Welcome to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: A Message for First-Year Islanders

By Luisa Buttler, Elizabeth Mock | Published: August 16, 2019

Welcome to Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi: A Message for First-Year Islanders

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – As you take your first steps onto the Island, it’s an exciting time filled with new possibilities. The world around you may be different, but there is nothing to fear; Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi has programs and resources to help incoming first-year Islanders – like yourself – transition, thrive, and succeed to graduation.

“Our students here are lucky,” said Dr. Chelsie Hawkinson, First-Year Seminar Coordinator in the First-Year Learning Communities Program (FYLCP). “We have programs and faculty specifically tailored to lift students up and help them stay on track during their first two semesters.”

Both Hawkinson and Dr. Rita Sperry, Associate Dean of the University College and FYLCP Coordinator, are trained in guiding first-year students as they navigate college. Each recounts common issues they see students face, along with the solutions and resources students used to navigate this important time.

Finding Balance

“Students may struggle when they come to college because they have these large gaps of time between their classes that they didn’t have in high school,” Sperry said. “They aren’t used to that and often don’t use their newfound time wisely.”

Freshman Jordan Baylor, communication studies major, admits he experienced this hurdle during his first year on campus.

“The biggest unexpected issue I ran into was time management,” said Baylor. “It can be easy to get behind on assignments because you have so much free time.”

Making the most of study time is equally important, said Sperry.

“For a lot of younger students, studying is just memorizing things,” said Sperry. “They don’t realize that the things they’re doing in a university atmosphere, like reviewing material and group discussions, are actually effective learning tools.”

Hawkinson recommends picking up a planner or using your phone calendar to help record assignments and utilizing peer mentors to practice effective time management and studying approaches.

“Find someone you look up to, whether they be a peer mentor or a professor, figure out what makes them successful, and integrate that into your own routine,” Hawkinson said. “You can also visit CASA for helpful tips on time management.”

Hitting the books isn’t all there is to college, though. Hawkinson also advocates that students find a balance between life and school.

“Make sure that along with studying, you’re addressing sleep, you’re eating well, and you’re having fun with your friends in a healthy manner,” Hawkinson said.

Getting Support

“First-year students are notoriously late in asking for help,” Sperry said. “They may be scared to ask because they think it means they’re not smart, or that no one else is asking. That’s not true. There is always someone on campus who can help you, no matter what the situation.”

According to Sperry, utilizing the support of faculty is one of the best methods a new student can use to set themselves up for success – especially if they’re struggling.

“Visiting during office hours, asking questions, and emailing are great ways to stay in touch with your professors, and it lets them get to know you and your unique situation,” Sperry said. “I know how intimidating it can be because I was one of those students who was terrified to talk to my professors, but once I did it, I realized there was never anything to be afraid of.”

Nathan Reece Heslep, computer science major, took this advice to heart.

“One of my best resources was my seminar instructor, Dr. Sperry,” he said. “She really helped guide me to reach my goals for my first year of college. I learned that you need to pace yourself and don’t procrastinate.”

Students in need of special accommodations due to permanent or temporary disabilities should visit Disability Services to ensure they are able to fully make the most of their time at the Island University. Hawkinson also adds that utilizing the services of the University Counseling Center is another great way for students to receive support if feeling overwhelmed.

“When you lose your way and get behind, that’s when the stress can really come out,” she said. “The Counseling Center is always there to support students, and they’re awesome at it.”

Stress may also come in the form of financial concerns, and Izzy’s Food Pantry helps students who may be struggling with food insecurity while Helping Students. Period. provides access to free period products in various women’s and unisex restrooms across the University. Also, if students are feeling a little under the weather physically, they are encouraged to visit the University Health Center, which accepts walk-ins and can provide referrals to local doctors if needed. 

Both Sperry and Hawkinson also urge students to reach out to I-CARE, should they feel like their personal mental health or the mental health of a peer is in jeopardy.

Opportunity is Everywhere

Feeling homesick is a common affliction of first-year students; one that leads to many questioning their decision to come to college. Joining a student organization or club, making friends, and connecting with others is a great cure to homesickness.

“One way to set yourself up for success is to get ridiculously involved on campus,” Hawkinson said. “That can be through a club, a group of friends, or just taking advantage of every opportunity you’re given.” 

Sperry adds that creating connections between what’s learned in class and what exists in the world can open new doors. There are many different options for campus involvement fitting any interest. The I-Engage portal offers student access to campus organizations and events.

“There’s value in the educational journey,” Sperry said. “College is meant to be that time when you put yourself out there and learn new things, right? It’s not just a transaction.”

Hawkinson says that often, new students fail to see the benefit of many campus resources.

“Our librarians are amazing, and I think some students underutilize their services,” she said. “Even your classmates can be a great help. Everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach.”

Library resources are available to all students. Baylor says he was lucky he learned this lesson early and advises other new students to get involved as soon as they step foot on campus.

“CASA is definitely one of the most useful places on campus,” he said. “The library is also really great for getting your head screwed on right for the week and to get some work done for classes.”

Career Services is another space that Sperry and Hawkinson tell students to visit.

“If you’re interested in working on campus, or if you want to find a great internship, Career Services is your one-stop shop,” Sperry said. “They’re amazing at helping students prepare for life after college, including resume review and mock interviews.”

Sperry has a light-hearted analogy she shares with students to describe underutilizing University resources.

“If you don’t take advantage of all the opportunities here, it’s like going on a cruise and staying in the room the whole time,” she said. “You’re paying for all this, so why not use it? It’s all included.”

As students get into the swing of college during their first semester, they may find that they don’t get the grades they want. Sperry and Hawkinson urge students not to get discouraged.

“College isn’t about being perfect,” said Hawkinson. “It’s about dedication.”

This message to first-year students is not meant to be a comprehensive list of University services. We understand that all students have their own unique circumstances. To best cater to your needs, please connect with your academic advisor for personalized assistance.