As the school year comes to a close, we asked current freshman students what their experience was like at Hope College. They shared some of their experiences from their senior year of high school to now.
Describe your freshman experience in three words
“I would describe my freshman year experience as a task, humbling, and independent,” said Makayla Turner. Makayla Turner (’25) is from Chicago, majoring in social work. While applying to college, Turner mentioned that she had doubts about being on her own. “It was a task that took effort to accomplish and now I am here. It was humbling because the expectation that I had about it changed,” said Turner.
Turner explained that, as a kid, she was always independent. Going to college; however, was a different kind of independence. “Hope College was the only school that I applied to that was close, the others were far away,” said Turner, “I was worried of being far away from my family, but I also knew I wanted a change of scenery.”
Lydie Sepa (’25), a nursing student, sums up her college experience as lost, confusing, and developmental. When asked why she describes her college experience in those three words, Sepa said, “In the fall semester, I was confused [about] what to do and the change in my life at times made me feel lost. For example, I wondered how I would manage my time or make friends.” At first, Sepa was interested in Hope because of the good reputation Hope’s nursing program has and the Christian community that it fosters. “I now see that [the] Hope College community is what keeps me here. [So do] the friends I have made, the connections, and the friendly environment,” she said.
What were some of the things you were looking forward to?
Although college seemed hard academically, Turner mentioned that she was very excited to start her career path. Due to her passion for helping others, she said, “Originally, I came to college wanting to pursue a career in nursing and because there is a lack of Black nurses in the healthcare field, but I realized I can do it in another career path that is less time-consuming.” Even though she chose to pursue social work, Turner mentioned that later down the road she desires to do an accelerated program in nursing.
In her family, Turner was the first woman to go to a four-year college. Turner said, “I had a lot of support from my family, which made me more excited in my independence of cultivating my future.”
What surprised you in college the most that you enjoyed?
One thing that came as a surprise to Turner as a freshman at Hope College was how much support and guidance she had in her freshman year journey. “They are people on campus that are here to aid you in deciding your major, applying for internships, and adjusting in the new journey,” Turner said. “I thought I would have some assistance but mostly be on my own. I am glad it is not like I expected.”
Turner did mention that while exam week can be stressful, Hope College really tries to encourage students during that time by lightening the atmosphere with encouraging messages and good food.
Although college creates exposure to different people, Sepa was surprised to make friends as easily as she did at Hope College. “I was surprised by how nice people were and how easy it was to make friends, I expected to have an issue with that. I thought I would just have friends from my major, but now that is not the case.”
What advice would you give to incoming freshmen that have doubts?
In dealing with doubts about her future after high school, Turner said that what kept her hopeful was “praying and talking to people that are in college or that graduated. Those two things encouraged me to know that it is okay to have doubts and be unsure.”
Like Turner, Sepa also said that she dealt with uncertainty by praying and talking to people that were in college. Sepa said college life is bound to be filled with uncertainty and doubt. Nevertheless, she said, “I try to remind myself that the confusion is a part of learning and growing. Having doubts or making mistakes allows for growth in the future.”
For incoming freshmen, Turner advised students to be open-minded to change. “Whether it’s academically, physically, or socially, college is going to require a change. It is okay to be at peace with that because not everything is going to go accordingly and that is the beauty of it,” said Turner.
Sepa added to Turner’s point by saying that it is okay to take things slow. Despite the opportunities that a college offers, “not everything that is pleasing or of interest requires you to be involved in it. Take things slow to avoid overcommitting yourself. You are a student first and the rest comes second,” said Sepa.
As someone who struggled with time management, Sepa said it is important to find a balance between academics and social life. “Time management is essential,” said Sepa. “Learn that it is okay to not have it figured out right away, but finding that balance early on is beneficial.”
“You have so much life to live, so do one thing at a time,” said Turner. “The stress that comes with overcommitting yourself for the sake of your resume is not worth it.” Turner and Sepa advised incoming students to be present in the now and not worry too much about the future. They said “plan accordingly but take things slow. College can be humbling at times, and that is okay.”
Any last words to the incoming class of 2026?
Both Sepa and Turner say that the independence that comes with being a college student is both a blessing and a curse. “Independence allows you to get to know yourself. You are less influenced by others like you were in high school. Thus, you are more likely to look out for yourself, which builds growth,” said Turner.
On the other hand, they say independence can also be unhealthy. As Turner stated, “it can cause you to self-isolate when you need help. So, don’t do that and seek help and guidance when needed.”
Lastly, Sepa advised the incoming college students to have fun. “You are only in college once so let go of expectations. Experience it for yourself because it goes by fast. Be yourself and don’t be peer pressured to do anything. Take baby steps daily and what is meant for you will be,” she said.