Six Things To Do Your First Week of College

Friday, August 18, 2017


I don't know how to break it to college or grad school (do any Ph.D. students waste their time reading this blog? Probs not) students, but school is starting soon, if it has not already. My first day of college was six million years ago in 2013 and I did it wrong. I did my entire first two years of college wrong, to be quite honest. I was fine and content with my college experience thanks to my last two years being great, but man, sometimes I imagine how different it would've been if I started caring a little bit earlier than I did.

The first week of college can be seven days of complete stress bound together with the rest of the entire spectrum of emotions. It can be sad, exciting, maddening, draining. Most likely, it will be all of the above and they'll strike at random moments. To my rising freshmen who might be starting school on Monday or in a week (sorry if you've already started, oops), your first week isn't going to make or break your entire college career. Still, these are some things that I did or wish that I had done my first week of freshmen year that could have made my first two years a little different.

Introduce yourself


This seems simple enough, but I was genuinely too shy and nervous to even speak to anybody that I just...didn't. It's easier said than done, but there's no harm in familiarizing yourself with classmates or other students on campus. If you're living in a dorm, talk to your floormates. Your RA will probably make you play an icebreaker game the first week so you can learn people's names. Instead of daydreaming, listen to what people are saying. You'll learn their names easily and figure out at least something about them that could start a conversation. 

But don't stop just at floormates. It might be more difficult to tell who are new students and who are returning students when it comes to people living on other floors (my floor was strictly a freshmen floor my first year, but sophomore year it was a mixture of freshmen and sophomore), but making friends with people in your dorm is a no-brainer. You already have your living space in common!

To my commuter students, don't worry, I got you. We all know that where you sit the first day (or even maybe the second day) of class is where you'll ultimately end up sitting for the rest of the semester. We're all creatures of habit whether we like it or not. Make friends with the people around you. First thing, again, easy connection: you're both taking the same class. This also will come in handy when it comes to group work because if you know at least one person on either side of you, there's a good chance that when groups are formed, you'll at least know one person in them!

Memorize your schedule


I had my schedule written on post-it notes on both the wall of my dorm and the front page of my agenda. This goes hand in hand with the next tip, really. Other than the fact that it's nice to know where you're going and when you're supposed to be there makes life easier, it also gives you a nice sense of accomplishment. It's a small landmark, but it's nice when you're in a totally new atmosphere and feel like you're accommodating nicely.

Familiarize yourself with campus


Some campuses are confusing. University at Buffalo is a big state university near my hometown where some of my high school friends went. I visited a couple of friends one day and they were taking me around campus and I did not get it. I didn't. It was so big and their hallways made no sense.

If I went to that school, I would've needed two weeks just to figure out how campus worked. Cleveland State was much different. It was, essentially, just a few buildings in a straight line up Euclid Avenue. Follow the green dots in the Interlink (an enclosed hallway that linked all of the buildings together so you didn't have to walk outside) and you can make it from the College of Urban Affairs building all to the way to the College of Engineering building.

It's imperative to learn where your classes are first, but if you're dealing with a bigger campus, getting familiar with most if not all of it will come in handy. If someone asks you a question, you can help them. It's nice to know where the best food places are, where you can get the best coffee on campus (plot twist: you'll probably have to go off-campus for this), where the best floor in the library to get work is, all those great things. This will make you feel more comfortable on campus instead of feeling like you're wandering around lost for your first semester. 

Since I didn't live in Cleveland or really see the school more than a couple of times before I started school, I really only had one day to try to explore campus before my classes started on a Monday. On the Sunday before classes after an orientation, my suitemates and I took to campus and walked around all of the buildings that were open to try to figure out where our classes the next day were going to be. Definitely take a few extra minutes (or ten) in the morning to try to find your classes instead of assuming you know and end up being late.


Find off campus dining


Just...trust me. I don't care if you have Gordon Ramsay cooking meals at your school. The more you eat on campus, the more you're going to resent the food. Find yourself a coffee and breakfast place off campus. Definitely find yourself a pizza place, preferably one that either delivers or is open late at night. If you live in a bigger city, UberEats (or similar apps, like Seamless) will be a life saver. It's also nice just to know that there are places to eat if campus is closed or if you want to go out with friends or family. You never know when you're going to need off campus dining, so it never hurts to have a few go-to's.
Get your supplies


I'd say the one thing that I wouldn't loop under supplies would be your textbooks because...the rumors are true...you will probably not need a majority of them (and if you do, always rent instead of buying unless it's a two part class or you need those stupid codes that give you online access so you can do annoying homework assignments). But beyond textbooks, get your notebooks and pens and all those fun school supplies that I miss buying. Don't be the person who asks for a pen every day the first month of school. I know I said talking to the people around you was a good idea, but if you ask for a pen every single class, you're probably going to annoy whoever you're asking. That's just the truth. Once or twice, no big deal. Serial pen borrower? Not a cute look.

Go to "welcome week" events


They have free food. Seriously, go to events on campus. The organizations on campus put a lot of time into these events and they're really great for meeting new people. Plus...free food. I'm not sure if this is customary for most schools, but if your school has a "welcome week" with different events every day, go! You don't have to hit up every event on all of the days, but take your roommates or a couple of friends between classes and go mingle and grab a bite to eat. The thing is, they could be boring. Or, they could be where you meet a future classmate or best friend. You never know who you're going to meet at these things unless you go!

2 comments

  1. Being a freshman in DC (a city for the first time in my life..alone!) I made sure to scope out everything and go to all my classes the weekend before they started...still was horrified I'd get lost (kept my map the entire year right in my bag ;) )

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    1. Oh same!!! I think my entire first year I was too afraid to try to learn how to navigate Cleveland, when in reality if I would've just learned the city in my first week (okay, maybe first month would be more realistic), my life would've been so much easier haha.

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