It used to be easy to pick new students out of a crowd. They’re younger, walking alone, with their heads down and headphones in, moving a little too slowly for the liking of their sidewalk-mates. They rely on Google Maps to navigate our linear campus and don’t know you have to hit the button to make the T stop above ground.
Did I just describe you?
That’s okay! This semester, along with our usual class of freshmen, we also welcomed sophomores, juniors, and maybe even seniors (not to mention transfer and graduate students) to campus for the first time. Due to the pandemic, new faces on campus are at an all-time high and behind those faces are people who might feel a little anxious and a little out of place.
Taking that into consideration, we spoke to new student aficionado and Assistant Dean of undergraduate affairs at COM, Bill Taylor, about the new-new students on campus this semester.
Hillary White: Who exactly do you define as a “new student” now?
Bill Taylor: COM Undergraduate Affairs still defines our new students as our first-year students and transfer students from outside (non-BU) colleges and universities who joined us this Fall 2021 semester. With that said, we still very much recognize that many of our sophomore students or other students who started at the university during the 2020/2021 academic year took advantage of our LfA model and studied from home last year.
Internally, we have had several discussions where we acknowledge that the only group of undergraduate students who have had an uninterrupted or “regular” BU academic year are those who started at the university in the 2018/2019 academic year. Those students, assuming they are on a traditional four-year college path, were first-year students then and are now seniors.
Do you have any recommendations for things and opportunities students can engage with to feel more at home in Boston?
In my opinion, one of the factors that differentiate Boston University and the College of Communication from some peer institutions is the extracurricular activities available to our students that allow them to take advantage of the City of Boston. Boston University has over 450 clubs for our students that are officially registered through Student Activities. Student Activities runs a large event at the start of the fall semester called Splash, a BU student group recruitment fair where students have the chance to speak to various group representatives and learn more about these opportunities. In addition, COM runs a COM Clubs and Activities Fair each fall too. The event is similar to Splash but with COM-specific student groups and activities.
We strongly encourage new students to attend these events to assist them in better finding their place in the BU community. In the past, these events were particularly popular with first-year students, but in the fall of 2021, we certainly found that students from all class years were excited to learn more about all that BU had to offer and how to get involved.
As a result of the pandemic, all students may be experiencing a little bit of anxiety, especially since many of them are in a new place for the first time. Do you have any suggestions for students facing social anxiety upon their return to campus?
The pandemic has been hard for all of us, so the undergraduate advising team here at COM has made an effort in our academic advising appointments to slow down and just ask, “How are you doing?” During the conversations, some students share more than others, but for the most part, they really appreciate being asked. I’ve also shared with the students, in a way to not minimize what they are going through individually, that they are not alone.
The past 20 months have been challenging for most people in one way or another. We encourage getting involved in extracurricular activities and make referrals to health resources across campus as needed. The adjustment has been very real. In March 2020, the change was sudden, but a lot of time has passed from March 2020 – August 2021. With over a year in that state, it almost became a new “normal.” Therefore, the return to in-person has become another adjustment that may be difficult for some, myself included.
Do you have any encouraging words for these new students, no matter where they are in their academic careers?
Some of my biggest talking points with students from all academic years this fall is simply: take care, ask for help, communicate with your instructors, get involved with extracurricular activities, and know you are not alone. It’s also important to take some time for yourself to breathe, relax, and refocus. Without good health, success in the classroom and at the university becomes more challenging. Take care of yourself.
Hillary White, Staff Writer
Hillary White is a second-year graduate student in the M.S. Advertising Program. She’s lived all across the U.S. from Long Island, NY to Indiana to Houston, TX. She previously received a bachelor’s degree in Media Production at the University of Houston, where she fell in love with writing for screen. She’s a lover of bad art and great music. In her free time, she loves to watch movies, read poetry, and take naps with her cat Smooch.