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First-Year Advice: How to Make New Friends and Get Involved

Collin Coil ’24 shares his best tips for adjusting and thriving during your first year at AU

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Collin Coil, photo by Patty HousmanCollin Coil, photo by Patty Housman

Collin Coil ’24, a self-described “pure mathematics and data science double major,” has made the most of his years at AU. He serves as the chair of the CAS Dean’s Student Advisory Council, works as a research fellow at the Center for Data Science, and rows with the AU men’s crew team. From his first days on campus, he attended events, tried new things, built a cohort within the math department, and found a community on the AU Crew team. 

This fall, as Collin applies for doctoral programs to conduct research on artificial intelligence, he takes a few moments to look back and share his best friendship and community-building advice for first-year students. 

First year students meet so many people in the first few weeks at American University. What advice do you have for them when they first arrive on campus? 

Try anything and everything! During the first week, take advantage of the welcome week events, late night at the rec, and club engagements. Take your roommate or someone who lives on your floor and attend everything that sounds interesting. You can always pare down your engagements later in the semester. Also, the dining hall tends to be packed the first week. If you can, take some friends and use your U·Passes to go sample the cuisine around the city.

Can you share some suggestions for making friends and building a community? What worked for you? 

AU Crew Team, Collin Coil, fourth from leftAU Crew Team, Collin Coil, fourth from left

Consistency is key for building community. I joined the AU Crew team and built a community there, hosting pasta dinners for my teammates and having road trip sing-alongs. I made sure to attend as many practices as possible so that I got to know everyone on the team. Also, I worked on building up an academic community. Some of my closest friendships were formed in late night review sessions for Real Analysis and during weekly meetings of Not Math Club. If you like to study in groups, reach out to people in your class to make a weekly study group.

AU is filled with activities, events, and groups. How can incoming students begin to get involved? 

The easiest place to find out what’s happening is on Engage. There, students can find a calendar of upcoming events and a list of clubs to join. Details about opening convocation, the student involvement fair, drag bingo, late night breakfast, and other welcome week traditions are posted there. Additionally, CAS students will be enrolled in the CAS Undergraduate Student Central page on Canvas, and that will have announcements about upcoming events in the college.

What were some of your favorite memories from your first year at AU? 

My first year was completely virtual because of the pandemic, but I loved attending the Math Department events. I always go as Spock to the Math Department Halloween party, and I make sure to eat all the magnificent desserts now that the events are back in person. During my first year on campus at AU, I took a fencing class that was a blast.

What are you looking forward to this upcoming year? 

Travelling and research. I am working on PhD program applications, so I’m excited for campus visits in the spring semester. Additionally, I will be travelling across the country to attend numerous research conferences. Finally, I will be starting a book draft about congressional witnesses this fall with Prof. Caroline Bruckner (KSB – Accounting) and Dr. Karen O’Connor (SPA – Government).