Freshmen or first-year orientation is a great resource for learning about your new life at college. Your orientation leader will show you where all the important buildings are and you’ll get to spend the night in a dorm and try campus food for the first time.
You also will create or receive your schedule and meet with your academic adviser to learn all about what you’ll need to do to graduate.
You’ll be inundated with information and might even feel overwhelmed by all the things they are telling you.
Here are some tips for students going off to college to make adjusting to campus life a little easier:
1. Invest in a planner and develop good time-management skills. Kevin Hughes, dean of students at Christopher Newport University, said students often struggle with a less-structured academic schedule.
“In college, it’s not that regimented, as classes may be at 9, 11, and 4 on any given day,” Hughes wrote in an email. “That means studying needs to occur between classes.”
2. Despite how it may seem on TV or in movies, not all professors allow students to use laptops during class, so don’t skip out on bringing paper and pencil on the first day.
3. Get to know your academic adviser and seek help when you need it.
4. Err on the side of caution when it comes to living with a friend.
“I tend to tell people not to be roommates with their friends,” said Jewel Long, dean of residence life at Hampton University. “That’s a good way to break down a friendship.”
5. Take time to discuss your expectations with your roommate and set boundaries.
“I know one thing that we do to really avoid the conflict is what we call apartment agreements for upperclassmen or roommate agreements for underclassmen,” said Megan Lorincz, a resident adviser at CNU. “That’s where you sit down at the very beginning of the year and say ‘here’s what it’s like to live with me, here’s what I expect out of you as a roommate’ and say, ‘here are the expectations for me.’ So it definitely helps.”
6. Communicate directly with roommates. Leaving notes or sending text messages can seem passive-aggressive and create an uncomfortable living environment.
“I know one big thing that we talk about is communication, so definitely having that open communication, not using sticky notes, not using text messaging, but really having that face-to-face,” Lorincz said.
Make friends and get involved
7. Your resident adviser isn’t just there for when your keys get locked in your room.
Lorincz said that right under safety, a resident advisers’ top priority is to help their residents find the resources they need to find their place on campus.
“We’re here to help you get involved, we’re here to help you maybe work through things that you didn’t realize would come up in college, we’re here to answer any questions about classes, about professors, submit a work order, how to do laundry,” Lorincz said. “We’re really a jack-of-all-trades in that sense.”
8. Don’t feel like you need to try everything in your first few weeks on campus, but also seek new experiences that push you out of your comfort zone.
“Accomplishments can be spread over four year. Take a deep breath, take stock of who you are, what you want to do, and to try new things,” Garrett said.
9. Get to know the students in your orientation group.
10. Go to club fairs to see what’s offered on campus and meet the people in organizations you want to join.
“We definitely have one in the fall specifically to get freshmen out and get to know organizations,” Lorincz said. “We have almost 300 organizations on campus so it’s a great place for organizations to get to showcase what it does.”
11. Leave your door open when you’re in your room to get to know your hall mates.
“For underclassmen, we really encourage open-door policies so if the door is open, you can go in and talk to one another,” Lorincz said.
12. Remember that crime can happen anywhere.
13. Put your university’s police department phone number in your contact list.
14. Check if your university has a police escort service or Safe Ride program for getting around campus or town late at night.
“The safe ride program is if someone decides to go out and consumes adult beverages, this is so CNU guarantees that they are not driving,” Lorincz said. CNU’s program runs on Friday and Saturday from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.
15. Use campus call boxes in emergency situations.
16. Always lock your car locked and don’t leave wallets, cell phones, laptops or GPS systems in plain sight.
17. Keep a record of the serial numbers on your laptop, phone and tablet.
“A very big help for us is any items of value that you bring to campus, things like laptops, iPhones and electronics, anything that has a serial number that you can get and write down and put somewhere is a very big help for us,” CNU police captain Scott Austin said.
18. If your university has a bike registry program, register your bike.
19. Download the LiveSafe app if your school subscribes to the program.
20. See if graduating early is a possibility to cut down on tuition costs.
“I brought my transcripts to the registrar’s office because I did some dual enrollment and a free pre-college program,” said Kate Stephens, author of “College, Quicker.” “So the registrar looked at my transcript and said, ‘you know, it’s interesting, you could probably graduate a semester early.'”
21. See if your university accepts credit from College Level Examination Program.
“With a normal college class, students have to show up for 15 weeks. With CLEP, you don’t have to do that,” Stephens said. “You study on your own or grab a book designed for the class and you can earn between three to 12 credits per exam.”
Stephens was awarded 30 semester credits through CLEP and only spent an estimated $600 on the exams.
22. Buy used textbooks or rent textbooks when possible.
Stephens recommends looking for books on chegg.com, bookrenter.com or campusbookrenters.com.
23. If you’ve never done laundry before, ask your RA for help.
“Do you know, in some of our residence hall programs, we do tell the how to do laundry and about not mixing clothes?” Long said. “I know some of that does happen because some of them have never done laundry before.”
