The First Flight From Home: 3 Ways To Set Yourself Up For A Successful College Experience

Your senior year of high school can be the most exciting and exhausting year of your life. It is filled with college tours, taking tests, and ultimately saying goodbye to friends you’ve known since Kindergarten. Now, you have to make one decision that will affect what your next four years will look like. That is a lot to take on as a young person.

This feeling of being overwhelmed was the exact way that I felt four years ago.

For me, the idea of moving to a completely different area with no one I knew was scary. Coming into college, I was an 18-year-old woman who had never left the suburbs of Columbus, OH, and I had no idea what the future had in store for me.

Choosing a college may be one of the hardest decisions to make as a young adult, but being able to take full advantage of the resources your university provides can make this transition significantly easier. I am an only child, so I had no siblings who went to college before me. The college decision-making process was unknown for my family and I at this time. Even more, I had no idea how to take full advantage of my four years at university. Now, looking back on my four years at the University of Dayton, I learned a lot facing the uncertainties of freshman year.

Here are some of the lessons that made a difference in my university experience that I believe every incoming first-year student should know.

Gabrielle Rullo at work as a freshman.


Though the college transition is a lot to take on, you are also entering some of the best years of your young adult life. The biggest question, though, is how you decide to spend those years.

Freshman year is both the most overwhelming and most significant year of university. Going to the University of Dayton, where I knew virtually no one, I had to find a way to meet new people and express my passions. My first idea was to get involved, but there were so many options. There was no particular way to know what organization was best for me. Knowing this, I got involved in as many organizations as I could handle my first semester. I knew that my feeling of being anxious stemmed from my fear of the unknown, so I tried to overcome that fear by trying to experience everything.

At the University of Dayton, the feeling of community was so prevalent as a first-year student. I started to feel it when I became involved in Flyer Enterprises, which is one of the largest student-run businesses in the nation. Flyer Enterprises is made up of nine brick-and-mortar divisions on campus that consist of coffee shops, smoothie shops, sandwich shops, and a convenience store. Within Flyer Enterprises, there are opportunities for leadership roles for students on all different levels all the way, ranging from sales associate to CEO.  When I first heard about this opportunity as a freshman, I told my parents with wishful thinking that I wanted to be the CEO of Flyer Enterprises one day. Though my sights were set high, I ultimately was just excited to be involved in something that was going to help me build on my learning in the classroom and enhance my professional development.

As I begin my senior year, I now hold the position of the Chief Executive Officer of Flyer Enterprises, managing over 200 student employees. Though my sights were set high my freshman year, I reflected on many specific goals I set for myself initially to get to this point. My two biggest goals were to be open to any opportunity and to work as a servant leader. As a freshman, I wanted to work as hard as possible to make sure that others saw my passion for the organization. I applied for every open position and took every opportunity to take the extra step. Moving into my sophomore year, I had the opportunity to apply for a management position within the coffee shop where I worked. At this point, I really wanted to be a marketing manager on the team, and that was the position I interviewed for. During my interview, I was asked if I would want to be considered for the operations manager position. In my head, I honestly did not think that that was the position for me. With the goal of being open to opportunities, I reluctantly agreed. Though I was unsure at the time, I was selected for the operations manager position, and eventually moved on to be the Chief Operating Officer of the company during my junior year. My ability to make the conscious decision to be open to opportunities allowed me to take steps in the right direction to ultimately lead me into the position I am in today.


Throughout your time in college, you are going to have to take a variety of classes within all disciplines, which means you are going to encounter many faculty members. Though it may be easy to coast through classes without having a conversation with your professors, you should make a point to connect with them. Each professor has a wide array of experiences that you may never know about. With this experience comes possible advice and mentorship to help you be successful – not only in school but also your future career. Developing a network of people who will support you through all aspects of your professional and personal life is irreplaceable.

Single-handedly, one of the best things I have done in college was find a mentor who had similar professional goals as I did. Tony Krystofik, who is the Director of the Fiore Talerico Center for Professional Selling, was willing to help me succeed in any situation. Eventually, he assisted me in securing a full-time job post-graduation. He has been able to help me navigate the tough landscape of college, and learn how to develop my skills to be the best professional in the future.

As a sophomore, I changed my major to Chemical Engineering, while also being a part of the sales program. At this point, I was unsure of my major and was having a hard time. Tony allowed me to be a part of a sales competition that took place virtually at West Virginia University. After a month of training, I competed in this competition, and took 1st runner-up out of 50 competitors. With this accomplishment, I decided that the major I was in was not the right fit for me. Tony helped me talk through the different possibilities through sales, and I ultimately switched my major into business school. Without this experience, I am not sure where I would be or what my major would be, however, I am thankful for the experiences and the encouragement from many people around me.

Gabrielle Rullo Today

Four years ago, I would have sat in the classroom, listening to lectures and never attending office hours. Now, I would tell every first-year student to go to office hours, and learn about the faculty and their experiences because one day each of these people could play a large role in your professional development. I truly believe I would not be in the place that I am today without my mentors and advisors at the University of Dayton.


“How do you want to leave the University of Dayton?”

Someone asked me this question in an interview during my freshman year. Back then, I had no idea what that question meant, nor did I know what my legacy would be in four years. This question did make me change my mindset to actually think about how important it is to find a passion and pursue it. Once you have, it is easier to set goals for the future that will ultimately help you professionally.

Based on my dream of becoming the CEO of Flyer Enterprises, I was able to shape my work ethic and professional development to help me further my experience to eventually be eligible to get that position. Throughout my journey with Flyer Enterprises, I had many people who were older than me help teach and mentor me that made a huge impact on my professional development. This support has been something that I have carried with me throughout my four years. With this in mind, I want my legacy to be as someone who was approachable to help and encourage others to further their development and see them succeed. Every day, I take steps to work with younger students within Flyer Enterprises, encouraging them and giving them advice for the future – just like students leaders did for me.

Every piece of advice I received has allowed me to not only reach my goals within college, but also have experiences to speak to when interviewing for future professions. Finding something that is valuable to you within the years you spend at a college makes the experience that much more exciting and memorable for you when you look back.

All in all, making the college transition is hard, but there are many ways to make it run a lot smoother. These three lessons are some things that I did not know when coming to the University of Dayton. Still, they were lessons that I had to live through to learn. I will forever be thankful for my experiences at this university that have allowed me to eventually become the Chief Executive Officer of Flyer Enterprises for my senior year. I hope that these lessons that I have learned can ease the minds of first-year students and encourage them to pursue their dreams.


My name is Gabby Rullo and I am a senior at the University of Dayton studying Finance and Economics from Columbus, OH. Currently, I am the Chief Executive Officer of Flyer Enterprises, which is one of the largest student run businesses in the country. I am also involved in Flyer Consulting and Pi Sigma Epsilon Sales Fraternity on campus. I love learning from others, and developing my professional skills.

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