Upperclassmen share advice for new students: Join a community and don’t be afraid to ask for help

graduation hat with lightbulb, saying "seniors to freshmen"

Navigating the transition to a fully remote and virtual school environment can be daunting. At CUNY SPS, where the majority of classes operate asynchronously, the challenge of self-guided learning can feel overwhelming. That’s why current CUNY SPS students have shared advice to ease the transition for incoming freshmen just starting their journey and transfer students alike. 

Manage your time and stay organized

Many current students emphasize the importance of managing time and staying organized. Self-discipline and self-motivation are crucial in an asynchronous learning environment. With  many students juggling full-time jobs or parenting responsibilities, time management becomes even more essential. 

“Time management was very hard and stressful… [so] make a schedule! I can’t stress this enough,” says Komal Mehmood, a sophomore at CUNY SPS. 

Echoing this sentiment, a graduate student majoring in Psychology, Kaci Conley suggests, “My advice to freshmen would be to always follow the syllabi, work ahead when possible, reach out for support if needed, and believe in yourself—you got this!”

Find and join a community 

One of the biggest challenges students face is feeling isolated and being unaware of the numerous online clubs and communities at CUNY SPS. “Try to be a participant of at least one club,” says Amarna Williams, a senior in the Disability Services in Higher Education program. “You will feel more like a part of a community.”

Williams added that the bi-annual club week, in-person events, and club group chats on WhatsApp helped her feel more included. Similarly, Katie York, a graduate student in the Disability Services in Higher Education program, found support by joining Discord servers and interacting with peers with similar interests. 

CUNY SPS has a large and diverse list of clubs catering to various interests and communities. If a certain club you want is missing, reach out to Parshotam Lal, the CUNY SPS student life coordinator, via email for guidance on how to get started.

Get familiar with the tech and resources

When Nurhan Michel attended CUNY SPS as an undergrad, she found herself struggling to get accustomed to the Blackboard interface. Now, with the upcoming transition to a new learning management system Brightspace in 2024, students may need assistance to fully understand how to utilize the site. Anyone with questions can reach out to Ruru Rusmin, the transition lead for Brightspace at CUNY SPS. 

Another invaluable resource for students is the Baruch College Library, accessible to all CUNY SPS students. In addition to its extensive online database, students can opt to visit the library in-person. 

Luise Gutierrez, a senior, especially emphasizes the importance of using the library and other resources. “As a new online student, consider also utilizing resources like the orientation programs, academic advisement, and online tutoring services. And familiarize yourself with the online learning tools,” he advises.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Many current students have expressed feeling overwhelmed, anxious, and uncertain when starting at CUNY SPS. The most common advice for freshmen is to ask for help. “Get support and ask for help when needed. There’s so many resources to help students succeed,” says Nasrin Nahar, a senior in the Health Service Administration major. Another student, Genesis Fernandez, has a similar sentiment: “Advocate for yourself. It’s your education and future. If you don’t care, people will much less.” 

Especially concerning mental health and disability access, many recommend using the counseling services and accommodations available for students. “SPS counseling service is a very good productivity tool to address anxiety and other blocks that students may face,” explains Nahar. “Also getting registered with disability services and getting approved for extra time to submit assignments.” 

Jen DeMesquita, a graduate student in the Disability Services program, reflects on her own experience, wishing she had sought assistance from the school’s disability services office sooner. “There is no shame in asking for help, and accommodations are legally required for a reason!” 

Above all, current students want freshmen to remember and be proud of all that they’ve already accomplished. “Make yourself at home. We are a family here. If you have difficulty, seek help because everyone here supports each other,” urges Michel. 

Nahar adds, “Take time to be proud of all that you’ve accomplished and know that this degree is yours.”

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