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Join Clubs, Seek Jobs, Stay Connected, and Call Mom: SOE Alums Offer Advice to Class of 2026 Freshman

For new college students, the summer before freshman year is filled with a mixture of excitement and nervous energy. We know the University will take good care of you, by answering your questions, sending useful checklists, and getting the Goon Squad ready for its traditional welcome.

But who better to hear advice from than members of the School of Education’s global alumni network, who are ready to support and mentor the latest generation of SOE scholars. We put out the word for alums to provide their best advice to new Orange freshman, and here’s the practical, wise, and inspiring advice they offered …

Catch up on your sleep and buy a very warm and durable winter coat. You are in for one of the best times of your lives!
James ’69, Education Administration

You should know that change is both necessary and inevitable, so try to embrace it as best as you can. Growth is a beautiful, incredibly bittersweet process and there is (I’ve learned) nothing to fear from it. At the end of the day, that’s what you’re here for: to learn, to blossom, and to flourish into whoever it is you decide you’re going to be.

Part of that process though, is making mistakes, so be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and then keep going. The only thing you’ll regret over these next four years are the things you didn’t do, so make sure you do everything you can—go out on weeknights, dress up for themed parties, attend as many of your university’s sporting events as you can, and always call home at least once a week.

Do things you never gave yourself the liberty to do in high school—study abroad, revel in your newfound independence in whatever way you see fit, spend at least one summer on campus, and, perhaps most importantly, when you do finally find your voice, don’t ever be afraid to use it.
Paul ’95, English Education

“Revel in your newfound independence in whatever way you see fit, and when you do finally find your voice, don’t ever be afraid to use it.”

College will be some of the best days of your life, and also some of the worst. Oftentimes college life is a rollercoaster of emotions, and some days you will feel unstoppable and others you will want to hide under a rock. Handling adversity is the cornerstone of life, and how you handle your toughest days says so much about you. Life is supposed to be hard. Life is supposed to get frustrating. You’ve got this!
Sam ’00, Selected Studies

Get a work study job. I worked as a student caller starting my sophomore year, and I continued until I graduated. Fundraising for the University gave me purpose and a sense of paying it forward. What I didn’t know at the time was that I was learning customer service, conflict resolution. and interpersonal skills. Those skills have served me well in my career as an assistant principal.
Megan ’10, Selected Studies

You will be on your own now, so make sure you are putting your health first! Mental and physical health is so important, and I made sure to familiarize myself with services on campus. General wellness is something that will carry you through life, make sure you are your best advocate.
Alaina ’10, Inclusive Elementary & Special Ed Teacher Prep

Consider a small part-time job. I worked part-time in a local well-known pizza establishment when I was full-time at SU. Little did I know at the time that I would meet my best friends there, who were also SU students. 22 years later, we are still the best of friends!
Sara ’12, Inclusive Early Childhood Special Education

You will get frustrated with your professors if you get a bad grade. Whatever you do, fight the urge to post about it on social media. These things always have a way of coming to light, and it just isn’t worth it. Trust me on this one. I wish someone would’ve told me this!
Jessica ’14, Selected Studies

Join clubs—get out there and join and make new friends! For me joining clubs was particularly helpful when I was feeling homesick. Having a social network gave me a sense of belonging. I know alcohol and the bar scene is new and exciting, but be safe and don’t be foolish. I made way too many mistakes when I started college, and I wish I had taken the time to become more engaged in my community.

Participate in everything—even if it’s not your thing, you’ll probably find that if you participate you always have fun. Do not be that kid who is “too cool for school” because you will miss out.
Mike ’15, Physical Education

Go to class! It will be very easy to wake up one morning and think “I will just skip today and stay in bed.” Don’t do it! It is not worth hurting your GPA, and you will soon realize that just being in class will teach you things a textbook never could.
Katie ’18, Inclusive Elementary and Special Education

If you aren’t from Upstate New York, take advantage of the beauty of the four seasons. There is so much to do throughout the year.
Ben ’18, Inclusive Elementary and Special Education

“Participate in everything—even if it’s not your thing, you’ll probably find that if you participate you always have fun.”

Take naps when you can. Oftentimes eight hours of sleep is just not feasible, and you will hit a wall if you don’t get refreshed and reset. Trust me on this, even if it is a five-minute nap, it makes all the difference in the world.
Abigail ’19, Inclusive Elementary & Special Education Teacher Prep

Get to know your professors; these relationships are key. Forming these partnerships are so valuable as professors are often the gateway to employment, research opportunities, and supportive letters of recommendation.
Addison ’19, Selected Studies

Go pet the campus dogs! If you are feeling overwhelmed at any point, the adorable dogs at the Barnes Center are just what you need to recharge your battery. These furry friends will make you feel a sense of calm and love, which in the fast-paced college life is sometimes exactly what is needed.
Molly ’19, Inclusive Early Childhood Special Education

If you are interested in coaching interscholastic athletics, reach out to the athletic director (maybe even at the school where you have a placement) to seek out volunteer opportunities and gain valuable experience and insight, especially if a veteran coach is willing to take you under his or her wing.

Befriend and stay connected with members of your cohort, even if they are not in your content area. True story (because it’s mine) … A member of my cohort who had recently completed a term of student teaching was on the short list of candidates to replace someone who went on maternity leave in the same building. When asked, she replied that she was not interested in this particular position; however, she knew someone who would be. That someone was me. 23 years later—in that same position I later interviewed for—I’m still grateful that she thought of me right away!
Eugene G’98, Science Education/Chemistry Prep

It is never too late to change your major. I think one of my favorite quotes (from F. Scott Fitzgerald) does a pretty good job at summarizing the advice I would give: “For what it’s worth: it’s never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”
Sandy G’09, Literacy Education

Learn the basics—whether it is putting air in your car tires or doing laundry for the first time. These skills will stay with you for life. I went to college not knowing how what an insurance deductible was. When I had a minor health complication, I was confused and nervous and I realized quickly that if I had just learned how to navigate these things, I could’ve avoided so much stress in the long run.
Alexander G’12, Higher Education

Remember, you are not in high school anymore. Bad memories from high school? Leave them in the rearview mirror. College is a great time to make new friends and share new experiences.
Allison G’13, Cultural Foundations in Education