The milestones outlined below should be used as your guide to student success during your first semester at MSU.  Your advisor is your primary resource for assisting you in reaching these milestones over the course of your first year.

First Year Milestones

The milestones outlined below should be used as your guide to student success during your first semester at MSU.  Your advisor is your primary resource for assisting you in reaching these milestones over the course of your first year.


First Semester

Connect with the MSU Online Community

First-year students need to use MSU’s online community to meet their academic responsibilities and become active in the MSU community.

Be sure to activate your student email account, as this is how the university will be communicating with you on a regular basis.  It is also important to connect with your Neighborhood Advisor and Neighborhood Services.  Online help is available if you or or parents have any questions about billing or financial aid. Additionally, it is important that you take advantage of the services offered through the Learning Resources Center, the Writing Center, and the Neighborhood Success seminars/workshops.


Defining Purpose

Purpose is the process of discovering what you want to learn and how you want to use it to make a difference in the world.  Purpose evolves over your lifetime, guided by your experiences, skills and values.

In your first year of college it’s important to play with your sense of purpose.  You can do this by:

  • Exploring ideas and disciplines that help you build your knowledge and develop your skill sets through your classes.   What excites or intrigues you most about what you are learning?
  • Engaging in new experiences that allow you to try or test your interests.   It could be joining a club or organization, attending a campus or career exposure event that intrigues you, getting a part-time job, serving the community as a volunteer, or exploring opportunities for internships, study abroad or undergraduate research.
  • Talking with others about your interests.  From a late night conversation with your roommate or RA to a faculty member or adviser, you can learn a lot from others.  Plus, there are many opportunities to learn from Spartan alumni through career exposure series events and by reading their Spartan Saga.
  • Connecting with advisers at Career Services can help you sort out our interests, ideas, experiences and skills and help you develop an action plan to help you move toward your purpose with confidence and awareness.

Some resources to help you along the way include:

Managing Your Learning

As a first-year student, it is important for you to adopt learning strategies that optimize your academic performance.  Your advisor can assist you in building an approach to your studies that will maximize your academic achievement.

By the middle of your first semester, you need to assess the effectiveness of your current learning strategies and seek out resources that will help you address any particular areas in which you need help.  MSU offers a wide variety of services to help you excel in your coursework, including:  the Learning Resources Center, the Writing Center, the Math Learning Center and the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities.  Contact your Neighborhood Advisor who can work with you to help ensure your academic success and go online for lists of important resources.


Get to Know Your MSU Neighborhood

First-year students need to explore and understand the wide variety of services available to them in their MSU Neighborhood.

As part of our ongoing effort to implement initiatives to ensure and promote the academic success of all undergraduates, MSU has focused its efforts in the Neighborhoods on connecting students with the right resources that can positively impact their learning experiences.  Each Neighborhood has an Engagement Center. The Engagement Centers serve as the main access points to important resources such as tutors, academic advisers, health practitioners, and other consultants that can help you navigate through your college career.

Each week, the Engagement Centers host individual and group tutoring for many first- and second-year courses, social and cultural activities, as well as fitness classes for yoga, cardio kick-boxing, and Zumba.  Additionally, there are workshops on practical topics such as using the library, sharpening study skills, searching for internships, managing personal finances and troubleshooting problems with a personal computer.  Check the website for your specific Neighborhood for more detailed information on when these activities and services are offered. 

Residence Education and Housing Services also offers more information about living on campus.

Second Semester

Evaluate Your Progress

The beginning of your second semester is the best time to document your progress toward the goals you and your advisor set at the beginning of the academic year.  Be sure to meet with your advisor early on during the second semester to ensure you stay on track.


Get Involved

It is important for first-year students to get involved in intellectual, artistic, social, and volunteer opportunities that are available outside the classroom.

Learning outside the classroom is just as important as inside the classroom.  By the beginning of your second semester, you will likely have discovered skills and interests that you want to explore through a variety of avenues, including:

Study Abroad -- Michigan State University has a long history of international engagement and has led the nation in study abroad participation among public universities for the last six years. We administer over 275 programs taking place in more than 60 countries around the world. Each year, close to 3,000 students are transformed by their educational experiences outside of the United States and can be found in classrooms, research labs, field stations, and internships sites throughout the world.

Learning about other cultures:

International Studies and Programs -- MSU is the model land-grant university for the 21st century. The destination known to us as “World-Grant,” has organized MSU energy and resources around five strategic imperatives –

  • Enhance the student experience
  • Enrich community, economic, and family life
  • Expand international reach
  • Increase research opportunities
  • Strengthen stewardship

The Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions (OCAT) constructs supportive cultural, social and educational communities that actively involve students in learning.  OCAT supports individual students in their navigation of cross-cultural encounters, and in their own understanding, exploration and development of cultural identity.

