How to Make Friends and Thrive in College

New graduates share advice they wish they’d heard as first-year students

By ANNIE BREEN, USF NEWS Posted Tue, 05/15/2018 - 10:32

With commencement around the corner, Class of 2018 graduates reveal hard-won exam tips, where to find the best campus view of Pacific sunsets, and how to find friends with the same interests.

Cassie Peabody

Be true to what got you here

Cassie Peabody JD '18 — Law

I was pleasantly surprised by how dedicated my law professors were to both our learning as future attorneys, and also to our success as people. If I had to advise an incoming student about how to survive law school, I’d lead with that reassurance. Then I’d say to stay strong in who you know yourself to be — that person got you this far. Don’t give in to the distractions that are always and inevitably around as everyone tries to figure out for themselves how to succeed during these three years.

I’d also tip them off that there are a lot of great jobs in the labor law field, and that it’s better to give more analysis than more law on exams. I’d remind them to exercise and try hard to eat normal meals, and clue them in to my favorite study spot (upstairs at Zief Library, in the back corner by the window overlooking Twin Peaks). Lastly, I’d make sure they knew what initially astounded me: Law students at USF really care about each other’s success, not just their own. 


Elise Tanyag

Find your tribe

Elise Tanyag '18 — Performing Arts & Social Justice, Music Concentration

I came to USF from a community college, and something that amazed me is how small the school actually is once you find your niche. I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to get involved in clubs and organizations on campus; I came not knowing a soul, and I’m leaving having found my second home.

So, first bit of advice: Put yourself out there and join something ... anything! The faculty can really help with that. For example, my performing arts instructor Rick Roberts helped me find and join SIX, the a cappella group that helped me develop a hidden talent for singing. PASJ teaches you how to use your craft in unorthodox and creative ways that have the power to influence people outside the performing arts world. Performing does take a lot of energy output, though, which brings me to my second piece of advice: Allow for some cozy downtime when you need to study solo. During the colder seasons I loved to park myself on the couch right in front of the fireplaces on the bottom floor of the UC.


Jackie Todani

Study the sunset

Jackie Todani '18 — Architecture + Community Design

USF taught me how important it is to truly be excited about what you do on a daily basis. Being an architecture major is a huge investment of your time and requires a lot of hard work, but if you love what you do as much as I did, it winds up not really feeling like work at all. I’d make sure to tell incoming architecture students to be prepared for years of late nights and group projects, which helps you to naturally develop an intimacy with your fellow students. By graduation, my studio-mates and professors had become my greatest support system. Hana Böttger, my favorite professor and my thesis adviser, personifies USF’s ethos of cura personalis (care for the whole person). Not only did she use real-world examples to make our architectural engineering classes come to life, but she also genuinely cared about us and our lives outside the classroom.

Practical tips that I’d give to any incoming freshmen? I’d tell them my favorite sneaky study spot was the Koret Deli (ideally right at sunset), and what I wish I’d known from the very beginning: that your OneCard gives you access to every single classroom.


Oeystein Vaagen

Go big on guest lectures

Oeystein Vaagen '18 — Finance

I made my initial decision to come to USF because of its location. As a finance major, I wanted to be in the middle of one of the biggest financial centers of the world. But USF came to mean much more to me than just its location. The professors and the experiences are what ended up impacting me the most ... my advice to prospective finance majors would be: Take a class with Professor Frank Ohara! I took two: Intermediate Corporate Finance and Financial Statement Analysis. He has a fantastic way of teaching; he demands participation and uses his vast industry knowledge in the classroom. More importantly, his classes have a big emphasis on real-world practical knowledge. The concepts I learned from him are what the finance industry is literally doing now, making his teaching directly impactful in real life. That practicality helped me significantly in interviews and internships.

Another tip would be to attend guest lectures. USF’s School of Management brings in many famous guest speakers, ranging from professionals to Nobel laureates. These are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities and you learn so much from the academics who actually created the models you are studying, which is quite inspiring.

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