That “F” — in my first University of Utah English class — hit like a slap.

But a kind professor let me rewrite my paper. Four times. The B+ I eventually earned gave me the confidence to continue writing. I’ve never forgotten the lesson.

College is like that. The teachers you have, the friends you make, the ideas you form change you. The University of Utah transformed me — and it can do the same for every student on our campus.

If you are new to the university, you will quickly realize it’s a big place with a lot to navigate. It can be a bit overwhelming. But it is also an amazing place with incredible diversity and wonders to learn about and explore. 

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The foundations of academic success are waiting for you. They’re in the friendships you’ll form around the pool tables of the Union Building, in the study booths at Marriott Library, at athletic events and attending religious services. They’re in the mentor relationships you’ll form at the Black Cultural Center or LGBT Resource Center. And they’re in the faculty and staff who will help you study, research and serve the community around us.

So, to help kick off this academic year, I want to share five tips — just like my five tries at writing that paper — to help you thrive and have the experience you all deserve. 

Find someone(s)

Everyone needs a guide for assistance and advice. That someone can be a resident adviser, staff member, new friend or professor. That someone(s) can also be a group or a cohort of other students. This is a village of your choosing — people who check in on each other and create a community of care. We strive to create a place of welcome, safety and belonging for every student. 

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Find something

We’re working to build an amazing academic experience for all Utah students. We want you to have research opportunities from Day 1, working in labs with faculty and researchers. We want to provide internships and real-world learning opportunities that align with your interests. We want to offer you options to expand the scope of your education abroad — studying Chaucer in England, engineering in South Korea or emerging markets in Ghana.

Find wellness

Because we care about your physical and emotional well-being, we encourage you to take care of yourself and get involved. We have a top-rated medical system with student services as well as newly expanded mental health programs — please use them. There are more than 600 academic, social, faith and athletic groups on campus. Find your wellness on the rock-climbing wall or in one of our dozens of intramural or club sports teams. Join the MUSS at our sporting events. Take advantage of the natural beauty and culture available at Red Butte Garden, Utah Museum of Fine Art or Pioneer Theatre.

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Find balance

For many of you, this is your first time living away from home. That can be both frightening and freeing. I encourage you to reach outside of your comfort zone by embracing differences and learning about things you might not have otherwise considered. Take a class on a subject that challenges you. Make a friend from a different part of the world. Go to an event hosted by a group you are unfamiliar with. One of the remarkable characteristics about this place is that there are no boundaries to your imagination. That is why we call it Imagine U.

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Find gratitude

According to well-documented research, gratitude helps you feel positive and better cope with adversity. It allows you to relish good experiences, improve your overall health and build stronger relationships. In short, giving thanks makes you happier.

If you implement these five tips, you will soon realize that you belong here. The people and life skills you gain at the University of Utah will help you traverse the journey ahead — the all-nighters, group projects and capstones that lead to graduation. They will also shape you into the person you will be the rest of your life.

I am so happy that you’re all here. I love this place. I can only hope you grow to love the University of Utah as much as I do.

Taylor Randall smiles in front of trees on the University of Utah campus.
Taylor Randall, president of the University of Utah, starts this school year ready to help students find success.

Taylor Randall is the president of the University of Utah.