8 Lessons Westminster Freshmen Learn their First Year
BY THERASIA BRAUTIGAM
Transitioning from high school to college can be difficult for many reasons. Being away from home, having harder classes, and meeting countless new faces can make the first year challenging. At Westminster College, there are several programs that make this transition as easy as possible.
Below, three different freshmen who started at Westminster College in the fall of 2016—Alayna Stark, Bryce Murray and Lexi Hart—describe the ups and downs of their first-year experiences.
1. New Student Week is Busy but Helpful
This week-long period between move-in day and the first day of class is filled with activities and games for freshmen. This past fall, students participated in Playfair, an event that included ice-breaker style games and a magic show by Ben Seidman. This week, intended to help freshmen adapt to college life, didn’t allow for much adjustment, according to Alanya Stark, a freshman from Eldon, Missouri. “Our days were a little too planned,” she said.
The constant activities made it hectic, but it helped students become friendly with one another. Bryce Murray, a freshman from Camdenton, Missouri, said that since everyone was a stranger, it was nice to meet new people
2. Westminster Seminar is a Great Experience
As a course designed to make transitioning to college level classes easier, Westminster Seminar provides students with friendly classmates and professors. Students chose from various seminars, each with a different topic. Once placed in that course, students complete tasks that relate to their topic and help them to create strategies for their career at Westminster, including tips for note-taking and studying.
Students in Dr. Barri Bumgarner’s seminar “The Show-Me State- All Things Missouri!” Skyped with Missouri-born singer, Sheryl Crow, this fall. Murray was in Bumgarner’s class and said that “Dr. Bum was entertaining” and that he thought the seminar was great.
Lexi Hart, a freshman from Lenexa, Kansas, who was also in the seminar, said she wasn’t that excited about the topic, but that her classmates and instructor made the class worthwhile.
3. Leader Within Covers Important Topics
This course, also created to help freshmen adjust, takes a different view of how to prepare students. The Leader Within informs students about Westminster policies and helps them to practice ways to have a safe and healthy college career. The course material prepares students to present their Westminster Legacy by the end of the semester. The Westminster Legacy is a presentation freshmen create that explains how they will leave their mark on campus after graduation.
The Leader Within course teaches students skills to achieve a positive legacy, such as being a pro-social bystander and knowing their own personality strengths and weaknesses. Hart said that her class had a great balance of importance and fun. She described her instructor, Anne Rulo, as “fabulous”: “We had a great time in that class while also covering serious topics.”
4. Mentors Make Transitioning Easier
Mentors are juniors and seniors who spend their semester helping first-year students adjust to Westminster. Throughout the semester, mentors are present during New Student Week, Westminster seminar, leader within and other campus activities.
As Hart describes, her “mentors were lovely” and “were all helpful and approachable.” It’s their purpose to be there for the freshmen and answer questions.
5. Greek Life Forms Great Friendships
Greek life has a huge presence on campus, with five fraternities and three sororities. Joining one of the organizations provides many leadership and philanthropic opportunities. Recruitment, the first step to joining Greek life, can be “stressful,” as Stark stated. But she added that the end reward is worth it because every organization offers a brotherhood or sisterhood. Murray has also enjoyed his Greek experience and the connections he has formed with the other members of Beta Theta Pi.
Stark, a member of Alpha Gamma Delta, said “I love all my AGD sisters” and “wouldn’t change it for the world.”
6. Dining Hall Food Can be Hit and Miss
Dining hall food can be “yuck,” Stark says. Even with a Culinary Expo station that rotates every day to serve everything from appetizers to sushi, and a permanent fresh salad bar, sometimes not everyone’s taste buds will be pleased.
Others, like Hart and Murray, find the food more acceptable. “I think it’s very hit and miss,” Hart said. “Sometimes it’s good food and other times it’s really not.”
Murray, taking another view, said that it’s better than high school cafeteria food.
7. Tier Requirements Offer a Well-Rounded Curriculum
Westminster’s general education requirements are structured in a unique Tier system to focus on the liberal arts aspect of the college. The system includes: The Foundational Tier, The Contexts Tier and The Integrative Tier. Each Tier requires certain types of courses, such as math, foreign language, scientific inquiry, historical perspectives and others. Completing courses outside of the major helps students expand their knowledge, according to Murray.
Stark commented that tier requirements are not intended to make students struggle but to provide them with a well-rounded education. “You don’t have to be an expert in all of them, but you can at least have a basic knowledge,” she said.
8. Westminster is a Welcoming Home
Not having friends at the college at first put Murray outside of his comfort zone, he said, but everyone seemed friendly and the campus hosted many activities that made it easy to meet new people. As he describes it, transitioning into Westminster is “different, but a nice kind of different.”
Hart said she has felt “nothing but welcomed each day” since New Student Week. She said the first year “went by way faster than expected.” When asked if she was glad that she made the choice in attending Westminster, Hart responded with one word: “Absolutely.”