The summer before my freshman year, the primary emotions that surrounded my thoughts on college were excitement and anxiety. I can honestly say that prior to coming to the university, I did not feel prepared for the experience that was awaiting me my first year at U-M. As a first-generation college student moving to a large college in a brand new city, I didn’t know what to expect. To add to my concerns, I wasn’t even sure on what I wanted to study or if I would be able to find a community. I decided to keep an open mind and see where my journey would lead me. Entering the Michigan Research and Discovery Scholars (MRADS) program with this mindset really helped me make the most of my college experience!

At first, I was worried about not knowing exactly what I wanted to study. I talked about this concern to some of my MRADS sophomore leaders and peers and they reassured me that it’s common for students to switch majors or remain undeclared until they’re ready in their first two years, so I didn’t have to worry about it just yet. This advice helped ease my mind and I began focusing on my other priorities, such as keeping up with my courses, finding a research project,and transitioning to the university.

Finding a research project last year was difficult, however, the support system provided by MRADS is a huge benefit in helping guide students through this process. Not only is there a class that introduces students to research, but peer advisors and MRADS faculty are always accessible and eager to help students find projects. When I was discussing my research plan with the faculty director, she told me a large proportion of the projects I applied to were neuroscience-related and asked if I had considered becoming a neuroscience major. At the time, I hadn’t considered the possibility, but after I began working in a neuroscience lab that year and enjoyed what I was learning, I felt like I found my major. Now I am a pre-med student majoring in neuroscience, but have also expanded on my academic and extracurricular interests by adding psychology as a double major and music as my minor. 

While a large part of MRADS is preparing you to find a research project, the program also provides resources to help with studying, as well as mental and academic wellness resources. I really enjoyed using the in-house study groups! There are also ways for professional growth within MRADS including resume and interview workshops, research seminars with peer advisors, and opportunities to become more involved in the community through leadership positions. These activities helped me adjust to the university.

In terms of finding myself, MRADS really helped me find where I felt like I belonged in the university. I also truly benefited from the tight-knit community MRADS has to offer, with its plethora of events and opportunities to meet other students. I was fortunate enough to have strong connections with my mentor group and had the chance to go to many events run by members of the MRADS community (shoutout to Peer Mentors and RAs), which helped me build on these relationships. I met so many wonderful, diverse, yet like-minded people in my hall and virtually who I’m glad I’ve been able to share this journey with.

Everyone has their own unique situation and if you already know exactly what you want to major in, that’s great! If you’re not sure, also totally fine! College is the time to find your passion, explore new interests, and discover yourself. Being a part of MRADS has been truly formative in my experiences, not only giving me the opportunity to find a research project my first year at U-M, but also giving me the support system I needed to build myself up to where I am now.