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August 06, 2015

Philly professors school the Class of 2019 on college life

Local instructors dispense words of wisdom to incoming freshmen

Lifestyle College
Student college File Art/for PhillyVoice

Student loan debt is a concern for many throughout the Philadelphia region. City Council has approved the creation of a committee to evaluate ways to reduce student loan debt for residents of the city.

As Philadelphia's many colleges and universities prepare for the new school year, thousands of freshmen eagerly wait in the wings to begin their next journey. Leaving one's comfort zone is always a dubious endeavor, but entering college can be one of the most rewarding, if challenging, experiences of a young life.

Below, professors and administrators from some of Philadelphia's dozens of schools leave their words of wisdom for the Class of 2019. Here's hoping they take this advice from their future teachers to heart before stepping onto campus. 

Do you have some advice for this year's college freshmen? Leave it in the comments below!

On getting an education:

"Be bold and talk to someone new every day. Be inquisitive and ask questions. Take in all that your university offers. Don’t wait until your last semester to know every resource on campus."
- Anne Massoni, photography program director at University of the Arts  

"Don’t friend your professors on Facebook because they can then see that you are posting during class time! And call your mother once in a while; she misses you very much." 
- Catherine Bentzley, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia

"Get to know one of your professors well each semester. Go to his/her office hours. After your four years, you will have eight people who can offer recommendations for you."
Linda Boettcher, director of academic advising at the Office for Undergraduate Students at Villanova’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

"This bit of advice may seem like self-promotion as I direct The Writing Center at St. Joseph’s, but I am going to offer it anyway. Your college has a writing center. In fact, the Philly area is chock full of excellent writing centers doing amazing work. Find out where it is, pop by and make it your new best friend. Whatever writing you did in high school, no matter how accomplished you were, or weren’t, no matter how much you loved or hated it, writing in college is a whole new ballgame. Writing center staffs, most often made up of fellow college students who have a passion for writing and for helping people, can help you at any stage of the writing process for any assignment for any class. Best of all, it’s free. Trust me, after you leave college, you’ll have to pay people to give you good, critical feedback on your writing. So take advantage of it now."
Dr. Jenny Spinner, associate professor of English and director of The Writing Center at St. Joseph's University

"Get to know your professors. They are people, too. And the more constructive criticism they give you, the more it means that they care. They are there to help you. So don't be afraid to ask them for it. They actually do remember what it was like their first year in college."
- Kaley Carpenter, Ph.D., Lawrence C. Gallen Fellow in the Humanities, Augustine and Culture Seminar Program at Villanova University 

"Do not procrastinate. Get things done. Putting things off and letting tasks pile up is one of the most stress-inducing habits you can form at Drexel — if not in life. Look for courses and professions you will enjoy. Education and life should be a pleasure. If it’s not, think about ways to change your direction."
- Irvin Peckham, Ph.D., director of First-Year Writing Program and teaching professor at Drexel University

"The most important thing is that you don't get a chance to redo this moment. Take being in school with all the seriousness that you can muster."
- Robert Roesch, chair of sculpture & extended media at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

"Reach out to your professors. Recognize that they learn from you, too – your success is their success. All-nighters are overrated. Get out of your comfort zone. Don’t obsess about grades. Of course, you should maintain a respectable GPA but what matters more is what you learned, not the grade you earned. Spend time learning how to communicate. Speaking and writing clearly are skills that can be learned. Practice, practice, practice."
- Gigi McGee, professor of graphic design at Moore College of Art & Design

On the college experience: 

"College is hard and should be considered a full-time job. You should be working 40 hours/week doing all the cliché things: Learn to study hard, go to class, develop a schedule, visit your professors' office hours, don't procrastinate AND still have fun." 
- Catherine Bentzley

"My advice is to study what you love. You can major in art history or English and still go to med school or work on Wall Street. Good critical-thinking skills are what matter. And take time to have fun. Success in college is about balance." 
- Camille Charles, professor of sociology, Africana studies & education director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

"Open yourself up to new experiences. College life is unlike high school in that it’s yours to make what you want out of it, and it’s unlike the "real world” in that you have a bit of a safety net just in case you need it. Take a chance and don’t let insecurities and anxieties keep you from having a full experience."  
- Anne Massoni

"It is a privilege to spend four years of your life being challenged with information that you did not know and ideas you haven't considered. Don't waste a single day of it."
- Kaley Carpenter

"Take the risk of making new friends. Share your experiences — you will find many other first-year students going through what you are going through. Your first year at Drexel will change you. You are entering a new life. Be ready for change. Welcome it — that’s part of taking risks."
- Irvin Peckham, Ph.D.

"Show up. Seems basic but it's half the battle.
Say yes. Throw yourself into opportunities.
Ask for help. There isn't one problem students have that we haven't solved before.
Talk to people. Even if they have an accent or don't look like you."
Dr. Jonathan Deutsch, director of the Center for Hospitality and Sport Management at Drexel University

"Use this opportunity of coming to college to learn and grow, be accountable and strive for excellence in everything you do and understand that excellence is different than perfection. Excellence is the end result of a process that is tied to making mistakes, taking risks and being resilient. As a creative person ultimately seeking a meaningful career, know that curiosity is the lifelong trait to cultivate— even more important than passion. And don’t be afraid to ask for help!"
Belena Chapp, director of the Locks Career Center at Moore College of Art & Design

On landing a job after graduation:

"Don’t be afraid to try new things, admit ignorance and make mistakes. YOLO. Use college as a testing ground for different career options through volunteering and internships. Returning from an internship and discovering you hate your field is just as valuable as learning you love it."
- Catherine Bentzley

"Engage in any activity where you can test your classroom learning and interests. This exploration can happen through internships, job shadowing and informational interviews with friends, family and your school’s alumni population. You will learn about different pathways and learn about yourself, setting you on a path to discover your dream job. Strongly consider what “dream job” means to you. There are many factors to consider, and thinking about those factors intentionally will help guide your decision-making process. 
Another piece of advice to keep in mind is that no matter what the job, if you consistently come from a frame that each position is a learning opportunity, you will continue to develop and grow as a person, leading you closer and closer to your dream job, whatever it is or may become." 
- Katie Krimmel, associate dean of the Leadership, Innovation and the Liberal Arts Center at Bryn Mawr College

"Explore multiple interests in your college courses, even when — perhaps especially when — they are outside of the narrow trajectory of your major. The person who has an intriguing and unexpected mixture of interests and capabilities — like computer science and theology, or physics and literature, or philosophy and political science — is the one who will be noticed by prospective employers, especially when it’s obvious that you explored these interests with intrepid curiosity and you’ve developed some particular skills because of them. So don’t be afraid of variety; embrace it, and let it help you become an individual with something unique to share with employers and with the world."
- Marylu Hill, director of The Augustine and Culture Seminar and director of the Villanova Center for Liberal Education at Villanova University

"In the arts it’s not who does the correct job, it's the artist who brings something new to the table that survives. Learn how the art world operates and find a place where you are comfortable and live it, yes, while you are in school. The day you graduate should be the same as the day you first turn the key in your new studio. Just another work day with a long-term goal built in."
- Robert Roesch

"Stay young, stay hip, stay current!" 
- Heather Ujiie, adjunct orofessor of fine arts (textiles), fashion and interior design at Moore College of Art & Design