You’re heading off to college for the first time, but you’re still uneasy about what to expect. While there is no way to tell you exactly what to expect, here is a little insight on college life, from classes to making friends, from a college student.
- Scheduling classes can be a nightmare. During freshman orientation, scheduling wasn’t so bad because there were 50 students logged on at one time, and you had your pick of freshman classes. Once you start taking upper level courses, say goodbye to the perfect schedule. Plan out at least two different schedule options in case you don’t get the section you want. Did I mention the scheduling website will get really slow and can crash? Yeah, that can happen when there are thousands of students logging on to fight for a 100 student maximum section. Have your classes planned out so all you have to do is quickly (yes, very quickly) click ‘add.’ Also, try to prioritize what class sections are absolutely crucial to you. If you NEED a class, sign up for that class first so it doesn’t fill up while you’re adding an elective.
- 8am classes aren’t so bad, right? Wrong. Very wrong. In high school, I was a hardcore morning person. I had no problem getting up early for school. After taking 8am classes 4 days a week for the whole duration of my sophomore year, that changed drastically. It has been said that 8am’s were created by the devil himself. My 8am happened to be in the form of organic chemistry, and there was only one section available to us. You think you’re a morning person and would like to get your classes done early in the day? Think again. Cherish your sleep and take the 10am section instead if you have the choice.
- Your freshman roommate doesn’t have to become your best friend. If you’re one of the lucky ones, like myself, your freshman roommate will become one of your best friends. However, if that doesn’t happen to you, don’t force a friendship if the chemistry is not there. Especially if you go to a big university, you will meet so many people who are very different from you, and that’s okay. But that also means you will meet people who have the same interests as you. Roommates are meant to coexist, so even if they’re not the first person you’d ask to go shopping with or to dinner, you still need to respect them. Be open to the experience of living with someone you don’t know, even if you’re a little scared.
- The unwritten code of laundry etiquette. Every college may be different, but when I lived in my dorm, we had a laundry room on the second floor. Most people would put their laundry in the washer, start it on the 30 minute cycle, be back in 30 minutes to take it out, and proceed to dry it for an hour. This is how it should be. Please, PLEASE, be courteous when doing laundry. There is nothing worse than waiting for a washer/dryer when someone’s clothes are sitting in there, and no one is there to claim them. They will probably get taken out of the machine and placed on the folding table if you do not come get them in a timely manner. Set an alarm so you don’t forget to get your clothes. To be safe, come to the laundry room a few minutes early. I walked in on someone about to take my clothes out of the dryer with 5 minutes left once. Be respectful not to leave your clothes in the machine after the cycle is done. Be respectful if you have to take someone’s clothes out of the machine by placing them on a table and not on the dirty floor. Just be respectful, okay?
- Caffeine will be your best friend, if it isn’t already. Coffee? There will be at least one Starbucks on campus. And if coffee isn’t your thing (it will be eventually), there is pop, Red Bull, and other caffeinated drinks available basically everywhere. How else are you going to sit in a common room for 17 hours a day for 4 days straight when studying for finals? There is no other way to survive.
- Carb cravings. You may get the urge to stuff your face with lots of carbs when you’re stressed (which is most of the time). Every once in a while, it’s good for the soul to get the chicken alfredo at the cafeteria or head to Noodles and Co. or Panera. But try to resist temptations to eat warm bread while lying in your pile of laundry every night. The freshman 15 can be real if you make it real.
- 7. Dorm life is what you make it. I lived in a dorm room for my first two years of college. And while that hall will always have a place in my heart, I would not live there again for another year. Dorms offer a special experience for freshman. Your floor can be the place where you meet your best friends (I met my 4 best friends on my freshman floor). You’re on campus, and everything is close (or within a 45 minute walk, depending how big campus is). You have a meal plan with a cafeteria in your neighborhood. You don’t necessarily have to drive to any of your classes. However, while this all sounds wonderful (and it was for a while), it gets old. As a sophomore, I was over dorm life. Even though I lived with one of my best friends, we were ready to move on to our apartment. We had noisy neighbors that would keep us up until ungodly hours of the night when we had exams the next day. Community bathrooms are not all that they’re cracked up to be (however, they’re nice if you have clean floor mates, and they get cleaned at least once a day by staff). Walking outside to go to the cafeteria was a task when there was a blizzard raging outside (thank you Michigan weather). But dorm life is what you make it. Some students love the dorms and live there all 4 years. Others can’t wait to move out. It all depends on your personal experience.
