10 things every freshman should know
By Steve Tuttle
knows better about surviving freshman year than the juniors and seniors to whom the shocks of that transition are still fresh in mind? So we asked them in a survey to share their tips and insights with this year’s crop of freshmen. Our thanks go to professor John Howard for offering two of his School of Communication classes as our survey sample. Sixty-one of his students answered our 10 questions. Here are their responses: Thinking back to my freshman year… When I left home for college I packed way too many ______.
Clothes, clothes, clothes. Almost all the students surveyed said they brought too many of everything, including shoes and even toiletries. And don’t even think about bringing winter clothes, three students said. “It never gets really cold here,” one wrote. Nobody told me I needed so many ______.
Things that fall under the broad category of “stuff you need to study”—notebooks, note cards, highlighters, pencils, pens—were mentioned most frequently in the survey. “Money for food,” aka Pirate Bucks, was next on their lists. Other items our juniors and seniors never thought they would need in such abundance: *
Boxes and storage bins (“to keep your junk separate from her junk,” one student wrote). *
Bubble sheets for taking exams. *
Late-night snacks *
Oddly, electric extension cords turned up on both the “packed way too many” and “nobody told me I needed so many” lists. You figure. Don’t bother bringing ______.
We have a three-way tie, with seven mentions each: *
Your car, because there’s nowhere to park it. *
Your high school girlfriend/boyfriend, their photos or phone numbers, because, well, you know. *
Pets. Apparently some people still don’t read the memo. Other practical tips for lightening the suitcase load: *
A stereo, because you listen to music through your laptop *
Napkins, plastic spoons/forks and condiments, because you can lift those from the dining halls *
A phone (the old-fashioned kind, silly) *
A first aid kit (“We have a free clinic for a reason,” one wrote.)
Perhaps the most hopeful advice was the student who wrote: “Your anxiety—everything will work out for the best.” Don’t ever lose your ______.
The winners here are the twin constants of freshman existence, the 1 Card, with 22 votes, and dorm room key, with 10. If you lose one you don’t eat and if you lose the other you don’t sleep. Enough said.
Other items freshmen should avoid losing: *
Focus—7 votes *
Wallet—5 votes *
Cell phone—4 *
Shower shoes—3 *
Flash drive The best way to get along with a roommate is ______.
Fifteen said, in so many words: You have to learn how to communicate with a roommate, to speak up and talk things out. Nine others offered this similar advice: Be friendly and patient, be accepting and don’t be judgmental. Agree on ground rules from day one and learn to compromise, six others said. Don’t room with your best friend from high school, several others said, apparently speaking from sad experience. Some practical advice: Have an escape plan, like a friend’s room you can go to, for those times when you can’t stand roomie one more second. The worst thing that can happen is ______.
Flunking out, obviously. That’s what nearly half of the students surveyed said. Several others said it was indulging in behaviors often associated with academic problems, like excessive drinking and partying. You can almost feel the pain lingering from the student who wrote: “Getting so drunk and stupid that everyone remembers you as ‘that girl.’” Looking back, some said the worst thing is “not taking advantage of opportunities” or “taking classes seriously.” Five said the worst thing that can happen is not making new friends. Other horrors mentioned: *
Being in the shower when the fire alarm goes off *
Getting walked to your dorm room by a campus cop *
Missing the last bus *
Getting your car towed (see “Don’t bother bringing” above.) The best way to avoid looking stupid is ______.
Our juniors and seniors clearly agree on what is the most embarrassing thing that can happen to a freshman. It’s seen every fall on campus: A lost kid, carrying a load of books and anxiously scanning the names of buildings to find his next class, doesn’t see the curb and takes a header into the grass, books and papers flying. It’s a terrible fate you can avoid, our upperclassmen said, if you just do what you were told at orientation: The day before classes begin, print out your class schedule and slowly walk the mall observing the locations of buildings and plotting the path you will walk from class to class. Failing that, “just keep your head down and keep walking if you trip,” one veteran advised. “When you fall when walking to class,” another wrote, “just lay on the ground and no one will notice.” Another seemed resigned to the inevitable: “Never care about it because it’s going to happen, so accept it.” Other ways to avoid looking stupid and their votes: *
Just be yourself—7 *
Act mature/ask questions—4 *
Get your work done and go to class—4 *
Laugh at yourself—3 *
Don’t wear high heels to class—3 *
Think before you speak—2 *
Get someone else to do it first—2 I finally felt like a real college student when I stopped ______.
Now this is maturity talking: Thirteen students said, in so many words, that the change came when they stopped partying and started studying. Or as one said, “When I started going to class because I wanted to and not because I thought I had to.” Five said it came when they stopped going home most weekends and five others said it was when they stopped caring how they looked. “It was when I stopped calling my Mom every day,” one student wrote. Others said they felt more mature when they stopped: *
Dating my high school girlfriend/hanging out with my high school friends *
Asking for directions *
Sleeping (“Partying or studying, all-nighters are the norm,” one wrote.) *
Following the crowd *
Eating at McDonald’s and started fixing my own meals Your folks won’t get too upset unless your GPA falls below ______.
This is interesting. You might expect the juniors and seniors would say that a 2.0 is the survival line, and that’s exactly what 25 students put down. But 20 other students said it takes a 2.5 to keep the parents off your back and 10 said they had to get a 3.0 to keep mom and pop happy. In case you’re wondering, that averages out to a 2.36. It’s more important to ______. *
Show up for every class—43 votes *
Turn in every piece of homework—16 *
Sit in the front row—2
Hopefully, this solves the deepest mystery of freshman life, which is how to make good grades without really trying.