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Words of Wisdom: Tips from DSST Alumni

By Karlota Arnaiz-Palacios, DSST: GVR HS '18

Venturing out and starting life after high school, though daunting, is the beginning of a journey that has endless possibilities. Some people are better prepared than others for their journey. And that is fine. But, your fellow DSST alums and I want you to be the “some people” who are better prepared. We wanted to share a few words of wisdom that we wish someone shared with us. We also know that these words of wisdom may apply differently than we think because of the pandemic, but we’re going to do our best to share what we know. We’re new to college in a pandemic too!

  • You might not make super close friends your first year. Making friends IS hard, and in college you make them unexpectedly. Your close friend might be your seat partner in a class or the person who makes your morning coffee at the coffee cart every Tuesday. They might be the friend of the friend of your seat partner. Talk to people. It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Start small by making an effort with people in your classes. You already have one thing in common with them.
  • Don’t want people to know you’re a freshman?  Don’t wear your lanyard and ID badge around your neck. Yes, it’s a tad funny, but trust us upperclassmen. It is THE identifier for freshmen.
  • “I won’t get homesick.”  If you live on campus, trust us, you will get homesick. It’s ok to miss home and your family or friends. Even though many people don’t openly talk about it, they are also on the same boat and they are missing some aspect of home. Whether it is their pet, car, family, or favorite shopping center, most college students feel homesick. So, don’t go home every weekend because it prolongs this feeling. But, do call your family. It will do you good—and it will do them good too.   
  • Don’t pack more than 3-5 t-shirts. Colleges LOVE handing them out during orientation and other events. Eventually, you will have too many T-shirts from who knows where.
  • If you and your roommate love pizza, download the Domino’s app and share an account. You can stack up rewards fast. And, it is easy to split the cost through Venmo, PayPal, Chap, Apple pay, or cash and it is way easier to work towards a free pizza than using two separate accounts.
  • Trouble registering for classes? Talk to your academic advisor. Everyone gets an academic advisor, and advisors generally LOVE walking you through registration and helping you form a four year plan. If you can’t meet them in person because of COVID, reach out to them via email and phone, if you have their number!
  • A bad grade is not the end of the world. Take it as a learning experience.. Take the time to figure out what your study style is and what is different now compared to what went well in high school. Talk to classmates and consider setting up a study group. Study groups can look all sorts of ways. It might even look like ordering pizza together and simply eating while doing your stats homework together-- in person or on Zoom. Also don’t be afraid to go to your professor’s office hours even if virtual. It will likely feel like a big deal the first time but, we promise, it won’t always. These office hours are often also super helpful. Consider going with a classmate if you don’t want to go alone. And, remember, it’s okay to struggle and it’s okay to ask for help.            
  • Walk your classes before the first day.  You will be able to see where your classes are and how much time it takes you to get to them in between passing periods.  Walking through your schedule will also help alleviate the stress of running late on your first day and help you get familiarize yourself with the campus. We acknowledge that you may not be walking to class now, but the sentiment remains true—test out your class links! 
  • Stress is a fact of life, but it should never become a way of life. Make sure you are being kind to yourself. Prioritize sleeping, practice self-care, and remember that stress IS natural but if it is a daily occurrence a change might be needed. It helps asking yourself “What is important now?”
  • Don’t worry about what others think. No one noticed you showed up to class fifteen minutes early on the first day to pick out the perfect seat or that you spilled your coffee on you as you walked to class. You are here for you, focus on YOU and your interests.    


karlyMy name is Karlota and I graduated from DSST: Green Valley Ranch in 2018. I am currently an undergraduate student at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. I am studying Archaeology and Anthropology and pursuing a minor in Political Science. I am hoping to earn my PhD, but in the meantime I am studying to take the LSAT in order to get a law degree. I love to read, write, sew, and crochet.