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After your first semester at Columbia, you might feel like you have the hang of things on campus: You know to avoid dining halls at all cost during rush hours, you try your best to arrive early to classes in Hamilton before the elevator line starts to form, and you know how hard it is to find a seat in Butler during midterm and finals seasons. However, life at Columbia can still be difficult to navigate, which is why Spectrum has the answers to any lingering questions you might have.

How can we get summer opportunities? How do we know what research professors are doing?

If you’re looking to be involved in a research lab this summer, both Columbia and Barnard offer summer research programs for undergraduates. You can apply to Barnard’s Summer Research Institute if you’re a Barnard student interested in research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The deadline is Jan. 31, so you don’t have much time left! Columbia also offers numerous summer research opportunities, which you can find by clicking this link. First-years from all four schools can also apply to SURF, a program offered by the biological sciences department at Columbia that givesstudents the opportunity to work on individual research projects they are interested in.

Alternatively, you can try to get a research assistant position during the semester. You can usually find position listings on specific department websites. However, if you’re interested in working with a specific professor, you should probably look into their research first, and then go to their office hours to discuss your interest and ask if they have any positions available.

How do we know which companies would be willing to take first-year students as interns?

If you’re looking for internships and employment listings on either LionShare or Handshake, then you can filter for job postings open for first-years specifically. Alternatively, attending Opportunity Fairs and meeting recruiters for companies face-to-face gives you the opportunity to talk to them directly and see if they might even make an exception for you if you leave a good impression. Generally, you should apply to any internship you find interesting as you never know what recruiters are looking for. Spectrum has some resources to help you land the perfect internship, as well as articles to help you navigate the Columbia Center for Career Education and Beyond Barnard.

Tips on dealing with impostor syndrome? Or not knowing what you want to do with your life career-wise?

Dealing with impostor syndrome can be tricky because feelings of self-doubt can start creeping up when you least expect them to. The key is to stop comparing yourselves to people you meet. Yes, some people here have done extraordinary things, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t. It took a team of people—maybe your parents, your high school teachers, and/or your coach—who believed in you, your talent, and your potential and helped you get to where you are now.

Keeping track of your successes and accomplishments, no matter how big or small they are, can also go a long way. Did you raise your hand in class today and make a point the professor found interesting? You should feel proud of that recognition.

Remember that you aren’t the only one that might be struggling with impostor syndrome. Nobody really knows what’s going on, especially during their first year of college. Keep reminding yourself that these feelings don’t define you and that you deserve to be here as much as anybody else.

If you do not yet know what you want to do professionally, do not worry! Enjoy your first year of college as much as you can. You don’t even have to declare your major until your sophomore spring, and you can even change majors after that. Experiment with classes, take classes you would never think of taking, and maybe that’ll spark an interest you never thought you had. Your degree doesn’t have to limit you to a specific career path. Go to opportunity fairs, talk to professionals, and maybe you’ll start to develop a feeling as to where you think you could see yourself in five years.

I don’t feel like I have a solid community of friends yet. How long does it take to form that?

There really is no timeline or deadline for making friends or finding your community on campus. Some people will become best friends with their roommates or floormates during their first semester of college, but that doesn’t mean you have to as well. A lot of people don’t find a solid community of friends during their first semester of college, and that’s okay.

Finding a community of like-minded people that you will get along with can be difficult, which is why many people try and join the clubs they are interested in to get to know more people and potentially find a community. However, it might feel intimidating to join bigger clubs that might have too many people to really connect with, which is why you should also look for more niche clubs where you can easily get to know the people involved.

Alternatively, you can find friends through classes. It might feel intimidating talking to a stranger, but try starting off by asking to work on a problem set or study for a midterm together.

What are some cost-efficient ways to find textbooks for class?

There are many resources available both on campus and online for you to find textbooks at a lower cost. You can try finding your textbook on CLIO, either as an e-book or in a library on campus. You can also buy used textbooks at Book Culture at a lower cost. Furthermore, you can rent your textbook on Amazon at a significantly lower price than retail price. Both Barnard and Columbia also have Facebook pages dedicated to selling and trading textbooks among other items.

Columbia Barnard First Year Freshman Academic
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