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Going to college? First-year students have advice for you

 Red-headed college freshman in gold App State sweat shirt is seen through heads of her audience.For Gracie Herring, a 2020 North Lenoir High graduate who’s now a freshman at Appalachian State University, the best part of college life is being on her own five hours away from home. The worst part: being on her own five hours away from home.

“I’m a long way from my people,” Gracie said, “but at the end of the day I’m free.”

The situation’s similar for Sara Jones, who’s five hours away from home as a first-year student at the University of South Carolina. She tries to look on the bright side. “Being away from home really forced me to come out of my shell and be more myself and put myself out more.”

From dealing with homesickness, to picking roommates, to selecting courses, to navigating in the environment of a bigger school and bigger city to making up your mind about a major, 14 recent graduates of North Lenoir had advice this week for current North Lenoir students who expect to follow in their footsteps.

The Recent Grad College Panel, sponsored by the school’s College Ambassadors, is another of the student group’s activities designed to put schoolmates in a college-going frame of mind. Monday, the panel answered questions posed by moderators Rachel Hewett, a school counselor, and teacher Treva Romig.

Four female college freshmen speak during a panel discussion“This lets college seem attainable for our North Lenoir students,” Hewett said of the event. “Any of the fears and anxieties that current students have, this helps them feel at ease. And it’s the same thing for the students on the panel. They learn their classmates are going through the same things they are.”

The 14 students on the panel, all having just finished their first semester at college, represented a range of institutions, from community college to state universities, and a range of locations, both near home and far away.

The also represented a range of experiences. However, they could agree on one thing: you’re responsible for your own success.

“Surround yourself with people who are motivated in school,” Shane Swindell, who’s now at the University of North Carolina. “I found there are a lot of people who don’t care about school. They may be your best friends, but in the end they’ll bring you down.”

Some other helpful hints from the Recent Grad panel:

About course selection: Make sure you know what you’re in for and that you have the necessary prerequisites. “Microbiology is the hardest class I’ve ever taken,” Shelby Lee, a student at Lenoir Community College, said. “If you’re majoring in health science or nursing or anything and you have to take that class, take a regular bio class first because it will save you. I did not feel prepared.”

Brunette female college freshman in glasses is seen through the heads of her audience.About the biggest adjustment: Essentially, you’re removed from your comfort zone in about every way. “You have to start over. It’s like high school freshman year all over again,” Lynecia Barrow, an North Carolina Central University student, said.

About choosing a roommate: Unless you already know your roomie – panelists Olivia Sutton and Taylor Fussell room together at East Carolina University and like it – be sure to take advantage of the process colleges have in place for researching potential roommates. “If you’re going to room with someone you don’t know, try to match decently with them. But also know you don’t have to be best friends with them, because chances are ya’ll are going to find other people,” said Sadie Carlyle, who’s moving on to N.C. State University next semester after finishing up at Wake Tech Community College.

About dealing with stress: Don’t make it harder than it has to be. “One of the biggest illusions I found about college is that you look around and you think everyone around you has their stuff together,” UNC student Anna Rouse said. “You compare yourself to them subconsciously because you think, I don’t have anything figured out. It’s a lot at first. That was my thing. I was stressed out a lot about it and it was completely needless stress. You find out over time that things work out. You just have to be yourself and everything’s going to fall into place.”

Photo captions (from top):

Gracie Herring, Appalachian State University

Anna Rouse, second from right, a 2020 graduate of North Lenoir High School who’s now a first-year student at the University of North Carolina, imparts advice to college-bound North Lenoir students this week during an event sponsored by the school’s College Ambassadors student group. Fourteen first-year students comprised the panel, including, from left, Gracie Herring, Appalachian State University; Lynecia Barrow, N.C. Central University; Rouse; and Kimberly Vazquez-Marin, N.C. State University.

Sara Jones, University of South Carolina