Looking back on their years as Mountain Hawks, seniors share their advice with younger and incoming students to make the most of their experiences at Lehigh.
As a Gryphon for first-year students, Alanna Lynch, ‘20, said she often sees incoming freshmen expecting to meet their friends in their classes, but she said for most students, this isn’t the case.
She said students shouldn’t be afraid to go out of their comfort zones and get involved with different clubs they are passionate about. That is where students end up meeting a lot of their friends, Lynch said.
“This is probably the four years of your life that you have the most opportunities to get involved in something different,” said Rhiannon Accetta, ‘20. “You might as well take advantage of trying something new.”
Anne Chabak, ‘20, said she knows it’s hard for students when they first get to campus, but she believes it is worth it.
Chabak said she got more involved her sophomore year, joining a sorority and a club sports team, which allowed her to make more friends than she did her first year.
Christopher Pineda, ‘20, said he recommends getting involved on campus early. He joined Engineers Without Borders his first year and stayed with the group throughout his time at Lehigh.
“I enjoyed their way of thinking and how they saw the world, so I stayed with that group throughout the years,” Pineda said. “And honestly, that selling point of a good club or organization that you’ve been a part of is really good for job recruiters.”
Lynch said when first adjusting to college, it’s normal for students to feel homesick. She is from Franklin, Massachusetts, and said she was especially homesick her freshman year.
If students are ever feeling homesick, Lynch said they should talk to other people because they are not alone.
Developing a strong support system during the first few months on campus is important, Lynch said.
One thing Lynch said she regrets is not making a greater effort to keep her freshman year friends as she got older and more involved on campus.
Even though some may think they have established all of their friends by senior year, it is likely easier to build new friendships and connections senior year, Accetta said. She said she believes she made most of her friends at the end of her Lehigh experience.
“Everybody on campus is a familiar face,” Accetta said. “We all have such a connection to each other because we’ve been at Lehigh for so long. You can relate to anybody that you meet on campus in some way.”
Getting involved in organizations around campus is also a great chance to meet upperclassmen who can give academic advice, Chabak said.
With registration for the fall semester, younger students have been reaching out to Chabak with questions about classes and professors.
“I think that’s very beneficial because there’s no use in making the same mistakes twice,” Chabak said. “Making friends and asking those questions is just going to help you in the long run.”
Accetta and Lynch both said for academics, students should take advantage of office hours and build relationships with their professors.
In high school, Accetta said she didn’t need to study as much, but when she arrived at Lehigh as a bioengineering major, she found herself overwhelmed.
Underclassmen should not be afraid to reach out to friends in their classes for help and also their professors, Accetta said.
Lynch, a biology major with a minor in health, medicine and society, said she always advises her residents to attend office hours. When professors see students making an effort, they are more likely to help them out, she said.
“Although they might be intimidating, every professor I’ve ever had has always been so willing to make time outside of class for you,” Accetta said. “They want to see you succeed. They don’t want you to be struggling and trying to figure it out yourself.”
Chabak, a double major in finance and marketing, said she wishes she had taken advantage of academic planning and her advisors during her earlier years to fully plan out her academics and schedule.
Going into her junior year, Chabak said she realized she had more room in her schedule than she anticipated, which is when she added marketing as her second major.
“I also totally could’ve just snuck in a minor in something, but I just never explored it because I was too focused on figuring out my major,” Chabak said.
Pineda, an electrical engineer major, is going on to work in sales engineering after graduating. To help with time management, he advises students to plan out a calendar with time slots set aside to do certain things.
“I know freshman year, I definitely didn’t do that, and I kept on forgetting about assignments or having to do them late and making up excuses,” Pineda said. “As soon as I got a calendar and got everything in place, I started doing significantly better in school.”
Lynch said she wishes she found a better balance between learning and self-care during her time at Lehigh. She kept academics first for the majority of her college career, but advises younger students to enjoy everything college has to offer while staying focused on academics.
Lynch said losing her second semester of senior year made her realize there were a lot of things she wishes she had done, so students should appreciate their time at Lehigh.
She said she wishes she had given up a few Friday and Saturday nights studying in the library to hang out with her friends. She said she also wishes she walked up to the Bethlehem Star.
Chabak’s biggest regret is not taking advantage of Lehigh’s study abroad opportunities. She said she had plans to go abroad during the spring semester of her junior year, but was apprehensive because she had never left the country before and backed out at the last minute.
“It’s such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and now I have a job lined up after graduation,” Chabak said. “I don’t know if I’m ever going to have that time to take off to really go immerse myself in another culture.”
Four years seems like a long time, but losing her final seven weeks at Lehigh made it feel like it went by too fast, Accetta said.
Accetta said she will remember memories from the first semester of her freshman year for the rest of her life.
Pineda said it was really nice to have people around to share and talk through ideas with. Students should really appreciate all the people they meet and the time they spend with each other, he said.
“There are a lot of diverse people in the Lehigh community,” Lynch said. “If you stay in your own little bubble, you won’t get the full Lehigh experience.”