Student Login


First-year files: life at a large, public, flagship university

February 15th, 2022

Being the new kid isn’t always easy, but when you go away to college you are literally surrounded by thousands of students in the same boat. Making friends at a large, public university may seem harder than it actually is but getting involved goes a long way.

Jenna P., a freshman at the University of Michigan, opens up about her experience as an east coast girl moving to the midwest. Self-advocating and seeking out resources is the way to succeed academically and socially at a large university. Jenna’s willingness to be an active participant in the school community has led to a great experience, and we hope her reflections help current Shrop Ed advisees as they contemplate their futures.

Jenna’s first year experience from the University of Michigan is shared below …

My first semester at the University of Michigan has been absolutely amazing and I could not be happier that I ended up here. Initially during my college application process I felt that a small school in a rural environment would best fit the type of student I am, then I ended up at Michigan, pretty much the opposite of that description.

The first week of school was definitely overwhelming. I was coming from the east coast and knew nobody, like many other college freshmen being dropped off on a brand new campus can invoke a lot of stress. Unlike other schools Michigan did not have a proper in-person orientation and “welcome week” was students walking around campus and dorms with new friends instead of faculty members or RAs guiding students through the transition.

I am a Biology, Health, and Society major in the College of Literature, Sciences, and the Arts. I was able to take two smaller classes with all freshmen which was a great transition as these courses have lighter workloads and are pretty straight forward. There are so many small classes called First Year Seminars that you can take as a freshman on super interesting topics. I took one class last semester on Diseases, Vaccines, and Pandemics. This semester I am taking a First Year Seminar on the Psychology of Politics. I also took two larger, lecture-style courses last semester (Data Science and Introductory Biology). These courses were a huge adjustment for me from my smaller high school. The introductory STEM classes here have large workloads and require a lot of individual teaching and studying for exams. After the first couple exams I was able to get a hang of the amount of time and energy I needed to put into each class and there are so many resources out there like study groups, tutors, practice exams, etc., you just need to seek them out because passively learning in these classes makes it very hard to succeed. Similarly to most Universities, the major students choose at Michigan highly dictates their workload. 

Socially, Michigan is a great place for all types of people. I am in Mary Markley Hall, a large dorm that’s a 10 minute walk from central campus. Markley is a super social dorm, there are lots of common spaces and a dining hall in the dorm. While other dorms have been renovated more recently, people in Markley constantly have their doors open and are socializing all hours of the day so meeting people is super easy. 

Greek life is very prevalent and many freshmen get involved. The rush process for fraternities is less official and guys begin joining fraternities in the fall and continue and after winter break. I am currently in the process of rushing a sorority. While I was able to find a really great friend group first semester I was really drawn to the idea of living in a sorority house and meeting even more people. The rush process is on zoom this year and has been time consuming but not negative at all. A lot of the culture here also revolves around sports. In the fall, home football games take up many Saturdays. Tailgates start early and whether you want to go out all day, just go to the game, or stay in and study, there are people doing everything. Once football season was over there were opportunities to get basketball and hockey tickets, if you want to go to a sporting event or tailgate you can.

First semester I rushed a Biology fraternity which I didn’t even know existed. It has been super helpful in getting professional advice and they hold workshops on interviews, resumes, headshots, etc. There are so many professional fraternities to get involved in as well and this is another great way to meet people. I also joined a recreational tennis team where I can play tennis on indoor courts with a group of people once a week. Club sports teams can be super intense but there are thousands of intramurals and other groups to join. I’ve gotten involved with Hillel on campus as well. Michigan has a pretty large Jewish population and so many different organizations to get involved whether you are religious or not.

The main thing I’ve found at Michigan is that learning how to be independent and advocate for yourself are so important and at a school with this many resources you can really do anything you’d like. Don’t be scared off by Michigan’s reputation or size because there are so many different types of people here and you will find your group. Everyone on campus is so happy and excited to be a member of the community.

Thank you, Jenna, for your generosity in sharing these thoughts. We wish you continued success and happiness at Michigan!