-related field, it’s a good idea to start volunteering early. We’ve put together this handy list of local(-ish) places that UM students look to most often: [PDF]. Find a few that line up with your interests and see if they are in need of some help. This is a great chance to start exploring the wide variety of paths you can take in the health professions.

Talk to friends, classmates, and hallmates
One of the biggest benefits of being a Freshman is that you’re constantly surrounded by your peers, whether you’re in class, going out for fun, or at home in your dorm. Take advantage of that by talking to as many people as possible, and find out how they’re spending their free time. Tag along with a buddy to a mass meeting or an event that sounds interesting — it can be a little less intimidating if you already know at least one person there!

Getting involved outside of the classroom is a great way to get the most out of your Michigan experience. You can meet new people, gain valuable leadership skills, and put some extra time and energy into something that you feel passionate about. The fact that you’re here at UM means that you were probably active in many extracurricular activities in high school — don’t let this year pass by before you start to get involved as a college student!


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