Womack often begins introductions by asking students to share a fun fact about themselves. Colleagues tease him about being able to remember these fun facts six or seven years down the road, but if asked what he had for breakfast, he’s at a loss. Craig’s 29 plus years of experience intuit that trust begins with caring enough to know someone and acts as the foundation for any village.
And the good news to go along with Womack’s advice is that the village is built and waiting for Scheller’s newest undergrad students, mere weeks out from their high school graduations and perhaps feeling a bit lost in transition.
Womack offers six tips for incoming Yellow Jackets set to make the next four years some of the best of their lives.
1. Get to know your professors and academic advisors
Undergraduate students have a team of people invested in helping them succeed. But Womack knows that staying after class to chat or showing up to office hours can be intimidating. He encourages students to begin with their professors and academic advisors.
“Students sometimes are a little bit hesitant to reach out to faculty or even to reach out to their academic advisors because they're scared. This is a safe space. We want to be engaged. The faculty want to get to know you. It's really important that that you get to know your faculty and those who are here to support you,” Womack explained.
2. Stay curious
Undergraduates had to exercise their curiosity to make it to Georgia Tech. Don’t stop now. Womack said, “Never quit learning. You had that curiosity coming to Georgia Tech when you were looking at colleges and in everything you needed to do to be here. Now keep that learning process going.”
Womack’s ways for staying curious start with taking ownership of your time at Tech (advice that he gives all credit to Michael Dutcher, Director of Undergraduate Career Education, for saying first). That includes making time to “get outside your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. Meet new people. Go on the study abroad or a weekend away with friends.”
3. Be present
This advice is more than an overused cliché. For Womack, it’s among the most important. Begin with putting your phone away. Then, do things with being present in mind. To get started, Womack suggests the following:
- Set goals that are realistic. Then be present when you work to accomplish those goals.
- Nurture your friendships. Be present in your friendships and be the friend you want to have.
- Do things you enjoy. If it's reading, if it's going to work out, just be present and mindful while you're doing it.
4. Know that your path is as unique as your fingerprint
Womack has seen how fast four to five years at Georgia Tech can go by. These years make up your journey. “You are the author of your chapters,” Womack said. “You're the one who's going to create the story. And when graduation comes and your novel is finished, it's something that you want to look back on and reflect and know that you had a good time.”
“Don’t be scared to create your own journey.” Womack continued, “And don’t feel that you have to follow somebody else’s path. It's very easy for our students to create this feeling of impostor syndrome. And what I mean by that is if somebody got an internship before you did, that's okay. It's part of trusting the process. Remember that you're on the journey that's best for you.”
5. It is okay to be different
Womack has seen undergraduates try to fit into some invisible mold. “At Georgia Tech,” he said, “it’s different. What makes Georgia Tech so special is that we really do celebrate diversity in all its forms. Don't be afraid to celebrate what makes you unique and special. It's okay to choose a path that's less traveled.”
6. Manage your time wisely
Use time wisely. It’s easy to fall behind acclimating to new, university-sized workloads. Some students become overwhelmed and can quickly feel like they are buried in a deep hole of incomplete assignments and bad test scores. That’s where the village comes in. “We’ll pick you up. Dust you off. And move you forward,” Womack said.
Womack recommends pre-empting the deep hole feeling by treating the school day like a work day. “Go to class. If you have time in between, fill that time with things you need to do. Study. Go to the gym. Have coffee with friends. Grab lunch. Make sure that you have time to finish what you need to accomplish by the end of the day.”
Lastly, Womack always tells his students to make time for sleep. “Go to bed. You’ll have time to do a Cookout run at two o’clock in the morning. Enjoy those moments if you have the bandwidth to do it. But if you need to go to bed because you've got an exam the next day, make sure that you get some sleep.”
Womack has noticed how third- and fourth-year students appreciate their sleep more. He has also noticed how much they’ve grown from their time as freshman, and even noted the phenomenal growth in first year students from the start of the semester to winter break. So, incoming Yellow Jackets, get ready for big changes and opportunities to transform and grow. Womack and his village will be there when you need them.