- Associated Press - Saturday, August 16, 2014

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - Moulton native Mike Last is one of thousands of recent high school graduates making the transition from living at home under the supervision of parents to a college campus where freedoms are greater and self-reliance is most important.

Like most freshmen, Last, who will attend Auburn University, said he wonders how easy it will be to make friends and live away from his family.

“I know moving to Auburn is going to be a big change for me,” said Last, who was home-schooled and accustomed to spending most of his time around family. “Meeting new people is something that I’m kind of nervous about.”

Classes start at Auburn on Monday.

James Medley, of Athens, an incoming freshman at the University of North Alabama, is ready to find out about college life, too. Classes at UNA start Aug. 20.

“I’m ready to get it started,” said Medley, 18. “All I’ve heard is that college is the best four years of your life, so I’m ready to experience all of it.”

But Last and Medley have been forewarned about the difficulty of college curricula. Auburn sophomore Maggie Whitley, 19, of Decatur, already has blazed that trail. She shared some tips that first-year college students can heed:

Question: How did you make new friends?

Answer: I attended the dorm events at the beginning of the year. That’s how I met all of the friends I have now. The actual event might seem a little lame, but it is a good way to meet the people in your dorm. After a while you start getting together and hanging out on your own.

Q: Is there a such thing as being too involved in campus organizations and clubs?

A: Yes. It’s hard because you don’t always have time to do the things you want. I think it’s important to find at least one thing that you really like and stick with it. I’m in Auburn’s choir and I love it. Being a part of an organization can help give you a sense of belonging, especially at a large university.

Q: How important is it to visit professors during their office hours?

A: It definitely has its advantages. Professors like when you go to their office because it shows that you’re trying. I have friends that have had professors write letters of recommendation or agree to be references for them. It is a good way for them to get to know you because you never know if you might need them to help you at some point down the road.

Q: Is the “freshman 15” real?

A: It’s so real. I definitely gained weight my freshman year. By Christmas I was like, ‘OK something has got to change.’ I joined a gym this summer and I’m trying to make working out a habit so that it’ll be easier to keep up once school starts back. It’s hard to come back from. It’s better to just not go down that path. I will definitely be using the rec center this year.

Q: How do you balance having fun and staying on top of schoolwork?

A: Well first, don’t feel pressured to drink. It won’t make you seem any more or less cool, and nobody really cares if you go out or not. Don’t think that people aren’t studying just because you don’t see them doing it, because they are. Some people have set times during the day to study so they can go out at night. But it also depends on your course load and how hard your classes are. You might not be able to go out when you want to, but there will be other parties.

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Information from: The Decatur Daily, http://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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