Published on 08/20/21

Eight student tips for success at UGA

By Sara Freeland

Do you want to have a great year at the University of Georgia? Eight UGA Amazing Students share their best advice for success on campus.

The students range from tour guides to orientation leaders, dancers to doctoral candidates. All have immersed themselves in studies, internships and extracurricular activities.

1. The first step in having a great college career is studying. 

The thing for me in high school was memorization. You could remember a couple of facts before the test and be OK. However, that doesn’t work in college. It is very application-based, so studying is very essential. The first step in studying is finding a good place to study and there are many places to study here on campus, like your dorm, the Miller Learning Center, the Main Library, Herty Field, etc. That is something I would tell my younger self.

— Zerian Hood, an exercise and sport science major from Atlanta, who works at the UGA Visitors Center and University Health Center

Man smiles in front of Georgia G
Zerian Hood decided to come to UGA by complete chance. Before New Student Orientation, he had never been to Athens. But he knew he wanted the classic college experience—and with UGA he had a beautiful campus not too far from his family in Atlanta. (Photo by Dorothy Kozlowski/UGA)


2. Ask others for help. It is OK not to know things sometimes. 

The past year, I felt so anxious, stressed and overwhelmed at the exact same time because of the pandemic.Yet, never before had I felt so blessed, grateful, and privileged. I was blessed to be healthy; privileged to have food and shelter while many others struggled to put food on the table; and grateful that my loved ones were safe and well. To me, these realizations proved to be an unprecedented opportunity for self-reflection, and growth. They taught me the importance of being intentional about everything that I do, and that we can achieve more working together.

— Eric Okanume, a junior from Hiram, majoring in biological science on the Pre-MD/MBA track.

Portrait of Eric Okanume in a white lab coat.
After graduation, Eric Okanume aims to pursue a medical degree and a master’s degree in business administration. This summer he’s learning about healthcare through the Summer Health Professions Education Program, a summer enrichment program for students underrepresented in the health professions. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)


3. It’s OK if you are not sure what you want to do at first. 

I found the process of choosing a major extremely stressful – I even changed my major five times during my first year. Don’t be afraid to take classes you are interested in, even if they are “unrelated” to your major! It’s always worth it to engage with subjects you’re passionate about, and often they can help push you in the right direction.

Tori Watson, a senior Honors student from Suwanee majoring in art history and comparative literature and intercultural studies, who dances in the Counterpoint Dance Company

Tori Watson poses in front of a mural she painted
Tori Watson painted the mural “Give Love. Together” for the Athens Mural Alley Project inside the Lyndon House Arts Center. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)


4. Don’t put so much pressure on choosing a path.

Explore Athens more, and don’t overwhelm yourself with getting involved. Pursue things that make you happy and further your personal or professional growth. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and initiate conversation. Finding a mentor is the best decision, and it helps make some of the more heavy and scary parts of life a little bit less scary. Accept who you are. Wanting to improve and be a better version of yourself is good, but don’t let that shift into being critical of who you are in the moment.

— Rachel Henderson, a senior from Fayetteville majoring in special education and minoring in social work, who is also a UGA Digital Dawg.

A portrait of Rachel Henderson with a phone and laptop.
Rachel Henderson has always enjoyed helping in the disability community. She chose her major—special education—in part because her mom works as a special educator. “I went with my gut on what I was passionate about and the rest unfolded along the way.” (Photo by Chad Obsurn/UGA)


5. Allow yourself to make mistakes, as long as you acknowledge and learn from the experience.

Growth isn’t an instant process, nor is it tangible. Approach life with an open mindset and be prepared to learn through all of the moments: positive and negative experiences. There’s value in the discomfort. The personal growth that I have experienced in just my first two years of college has shown me that growth comes from making mistakes and—most importantly—learning from them as you navigate life in the future.

— Vidhi Patel, a cellular biology major from Athens, orientation leader and newborn hearing screener at St. Mary’s/Piedmont Athens Regional.

Portrait of Vidhi Patel
Vidhi Patel, a junior cellular biology major from Athens, is serving as an orientation leader this summer. She plans to attend medical school or work in healthcare. (Photo by Andrew Davis Tucker/UGA)


6. Success is defined by you; there are no set guidelines or timelines to achieving it.

Be honest with yourself about what you are passionate about and what success means to you. Once you know that, seek out opportunities that help you get closer to your goals. If you reach your goal, set another! The only way to grow is to keep striving for better. Believe in yourself; you got this.

— Aliya Abdulla, a doctor of pharmacy student from Tucker

Portrait of Aliya Abdulla wearing a white pharmacist coat.
Aliya Abdulla is an extern completing her advanced pharmacy practice experiences at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital. (Photo by Andres Rengifo/Phoebe Putney Health System)


7. Focus on the people and the things that really matter.

It’s so easy to get carried away trying to get somewhere or accomplish something, but many things in this world are fleeting and temporary. So spend more time showing love to the people around, saying and showing “I love you,” and making memories that you’ll never forget. Those are the things that really matter and the things that will never leave you.

I think one of my biggest obstacles in life has been myself. I’ve been learning how to get out of my own way whether it’s been worrying less about living up to the expectations of others, being OK with making mistakes and wrong decisions, knowing that I’m enough, or showing up for myself by being confident in what I want and how I feel. I’m learning myself every day and being patient with that learning process. I’m getting out of my own way and giving myself grace, and I hope that it’s making me a better friend, brother, son and person.

It’s OK to be different. We all are. I don’t have to fit into a mold or the standard. It’s in my difference that my power lies. That power allows me to empower others through mentorship, empathy, and by being an unconditional listener to those who may also feel like they’re not enough. We’re enough.

 Kevin Nwogu, a senior from Stone Mountain majoring in business management with a minor in leadership in student affairs

Portrait of Kevin Nwogu wearing a suit standing in the Business Learning Community,
Kevin Nwogu is a senior from Stone Mountain majoring in business management with a minor in leadership in student affairs. (Photo by Peter Frey/UGA)


8. A few broad statements, because what fun would it be to give it all away?

  • Always trust your gut. Always.
  • Keep creating things you love.
  • Do not let others dictate your life or values. The only person who needs to approve of you is yourself. “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Bernard Baruch
  • Your standards are not too high. Determine what you want and don’t accept anything less.
  • Call your mom! (I love you mom!)

Caroline Caden, a senior from Marietta majoring in theatre and working on a master’s in nonprofit management and leadership.

Portrait of Caroline Caden smiling in front of garden
A senior from Marietta, Caroline Caden, is charting their own path through UGA’s theater program, taking the classes that sound interesting. They have been the stage manager for “Here’s Where I Stand” with UGA Theatre and designed props for “The Darker Side of the Rainbow.” (Photo by Chad Osburn/UGA)

Sara Freeland is a public relations coordinator in the University of Georgia Division of Marketing and Communications.