- You don’t have to party to fit in. Contrary to popular belief, college is not all about partying. If you’re much more comfortable staying in, that is totally okay. Do not feel the need to go out every night if that’s not what you’re about. Some of the best nights I’ve had in college were when I stayed in with my girl friends, and we played Cards Against Humanity and ordered pizza.
- 9. Get a portable phone charger. You know those little pocket chargers you charge up in your room and can take them on the go? Invest in one. It doesn’t have to be expensive; it can be a cheap one from Target or Walmart. But it saved me a lot of trouble when I would leave my room at 10am and not come back until 7pm. Just charge it up at night, and you’re ready to go in the morning.
- Exercise is important. You don’t need to buy a gym membership. Running around campus can be a beautiful sight (like Michigan State’s Beaumont Tower or when the leaves change color in the fall). Go to the free exercise classes, like Zumba, Butts ‘n’ Guts, or yoga, that may be available in your neighborhood engagement center or local recreation center. They can be really fun, especially if you bring your friends with you!
- Party smart. No one wants to get an MIP. If you’re going out, be smart. And please, do not drive while under the influence. Have a designated driver or call a cab.
- Clubs and organizations. Join one. It may not be right away, but there are tons to choose from. Whether it be intramural sports, Greek life, or a club associated with your major, you will find one you love if you take the time to look for one.
- You learn a lot about friendship. Your friends will literally be your support system. Stressed about finals? They’ll be there to head to the caf to eat ice cream and complain about how the exam is worth 60% of your final grade. Going through a break up? They’ll be there to kick someone’s butt if needed, but will also come over with your favorite Insomnia Cookies and binge watch Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix while snuggling on the couch. They will be happy for you when you get a bid from the sorority you’ve had your heart set on. They will cheer you on when you’re heading out for a job interview. And before you know it, these strangers that you met not too long ago have become more than strangers. They’re your best friends, and you couldn’t imagine your life without them.
- Save money when you can. Textbooks are expensive. We all know this. However, when I was a freshman, I thought I had to buy my books from the university bookstore. There are many websites that you can buy your books from. Some course packs and books may only be available at your university bookstore. However, most can be found on Amazon and Chegg if you look up the ISBN number. I have saved so much money by renting books that I knew I wouldn’t need again. Look into it, but make sure the ISBN number and edition that your professor wants is correct before you order.
- It’s healthy to take breaks. Sometimes, you need to take a break to keep your sanity. Step away from your homework for a few hours and go get your nails done. Listen to music with you roommate and have a dance party. Watch a few episodes of your favorite show on Netflix. Sit outside and soak up a little bit of sun. Watch funny YouTube videos. Walk around campus to get your blood flowing. Doing homework and studying 24/7 is not good for your brain. Do something you enjoy for a while to give your brain a rest! Otherwise, you’ll get burnt out quickly.
- Be prepared for work, and get your head straight. College courses are totally different from high school classes. Yes, they’re even different (actually, way different) from the advanced placement classes that were supposed to “prepare you for college.” You will have to hit the ground running, and you have to be prepared to nose dive into material. Buy a planner and go to class. Once you get your syllabus, write down all of your due dates and exams into your planner. I would be so lost without my planner because there are so many due dates, exams, appointments, meetings, projects, and events that take place during the semester.
- You’re in college to get an education. Having fun is important, but dishing out thousands of extra dollars because you have to retake a failed class can be a huge burden on your bank account. As our good friend Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Take good notes, read your book, and study actively. Rereading notes may work for some people, but quizzing yourself, drawing diagrams, and making charts can be much more beneficial for actually learning the information, instead of just memorizing it for a test. It also doesn’t hurt to make studying fun.
College is the only time in your life where you are out on your own, but you still have the safety net of home if you need it. Have fun. Make friends. Do well in your classes. Join a club. Go out of your comfort zone. Work to make your community better. Your college experience depends on your attitude, so go in with an open mind. Four years of undergrad goes by quickly. Make the most of it.