Keep the excitement of move-in day at an all-time high this week by spending some time beforehand figuring out your next moves. Planning out the important things you need to take care of during this busy time period can be extremely helpful.
The start of school will be a flurry of moving in, buying school supplies and struggling to remember names. However, don’t let the chaos get you down. Your first week on campus is the best time to lay the groundwork for what can turn out to be incredibly essential relationships during, or even after, your freshman year. Check out these tips for dominating your first week on campus and jumpstarting your incredible college experience!
Establish rooming rules
Whether you’ve known your roommate for years or you met her when you opened your dorm room door, it’s essential that you two sit down to set some ground rules for living together. Even if you have been best friends your whole lives, hanging out together 24/7 and actually sharing a small space for a year are two very different things.
To ensure you have the best possible experience, make sure to talk about all the aspects of living together. A few that you should probably touch on are cleaning the room, having friends over, hook-ups and/or significant others, study and sleeping habits, and using the other person’s stuff.
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A smart way to deal with any potential conflict is for you both to fill out a roommate contract. Many schools will have your R.A. provide you with one that you’re required to respond to and sign, but if not, you and your roommate can write one on your own. A contract will allow you both to express what you expect out of the other person and to negotiate any sticky points before they cause trouble. That way, if there’s a problem later in the year, you can refer back to the contract to see what you agreed on in the beginning.
Make the most of pre-planned events
There are going to be a ridiculous amount of welcome events during the first week of school and going to these can help you feel more at home right away.
“The first week on campus is overwhelming to say the least,” says Kelci Lynn Lucier, the guide to college life from About.com. “The biggest advice I have is to do as much as you can. That means going to all the orientation events and just getting out. It’s really important to meet people and it’s a great time to get a lot of information.”
If your school offers a club fair or sign-up day, make sure to go! Put down your name and email address for everything and anything that sounds interesting so you can stay in the loop throughout the year. Most clubs and organizationswill hold some sort of get-together to try to get you involved. Even if you’re not that interested, most of them will also include free food, which you should definitely take advantage of. Who knows, you may even end up finding some you want to join!
Also, many local restaurants and stores will have discounted prices for college students during this time. You’ll be able to get some great deals and to figure out your favorite food and shopping spots near your school.
Create a rapport with your R.A.
If you’re living in a dorm, which the majority of freshmen do, your residential advisor (R.A.) is going to be one of your most important resources.
Most R.A.’s will make an effort to come and get to know you in the first few days after you move in. Be friendly when this happens so your relationship will start off on the right foot.
During the first week, most R.A.’s will host events to help everyone living on the hall or in the dorm get to know each other. These events are great opportunities for you to get acquainted with the people you’re living with and to make some new friends. R.A.’s can really help to make everyone feel comfortable and break the ice between people.
To have the best chance at befriending your R.A., attend the information sessions and hall programs whenever you can. R.A.’s are much more likely to ignore the slightly louder than usual noise coming from your room if you’re one of the hall residents who has attended every pizza party and movie night the R.A. has thrown. But at the same time, respect the rules of the dorm so he or she doesn’t have to get you in trouble. You may even want to put your R.A. on limited profile on Facebook to avoid any potentially awkward situations where he or she is required to report you. (How awkward would it be if your R.A. saw photos on Facebook of a party thrown in your room?)
Besides being a friendly face and a facilitator of new relationships, R.A.’s can also be incredibly supportive during any trouble that you experience later in the year. If you feel comfortable with him or her, you can go to your R.A. to discuss pretty much anything, whether it’s an issue with your roommate, academic troubles or a personal matter.
“If you do run into problems, you want to have a rapport already with your R.A. so you can talk about stuff,” explains Lucier. “You never know what big deal things are going to happen. You have no idea in August what could be a problem in November.”
Although you may think of your R.A. as an intimidating authority figure, remember that he or she is just a student like you. This doesn’t mean that you should break any rules, but you may find out that you have more in common with him or her than you think.
Start your social life
You should try to meet as many different people as possible during your first few days on campus. One group that should be easy to get to know is your hallmates.
Many of your hallmates are likely to be freshmen as well and will be just as eager to make some new friends. Don’t ignore your hallmates; even if you are painfully shy, just saying hi can eliminate awkwardness with the other people on your hall.
Start a conversation about what classes you’re taking or what clubs you want to join. Ask them to lunch at the dining hall or see if they want to walk around campus and explore with you.
If you realize some of you are in a few of the same classes, invite them to walk to the buildings those classes are in so you can all figure out where you’re going before the first day. (This is something you should do even if no one else wants to.) Your hallmates could easily turn into your study buddies, gym partners, or even some of your closest friends.
“I wouldn't worry about making your new besties right away because it takes time for meaningful relationships to grow,” explains Erica Avesian, a senior at the University of Michigan. “Everyone is out looking to meet new people so be friendly and exchange numbers, but don't worry if you haven't found your future bridesmaids; it's only the first week!”
“Leave your door open when you’re studying, or just little things like that,” says Lucier. “Be open to meeting people.”
Even if they don’t turn out to be your best friends forever, it’s important to be on good terms with the people living near you in case you ever need their help with something. Friendly neighbors are always a useful resource!
Take advantage of the advising office
One of the key things you should do during your first week on campus is to set up a meeting with your academic advisor. With everything else that’s going on, it’s sometimes hard to remember that the main point of college is actually going to class. Your advisor is going to be one of your most vital resources for all things academic over the next four years, so it’s crucial you get to know him or her as soon as possible!
Check out the academic advising website or just swing by the building to figure out how to set up an appointment. Many schools will have walk-in hours during the first few weeks of each semester to make it easier for students to talk to their advisors.
“Even if you’re an undecided major, have your classes figured out and feel like you’re fine, still go. You’re going to need your academic advisor your whole time at school,” emphasizes Lucier. “It’s hard to know what you don’t know about academic life on campus, and they can watch out for you with that.”
You can talk to your advisor about pretty much anything that has to do with the academic side of college. If you can, come up with a list of questions for the first time you meet with him or her. Ask if the classes you’re taking your first semester are the right ones to start with, which ones are known for being the most rigorous and time-consuming, and which general education requirements they will take care of.
If you have a major picked out, talk to him or her about the requirements you need to graduate: how many credit hours you need; what classes can you take that will count towards both gen-eds and your major (these are life-savers); if you need to complete any field work or internships; if you will you need to write a thesis, etc.
Unsure about your major? Chat with your advisor about your interests and see if he or she has any recommendations. There may be a major program that’s perfect for you that you don’t even know exists! If you still think you’re going to need more help deciding, ask if your school offers any career aptitude testing to give you an idea of what you’d be good at.
Getting to know your academic advisor can also benefit you financially. From the beginning, he or she can help make sure you’re taking the right classes to stay on track to graduate on time. Having to spend an extra semester or year at college can be incredibly costly. You should use your academic advisor’s knowledge to help avoid this.
Have a blast!
Above all else, make sure that you enjoy yourself during your first week on campus. The beginning of school can be one of the most exciting times of the year, and you should take advantage of this.
“Have fun! Especially before the homework, responsibilities and homesickness kick in,” says Erica. “I went to a ton of parties and had a blast.”
If your school is big on Greek life, there are sure to be tons of frat parties the first week. Check out Her Campus’s “A Freshman Girl’s Guide To Frat Parties” for the 411 on seeming like a professional frat-goer.
No worries if frats aren’t your thing, there are bound to be plenty of other parties and get-togethers as well. See if any fun clubs or bars in the area are offering 18+ nights that you can go to. If you happen to know any upperclassmen or have older siblings who went to the same school, definitely ask them. Also, check with your hallmates. They may know about a hall-crawl or something similar going on right in your dorm.
Once you know of something, pick out a cute, yet classy, outfit, get your roommate and a few hallmates together and prepare to have an awesome night out. This is a great time to learn about each other and create shared experiences you are bound to remember for years to come. Once you leave the dorm, make sure the group does not split up and keep track of each other throughout the night to stay safe.
Make sure to work hard during the day so you can play hard at night. Get out there and start what’s sure to be an amazing four years of your life by having a kicka** time!
Good luck, newly-minted collegiettes!