SHAWNEE—Freshman year. When it comes to planning for college, the thought of being a freshman seems at once exciting and electric, while also yielding some anxiety and uncertainty.
Adjusting to college life is a big step for all college-bound high school graduates. For the high school graduating class of 2020, this year held even more challenges, with adapting to the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic at both the end of high school as well as the beginning of their college careers.
Yet, at Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), freshmen have the opportunity to find a sense of belonging and community from their earliest days on campus. While freshmen experience many “firsts” on Bison Hill, as they navigate homework loads, live away from home, adjust to dorm life and learn to make new friends, new students at OBU find an amazing experience on campus as they learn and grow into their new role as college students.
College classes can be an adjustment in themselves, and balancing the work of several college classes and class schedules can be a big adjustment for freshmen.
“My classes are going pretty well,” said nursing major Anna Black. “I am in several classes that are fairly difficult, so I have a lot of homework on a regular basis. My favorite class is my algebra class because I really enjoy the professor, Dr. Cherith Tucker. She is really funny and relatable.”
Freshman vocal music education major Emily Day said life on Bison Hill has been both challenging and rewarding this fall.
“All of my classes are music-related classes, except one,” she said. “Being a music major is more difficult than people may think, because we have so many one-hour classes. I am in 15 hours of classes right now, and all of them are going well.”
With new college classes comes new homework loads, and students must find ways to adjust to the workloads of multiple college classes.
“It’s been a big shock. I wasn’t expecting it be so much, but I have gotten into the swing of things. I have had help from some upperclassmen music majors. They have helped me make my study schedule and manage my time,” Day said.
OBU is home to all kinds of clubs, organizations and activities where students can participate and contribute. It is important to get involved on campus and plugged into an organization that is a good fit. However, it can be hard to find the balance between campus activities and schoolwork as a freshman.
“I am involved in Freshman Follies, the 519 Collective Band and Bisonnettes. It can be overwhelming to be involved in so many things, but I am getting to do what I love in the midst of it all,” Day said.
Morgan Landes, freshman family science major, thinks she is adjusting pretty well.
“I am on the women’s golf team, and it has not been as difficult to balance school, sports and a social life as much as I thought it would be. I just plan ahead, and I can generally balance it all pretty well,” Landes said.
One of the biggest adjustments that freshmen often make is moving away from home. The freedom of being on your own also comes with great responsibility. Dorm style living is an experience in itself.
“I love dorm life,” Day said. “I am from Shawnee, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to move on campus or not, but I am so glad that I chose to live on campus. I feel so plugged in and have met so many friends on my hall.”
Being a new freshman in college is a big adjustment in itself, but being a college freshman during a worldwide pandemic is even more challenging. As OBU freshmen navigate the changes of being on their own, the class of 2024 faces the challenges of getting involved and meeting new friends behind facial coverings and amid physical distancing restrictions.
“It is difficult to make friends on campus with COVID 19 because there are not many events going on to get involved in and I have to be cautious about being around people for too long. I also live off campus, so I do not get to meet other girls in a dorm hall, but I have made several friends in my classes,” Black said.
“I knew in the midst of a pandemic that making friends would essentially be harder. However, God is faithful and has blessed me with the sweetest people I could have asked for,”
OBU has supportive staff and faculty. With a student-to-faculty ratio of 13-to-1, students are able to have a better connection with their professors. In the midst of so many changes and transitions that come along with freshman year, professors, club sponsors and resident directors are helpful in making the transition easier.
“The support of professors and the RAs (residential advisor) on staff have exceeded all my expectations. I feel loved and cared for so well and I know my professors genuinely want me to succeed,” Landes said.
Mark French, freshman computer information systems major, agreed that the care and concern shown by professors really sets OBU apart from the crowd.
“My professors and coaches are always encouraging us to ask whenever we need anything or have a question, which is nice to know we have that,” French said.
Day agrees that the support coming from faculty, staff and residential life staff is amazing and makes a tremendous impact on her life.
“My RA is really sweet. I have already had coffee with her and lunch with my RD (resident director). The music professors are all close knit and really supportive as well. I have a professor that always has snacks in her office and will let you take a nap on her couch,” Day said.
With their first semester now more than halfway over, these freshmen shared advice for high school seniors in the college search process.
Landes offered encouraged to high school students who are looking at OBU.
“To the (high school) juniors and seniors who are thinking about OBU, I would say if you are looking for a tight knit community of students and staff then OBU is perfect,” she said. “I have friends who are constantly leading me closer to Jesus and professors who want me to genuinely do well and succeed. I could not have asked for a better place to call home for the next four years.”
French concurred and stressed the importance of campus culture and climate in the college selection process.
“I encourage students not to make their decision on college just based off the major you think you want. Take the time to learn about the culture on campus and figure out if it’s a good fit for you,” he said.
“If you want a place that is a loving community, this is the place for you,” Day said.
To apply to OBU, visit okbu.edu/apply.