The Office of Inclusion and Intercultural Initiatives serves as an institutional focal point for promoting inclusion and diversity at Michigan State University. In addition to providing leadership and support for university-wide initiatives on inclusive excellence, a staff of experts work diligently to facilitate and support a campus environment that provides students, faculty, and staff with opportunities for excellence.

The Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, and Transgender Resource Center leads and collaborates on university-wide initiatives that prepare students to thrive in our diverse world, and enhances the campus climate and support services for students marginalized by their sexuality or gender identity.

Engaging in theatre or performing arts:

The MSU Department of Theatre offers undergraduate and graduate programs of recognizable excellence, to promote drama and theatre as civilizing agents within society, and to address the redefinitions of dramatic and theatrical styles, forms, and structures as they emerge as artistic responses to the changing world.

Wharton Center is Michigan’s largest performing arts venue with four unique stages (the Cobb Great Hall, Pasant Theatre, MSU Concert Auditorium and Fairchild Theatre) and plenty of things to do and see all season. Wharton Center is proud to bring the best Broadway shows, the finest classical musicians, unrivaled dance companies and an A-list of high profile performers to mid-Michigan. 

Checking out art and museum exhibits:

The Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum is the art museum of Michigan State University. Also an engaged public institution, the Broad MSU is a contemporary museum devoted to the exploration and exhibition of significant art from around the globe. This international focus is supported also by the contextualizing of contemporary art within the history of art by virtue of our historical collection. The Broad MSU is a place where artists’ ideas, words, and actions create a vibrant center for questioning and understanding the modern world. 

The MSU Museum offers a variety of free exhibits.

Undergraduate Research -- The MSU Undergraduate Research program strives to:

  • increase opportunities for MSU students to engage in scholarship,
  • expand the pool of faculty and partners engaging undergraduate students in their scholarly work, and
  • better understand the impact of this engagement on student learning and retention.

Using a multi-faceted approach, we seek to capitalize on the strengths of faculty and existing programs while offering new opportunities commensurate with the culture and research methodologies of different academic disciplines.

Volunteer activities -- The mission of the Center for Service-Learning and Civic Engagement at Michigan State University is to provide engaged, issues and service-focused, community-based, mutually beneficial, and integrated learning opportunities, building and enhancing commitment to academics, personal and professional development, and civic responsibility.

Clubs -- MSU has over 650 registered Student Organizations; there is something for everyone here at State! RSOs cover a wide range of topics and interest areas, including but not limited to: academic, business, environmental, international, political, racial/ethnic, religious, women’s interests, and sports and leisure. 

The MSU Residence Halls Association (RHA) is the on-campus student government at Michigan State University. Representing more than 14,000 students, MSU RHA is the largest Residence Halls Association in the country. MSU RHA is dedicated to improving the on-campus living experience, and providing many services to students.

The Association of Future Alumni is the student programming arm of the MSU Alumni Association. With the strength and support of the global Spartan Network, we provide Spartans with unique experiences relevant to their interests, empowering student leaders to impact the world around them. Join us today and have the opportunity to take part in the following:

  • Cheering in The IZZONE and A-Team student sections
  • Escorting Sparty to numerous events both on and off campus
  • Providing campus tours to prospective students
  • Becoming a member of the Spartan 300 - a leadership council

Student Government -- The Associated Students of Michigan State University is the undergraduate Student Government of Michigan State. Our mission is to enhance our individual and collective student experience through education, empowerment and advocacy by dedication to the needs and interests of students. 

Greek Affairs -- Since 1872, Michigan State’s Greek community has been a viable and respected part of campus life. With more than 55 Greek letter organizations, “going Greek” can be one of the most significant experiences for a college student at MSU. The value of Greek life for students who choose to participate is the merging of almost every segment of the campus community into one cohesive program that promotes self-governance, leadership development, academic achievement, community service and friendship.

View the video "What Would Sparty Do?" to learn more about getting involved at MSU.


Gain Valuable Work Experience

As you think ahead to your future career, it is important to gain valuable work experience during your undergraduate experience. 

You can gain this experience by completing an internship and/or finding a job on campus.  The MSU Career Services Network can help you consider opportunities that will help develop and/or clarify your purpose and goals.


Plan for the Future

By the end of the second semester, you should be starting to think about an appropriate major.  It is important for you to connect with your College and Neighbor advisers to assist you in making this decision.  This is a good time to meet with a career advisor who can suggest strategies to help you narrow down your interests.  They also offer career and interest assessment tools that you can use to guide your search.