David Oglethorpe has been advising first-year students at UCF for more than a year while working toward a master’s degree in higher education.

A graduate of Ohio State University, he began his advising career at Jacksonville University before being hired by UCF’s Office of First Year Advising and Exploration. The office helps first-time-in-college students transition into UCF and assists them with major and career exploration, academic advising, and other areas.

Recently, Oglethorpe led the creation of the First Knights Organization, a group developed to welcome first-generation college students to UCF and help them get involved in campus life.

What was your first year of college like?

My first year of college was a blur. Much like UCF, OSU had an incredible array of involvement opportunities. During my freshman year, I played for the OSU cricket team, worked at the smoothie shop in the gym, went to every football game, became involved with the Public Relations Student Society of America student organization, and spent a lot of time hanging out with friends. Somehow, I found time to go to class, too!

What do you know about college now that you wish you knew then?

I wish I was better informed about the free resources that are made available to students on campus. There are so many services that students can take advantage of but many don’t even know they exist.

At UCF, students can be advised on legal issues by Student Legal Services, take a career aptitude test at First Year Advising and Exploration, go through an entire mock employment interview at Career Services, and even get Scantrons from SGA. I was also unaware of the amount of scholarship money that is made available to – and not used by – students. Every year, universities offer hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of scholarships. A lot of if goes unused because no one is willing to write a one-page essay on why they deserve the award.

What’s the most common hurdle faced by incoming freshmen?

I think the biggest hurdle for incoming freshmen is learning how to effectively manage time. In high school, students spent eight hours per day in school and then had a couple of hours of homework in the evening – in college, everything is the opposite. Students will spend 12 to 15 hours in the classroom in an entire week and will be responsible for anywhere from five to 10 hours of homework, studying and reading per class.

With all the great opportunities to get involved on campus, it can be difficult to make sure work gets done when professors aren’t holding your hand. Students have to be able to find a balance between taking advantage of all that UCF has to offer and putting enough time into each class to make sure they excel. At the end of the day, you’re a student first.

How do those challenges differ for first-generation college students?

The biggest challenge for first-generation students lies within not knowing what to expect or what to ask. Students who have parents who have completed college degrees are able to rely on them to guide them through the expectations of college, but first-generation students have to go elsewhere to find this information. It can be very difficult to let someone know that you don’t understand something that is perceived by many to be general knowledge.

What is the First Knights Organization all about?

First Knights is an organization designed to help first-generation students adapt to the campus environment and find ways to get involved. We really want the organization to be a place where first-generation students can go to get any questions they have about college life answered and to find fun activities to connect them with other students and campus resources.

How critical is involvement for first-generation students?

Involvement is crucial for all students but especially for first-generation students. It can be difficult for first-generation students to feel like they are a part of campus life because they are the first in their family to experience anything like it. By getting involved, first-generation students can feel more confident that they belong on campus – because they do!

What are some simple ways for other students to get engaged with campus life at UCF?

Knights of the Round Table has a great service for students called Knight Quest. By completing a quick interview, students are given a list of clubs, organizations and campus activities that match their hobbies and interests.

When you aren’t working, how do you like to unwind?

Outside of the office, I love spending time with my fiancée, Erin, and our two dogs, Megan and Lucy. I also try to golf as much as possible and take advantage of the Florida sunshine.

What’s your top piece of advice for the next class of incoming Knights?

Visit your academic advisor at least twice a semester and get involved on campus. You’re only here for four (maybe five!) years—take advantage of it!