3 Tips to Make the Most of Your College Experience From a UC Riverside Student

Dear Incoming College Freshman,

Before I left for college, all my mentors and older friends shared advice with me about how to make the best of the upcoming years. One tip they all gave me in common was to find my niche and to find a place where I felt like I belonged. While I found both my niche and a second home in college, looking back, I wish people had provided me with more actionable items to follow. In the spirit of “being who I wish I had been when I was younger,” here are my three tips to making the most out of your college experience:

  1. Get involved with a club or organization where you feel like you belong. I was lucky to fill my need for belonging through a club I decided to join my first week as a freshman at UC Riverside (UCR): S.A.L.S.A. The Student Association of Latino Spanish Affairs’ (better known as SALSA) mission statement goes as follows: “To promote unity within Latino/Hispanic races on campus. Through our unity, we will reach out to the Latino/Hispanic communities via community service and mentorship.” I hold the mission statement dearly to my heart because as a first-generation Latina, I have been privileged  to be surrounded by amazing role models who have played an essential role in my life as mentors and embedded in me a deep commitment to community service. Being able to pay it forward and serve in the role of a tutor, friend, and mentor to students has truly enhanced my time as an undergrad for the better. Not only did it allow me to make friends and connections, but it also served as a resume booster!


  1. Be intentional and seek mentorship. I grew up surrounded by positive role models but quickly realized in college the importance of seeking mentors that could provide guidance and mentorship at a different level. You can find mentors within your classmates, your teacher assistants, your professors, college staff, etc. The importance is finding someone you feel comfortable with and being intentional about building a relationship with that person. Having mentors as an undergraduate is important because going into the professional world without having any sense of what to expect can be daunting. However, with the guidance of someone, your journey can be much clearer, and you can focus more on evolving as a person, rather than stressing about your next steps. I am fortunate enough to have mentors like the mayor of my city and an incredible teacher assistant at the Department of Sociology at UCR. Both of these mentors are dynamic individuals that provide me ongoing guidance and support as I finish up my last year of college. To say that I would be where I am today without their mentorship would be undermining to just how influential their advice has been on my journey through college.


  1. Take risks. You are an undergrad only once, and to remember this once in a lifetime experience, you should do things that are outside of your comfort zone. If college has taught me one thing, it is that I am only young once, and that this is the time to explore new things like traveling, meeting new people, and creating new memories with those who surround you through this uncanny moment of your life. So make it a priority to find new challenges and seek new opportunities as often as you can because you want to live a life you are proud of and not one you settle for.

This is the beginning of a new chapter of your life, perhaps the best one. Wherever you decide to start college in the fall, just remember to make the most out of your experience. Being in college is fun. Despite all the hours spent in the library, and all of the never-ending exams, college is meant to be the transitional phase of your life. Explore the never-ending possibilities life has to offer, and soak every moment in because in a few years you’ll look back and realize just how life changing it’s all been.

Wishing you the best,


A very grateful 3rd year college student, who is excited for what’s next!

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Mariela Renteria

Mariela Renteria

Mariela Renteria born and raised in Lynwood California, and a proud product of Lynwood schools. She has been deeply involved with her school district back when she was a student in Lynwood and now as an alumni. As a high school student she served her community by being a part of the LCFF/LCAP committee, and helped draft a new and improved mission statement for her district. Now as a Lynwood Alumni she is a part of the alumni association, and has helped coordinate college conference for our Lynwood students with other alumni. She is a current UCR student, studying Sociology, and aspires to complete her BA by the year 2019. At UCR she is involved with a couple organizations such as Students Associations of Latino Spanish Affair as an executive board member and holds the title of Treasurer, Chicano Student Program, and Trio. For now she is still thinking about what grade she wants to teach, but she knows for a fact she wants to be an educator.

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