24. Invest in a hamper and drying rack
25. Sort clothes before washing them. This will help everything fit in a load better and prevent colors from bleeding.
26. Don’t leave your clothes sitting in a machine for very long after a wash or dry cycle is done because you risk having them moved by someone waiting for an available machine or stolen.
You can survive without a car
27. Many college campus are set up so students can get around without a car.
“Students are allowed to have cars on campus, although they don’t really need them. Everything they need is right on campus or within walking distance,” Hughes wrote in an email. “If they don’t bring one, they can still be entertained on campus and walk to the grocery stores and restaurants if they want a break.”
28. Join ride-sharing groups with your classmates on Facebook.
29. Get to know your schools public transportation system. Many schools have apps for their bus systems so you know what time a bus should arrive at each stop.
30. If your campus has Zip cars, utilize these for running errands that require a car.
31. Utilize Safe Ride programs for getting places at night or after drinking.
According to CNU’s website, their Safe Ride program “will pick up from anywhere in the local community and will drop on-campus students off at multiple locations.”
32. See if your campus has a shuttle service for getting you home on breaks.
Decorate and organize your dorm room
33. Talk to your roommate about dividing up dorm-room necessities.
“One thing that’s good to do is definitely coordinate with your roommate on things like a coffee maker, microwaves and micro-fridges, anything that you may want just to make sure you aren’t doubling up on items and taking up precious space in the room,” said Jessica Joyce, public relations manager for Bed, Bath & Beyond.
34. Choose a color scheme with your roommate and run with it.
“We decided to meet at Target and walked around to look at little things that we thought would work for our room and pick color schemes,” said Virginia Tech student Jessica Bryant (from Newport News) in an email about meeting with her roommate for the first time. “We found we each liked navy and yellow so we decided we would start looking for decorations that fell into those two schemes.”
35. Make your own decorations to ensure your décor is one-of-a-kind.
“My roommate was super crafty so she painted cheap canvases she got from Walmart and Michael’s with little quotes in navy paint,” Bryant wrote.
36. Think about creating personal space and space for storage.
“We each had our sides of the room, raising our beds to the highest point they could go on the bed post and added bed risers from Target,” Bryant wrote. “We each had to hop on our desk to get on our beds, but it created a ton of storage space under our beds, which is extremely necessary in a small room with two people living in it while still giving us floor space.”
37. Make sure your decorations aren’t breaking fire code.
“You can’t daisy chain your lights, which is plugging in multiple strands of Christmas lights (to each other) because that can start a fire potentially,” Lorincz said. Extension cords also are not allowed in dorms, so students should look for power strips with circuit breakers.
According to Virginia State Fire Code, “curtains, draperies, hangings and other decorative material suspended from walls” must be non-combustible.
38. Don’t block any doors or windows when arranging furniture.
39. Utilize Bed, Bath & Beyond’s “pack and hold” or “shop now, ship later” services to get all the dorm supplies you could need, without having to suffer through a crammed car ride on the way to school.
Stay healthy and fit
40. Playing intramural sports provides students with a break from studying and an opportunity to meet people.
“I believe it just offers them the opportunity to be well rounded, not only academically but physically as well,” said Clyde Etter, intramural sports director at Hampton University.
41. Be mindful of your eating and sleeping habits.
“Keep in mind that sleep is important, nutrition is important and when you need to take a break and take a nap or go for a run, do those things,” Garrett said. “In order to be successful, you need to be paying attention to yourself, to your body and taking good care of yourself. So if you’re investing time and energy into studying, you need to be eating appropriately, being mindful of your sleeping and studying and doing those things to be a holistic and valuable individual in our community.”
42. If you’ve never been into fitness, access to free gyms and recreation centers during college is a great time to try it out.
“You can, if you want, come to college and really invest in well-being and fitness,” Lorincz said. “We have the resources.”
43. Don’t be shy about visiting your university’s counseling or wellness center if you aren’t feeling well.
“We not only have counseling for students who need to talk about the transitions of life or if they’re going through things specifically, and that’s free for all students and it’s a great resource that students should take advantage of, but we also have a wellness center that students should take advantage of if you come down with the flu or maybe the norovirus like I had my freshman year,” Lorincz said.
44. Take advantage of the healthy-eating options dining halls offer.
Students have access to menus and nutrition information about the food being served in their dining halls. At CNU, menus indicate vegan, heart healthy and gluten-free options for students with dietary concerns.
Cook in your dorm room
45. Don’t rely on your microwave to tell you when your popcorn is done or you easily could set off the fire alarm.
46. Make sure you always have food in your room.
“I felt like it was always necessary to have food readily available in (my room) in case circumstances came up where it would be inconvenient to leave the room, such as dining halls being closed or bad weather, or even the case where I ran out of meal card money,” said Samantha Dempsey, a rising sophomore at Virginia Tech.
47. For a healthy breakfast, make scrambled eggs in your microwave. You can turn your eggs into an omelet by getting your favorite omelet fixings off the salad bar at a dining hall.
48. Use a Keurig to make hot water for instant oatmeal or Ramen Noodles.
49. Refer to Pinterest for recipes on items you can cook in a mug.
50. Turn your iron into a panini press for hot sandwiches in your room.
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