Zoe's Blog - Insights from a 3rd year College Student


Zoe visited with Isabella Melton, a college student at the University of Montana and got some tips and tricks.

My name is Zoe Brown, and I am a recent graduate of Capital High School. I had the privilege to meet with Isabella Melton, a 3rd-year college student at the University of Montana, to ask her tips, tricks, and personal college questions in hopes of helping incoming students feel more comfortable entering a foreign campus. 

I started by asking her what advice she had for these freshmen. She said, “Take advantage of opportunities your campus provides,” Find clubs, organizations, and recreational opportunities because college is what you make of it. I asked what clubs she was in, in which she gave me an extensive list. Bella is a part of the Zootown Cabaret where she sings theater songs, and she is a part of the Mansfield Student Advisory Council. She is now a DHC Ambassador and is the Vice President of International Development Studies, where they are currently planning a trip to Hong Kong to do service-learning. I was shocked to hear just how much you can do once you find your passion.

I went on to ask her the question, what are college necessities? She explained that fans are a must because heat and cold regulation in a dorm room is not well maintained. She also recommends things from home, including pictures or decorations that were in your room. As for studying, Bella recommends Quizlet as it helps you memorize terms via repetition. She also recommends going to your professors' office hours. Professors take out certain hours for students to visit them and ask questions on homework or projects. She expressed that it can be intimidating at first, but getting that extra help can make a huge difference. Remember to be professional and respectful and be prepared with your questions. But her main piece of advice was to bring a calendar. Just the basic calendar app on your phone can help with so much. You are in charge of yourself now, you no longer have parents telling you where you have to go next, so it is important to remember when you have a test or meeting. It also helps when you want to take time to see friends or talk to family. One thing Bella did was create an 8-5 job. She gets up at 8 am, goes to classes, does homework, and studies. Then, after 5 pm, she hangs out with friends, goes shopping, or goes on a hike. Prioritize your time and make sure to take time out for fun activities. Remember that it is OK to say no. Bella stated, “We always want to say yes, we always want to take advantage of these opportunities, and that's a great mindset to have, but being able to say ‘I'm sorry I don't have time for that this week, but please let me know what I can do next week when I have more time.’”

Something scary about college is putting yourself out there. Bella explained that she is pretty shy and reserved, so she doesn't like speaking up in class. She learned that you regret not doing stuff, and you must take those risks, expressing, “Take success with pride”. 

 I was also curious about how she finds scholarships in college. She mentioned that Reach Higher Montana's scholarships can still apply to her, so she always keeps an eye out for their emails. Another fabulous option is through your department. Many people don’t know that your major can give you specific scholarships, and they go unnoticed. Your university will also provide plenty of opportunities to get scholarships. As for applying, Bella suggested that you have a premade resume as well as a letter of recommendation. Remember to check in and give a deadline to the advisor writing your letter of recommendation. Relationships come into play, and many people want to know what all you have to offer. 

As for Bella and her studies, she is majoring in political science with an emphasis on international relations and comparative studies. She is fascinated with immigration as well as the relationship between China and the United States. Along with her very long titled major, she is interested in political science, law, cultural studies, literature, and history. She laughed as she said, “I always feel really cool when I'm writing. There is a kind of organization and creativity to it that I really enjoy.” She explained to me that her aunt, a Syrian immigrant, is her biggest influence. She came to America not knowing any English, and she carried her belongings in a cardboard box, yet she succeeded in the US, got a college degree, and is now a successful eye doctor. 

I asked Bella what her next steps are. She told me that she is looking at law schools, but she is unsure what profession to pursue. She has many paths she is willing to take, including being a prosecutor or defender, a judge, working in politics, or working at a non-profit. She already has many skills in her tool belt as she has interned in many places. She most recently went to Washington DC where she answered calls, opened and logged mail, watched hearings, and listened to lectures. She felt exclusive there as there were no welcomed visitors due to COVID-19. She expressed how “The work was fulfilling” making it feel like a full-time job. She realized she enjoyed working for Montanans and would love to stay in Montana to do so. 

Bella's experience at the University of Montana has been overwhelmingly positive. She joined the Honors College and found hard-working and caring people as well as amazing staff. She even became an ambassador! She also got involved with the Mansfield Center. This building teaches students a better understanding of public policies between the US and Asia. She inserted herself into the student advisory program and has now found a home away from home. 

As for life tips, Bella said, "Just have fun!" You are finally independent and away from home. But you are also not alone. Many people are in the same situation so remember that what you might be feeling is normal. Bella said to me, “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there." She went on to say that it is easier to build confidence over time by taking baby steps, and after you find your footing, start asking yourself, “Why not me for this?”

Reach Higher Montana is passionate about helping Montana high school students achieve personal success in education, career, and life. Our advisors can help guide you along your individual path. To find the closest advisor to you, click here. Stay informed, sign up for our newsletter and like our Facebook and Instagram page so you don’t miss out.