My first semester: Grace Soto living her dream at Kennesaw State

KENNESAW, Ga. | Jan 6, 2023

The first semester of college is a time of transition and growth as students spread their wings and begin to navigate their academic careers, discover new interests and make lasting memories. In recognition of that significant step, we are highlighting students who have just completed their first semesters at Kennesaw State University. Grace Soto, from Snellville, Ga., is already making a difference on campus as she pursues a degree in psychology.

Grace Soto
Grace Soto

Tell us about yourself.
I am from Gwinnett County, Georgia and went to Brookwood High School. Kennesaw State was, and still is, my dream school and I came here with high hopes and really wanting to take advantage of everything offered. I'm studying psychology, with a minor in child advocacy studies, and my goal is to become a psychologist at a hospital or rehabilitation center.

Why did you decide to study at KSU? 
I consider KSU my dream school because a dream school is where you can make a name for yourself and where you can do the most for yourself to grow as a person academically, socially, and just to better yourself overall. And I knew I could do that at Kennesaw State. 

What are some of your favorite memories from your first semester? 
I know it might sound cheesy, but making new friends has been one of the best parts. Everyone has been so nice here, and I genuinely mean that from the bottom of my heart. I was so scared to meet new people coming in here because you're on your own for the first time, but everyone has been so kind. It's been amazing to grow with these other students and transition with them.         

How did your first semester of college compare to your expectations? 
I was scared about the transition to college and being on my own. However, these first few months at KSU have exceeded my expectations and not just because of my friends but just everything that is offered here. You can keep yourself busy and find different things you enjoy. It's amazing to have that freedom to pick and choose what you want to do.

As you adjusted to college this semester, who or what has been your greatest support at KSU? 
Two people have been incredible support systems for me. Richard Matthews, program coordinator at the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth, is my supervisor in the peer mentor program. He has been so kind and has made this transition a lot less scary while finding my first job and going through the interview process. He’s been patient and I’ve really loved working with him. I also have to give a lot of credit to my mom, who sends me care packages and talks with me on the phone every day. She has been my No. 1 fan for as long as I can remember.

Outside of class, what did you do to get involved at KSU in your first semester?
As a peer mentor with the Academy, I work with students who have disabilities but really, I’m making so many new friends. I sit in their classes and get a new perspective of a different lifestyle that I’ve never really seen before. I’m also a member of the KSU Journey Honors College and a KSU brand ambassador and love working with that team because I can reflect KSU in a positive manner. I also started doing undergraduate research this semester with associate professor of literacy education, Sanjuana Rodriguez, in the First Year Scholars Program. The project involves analyzing banned Latinx picture books, as calls for censorship in early childhood classrooms have increased over the last few years.

Did your college plan change at all during your first semester? 
I think I had it all planned out when I came in here, so academically my plan has not changed. However, I would say socially it did change because I came in very nervous to meet new people, but meeting new people has been very eye-opening. I did not know my roommates before moving in, and I love all of them. They helped me venture out, and now I can’t wait to meet new people and make new friends. 

What do you think about the FLIGHT26 activities?
I have participated in several FLIGHT26 activities! I think the program is very inclusive; it's amazing to see how diverse my class is at these events, and I enjoy coming together to do something fun. My favorite activity this fall was running out on to the football field with my fellow first-year students.

What are you looking forward to for the next few semesters?
I'm looking forward to growing as a person. I want to better myself academically, socially, and physically with our beautiful recreation center. I'm excited to better myself as a person, meet new people, and grow, and I'm so happy to be on that journey at Kennesaw State.

What advice would you give to future KSU students?
If I could give incoming freshmen advice, I would say don't be scared to reach out for help. Every person that I reached out to for help for has been so supportive and encouraging. So, if you're having any feelings of anxiousness or nervousness, don't be shy to reach out. Also, I encourage all students to invest in a laptop!

– By Abbey O'Brien Barrows

Photos by Darnell Wilburn

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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 45,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit