20 Things Every Freshman Should Know

20 Things Every Freshman Should Know

Baby Dragons, welcome to Drexel University. As a Senior Dragon entering my last term at DU, watching all the freshmen move in and realizing that was me FIVE years ago has been…intense. Right now I know you’re probably a bit overwhelmed, but that’s totally normal. Luckily, maybe-wiser-definitely-older me is here to offer some completely unsolicited advice so that maybe you can skip over the part where you feel totally stressed by your surroundings and jump right to the good stuff. 

Here are a few things you should know when you get to campus. If anyone asks, tell them your new upperclassman friend gave you the low-down but, no, she won’t buy you beer.


1. You Should Leave Your Door Open To Make Friends

The first few weeks of living on campus are a total free-for-all friend fest. Everyone is a) super excited to be in college b) super homesick/lost and c) desperately looking for friends. Leave your dorm room door open (while you’re in it, obviously) and watch the friends flow in. You’ll be surprised how many of your neighbors will pop in to introduce themselves. 


2. Wearing Your Lanyard is a Giant "I'M A FRESHMAN" Sign

No one is really sure why freshmen feel the need to pop their ID and key on a string and wear it like crown jewels, but we’ve all done it. One of the biggest survival strategies I’ve learned for literally any new situation is to look like you know what you’re doing and you’ll eventually figure it out. This isn’t about looking uncool — it’s about giving yourself the boost of confidence you need to see yourself as a real college student by taking off the “I’m new here” signage. 


3. The Hans Isn’t That Bad

The Hans is short for the Handschumacher Dining Center (yes, drop the D). Everyone will tell you about how bad it is. You will hate going there in the winter when there is a foot of snow on the ground. You will hate the long lines. You will notice when the food suddenly is 10x better than normal because they’re buttering up parents for Accepted Students Day. Just deal with it. It’s cheap food conveniently located on campus so that you can take advantage of the meal plan you’re paying your left arm for and make some friends. Life could be worse. 


4. You WILL Get a Co-op

Your co-op advisor will absolutely try to scare the crap out of you by telling you that if you don’t do X, Y, and Z you will not find a co-op and if you don’t find a co-op you will never graduate or find a job and you will die a slow death on the streets. Yes, you need to do everything she or he says to do in order to find a co-op and it is important, but at no point should you be crying in the fetal position because you didn’t land one in A round. There are 3 rounds for a reason and if in the off chance you don’t find a co-op, you will not be kicked out of school. Just breathe. You’ll be fine. 


5. Student Orgs Are the Center of Social Life

Whether you find your tribe in Greek Life, recreational or club sports, activist groups, community service, or campus publications there is plenty to do at DU. It is possible to have a full and happy life outside of student organizations, however, a lot of Drexel students are involved in student orgs and they really are the center of social life. No culture dominates — we aren’t an especially sporty or Greek school, for example — but since we’re an urban, scattered campus, this is the best way to get engaged with your peers. Check out https://drexel.collegiatelink.net/organizations for a full list 


6. You Do Need To Order Your Textbooks Early

Ten weeks sounds like a long time, but it flies by. Therefore, you should really order your textbooks as soon as the list is available on Drexel One. If you order them during the first week of classes or later, by the time they get to your dorm you may be done with that book on the syllabus. If you’re worried about not needing a book on the list or want to share with a friend, email your professor ahead of time to ask about when you’ll use each book and what for. If it’s a book you need to use in class, it may not be kosher to share.


7. But Don't Order Them From Drexel

I repeat: DO NOT ORDER YOUR BOOKS FROM THE DREXEL BOOKSTORE. (This is, of course, unless absolutely necessary. For example, “The 33rd” is only published by DU.) They are crazy expensive and if you select “rent” online, they may not have any rental copies and you’ll get charged the full price. They may even run out of the book you need (this happens more than you’d think). You can almost always find cheaper books — rent or buy, new or used — at places like Half.com, amazon.com, Chegg.com, and Barnes & Noble’s online Marketplace. Additionally, some textbooks are held on reserve in the library for students to use during the term. 


8. The Drexel Shaft Used To Be a Real Thing

You may hear some references to something called “the Drexel Shaft” when someone has been screwed over by paperwork, Drexel’s rules, financial aid, or the like. It’s tied to the idiom of “getting the shaft” but originally had a physical representation: a fountain that used to stand outside of North Hall. When that was demolished, the idiom switched its reference point to a smokestack that used to stand in the train yards at 30th St. Station, behind Caneris. This was demolished in 2009, but the joke still stands.


9. Time Management is Crucial

This is not high school. This is also not your friends’ semester-length schools. Drexel’s 10-week courses sound like a dream until you realize you have two “midterms” during Week 8, three final papers due Week 9, and four finals just two weeks later. It’s no joke, so stay on top of your work and find an organization system that works for you. And for gosh sakes, get a planner.



10. Food Trucks Are Your Friend 

Learn this phrase ASAP: Saltpeppaketchup? This means, would you like salt, pepper, and/or ketchup on whatever you have ordered? It’s a common phrase at the mom-and-pop food trucks on campus that you can find along Buckley Field, between Main Building and CAT, and next to UCross. These have the BEST food for the best price for miles, and if you are loyal to your favorite truck you’ll reap the benefits of being a regular. The fancy city food trucks (Street Food Philly is my favorite) that visit campus are amazing as well, but a bit pricier. 


11. Living Off Campus Is The Best

I’m gonna be honest: for how nice and pretty Drexel’s dorms can be, especially the new ones, they’re total rip offs. If you have any financial concerns, move off campus as soon as you can. You can find comfortable, RA-free living close to campus for $400-700 a month, depending on your needs. In comparison to the $1,100+/month price tag of the dorms there’s no contest. Plus, you’re allotted way more freedoms when living off campus, including full kitchens, having as many guests as you want without signing them in, and a WAY comfier bed. 


12. You Need To Get Out of University City

I’ve met way too many upperclassmen that have yet to explore the beautiful city of Philadelphia to not give this advice: leave the UC! Yes, University City holds enough friends, restaurants, clothing stores, and groceries so that you’d never really have to leave. But where’s the fun in that??? Google Old City, Northern Liberties, Chinatown, and East Passyunk to find areas that are college-friendly and tons of fun.


13. To Ask For What You Need

Need to switch classes? Need financial aid? Need help finding your co-op path? Need help finding a student organization you like? Want to try a new research project? Ask for help! Your academic advisor, co-op advisor, RA, department heads, and professors are all here to help you. You really just have to ask. It won’t appear by magic. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, my friends. 


14. Some Departments Get Preferential Treatment

Whether you’re an engineering major or not, learn this fast: you are in an engineering school. The rest of the world may assume you’re an engineer when you mention Drexel. You may notice 10x as many engineers on campus as your major. You may see more events for engineers on campus. It’s not personal — Drexel is just a historically technical engineering school and that reputation precedes it. That does not mean your major or college is lesser or easier and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! All aspects of the triangle crest — Art, Industry, and Science — are vital to the school. Wear your major with pride! 


15.Our Library Is Less Than Ideal

 I often tell a story about how I once went searching for a Shakespeare play in Hagerty and could not find it. It hadn’t been checked out — I asked and searched online — it just didn’t exist. I was… surprised. Hagerty isn’t the best library in University City, that’s for sure. It’s good for research for departments that have an active interest in the library, but for others it’s a bit lacking. Luckily, as part of a deal between schools, we have access to the grand libraries on Penn’s campus. Definitely check those out, even if you’re just site seeing.


16. Basketball Games Are a Big Deal

Basketball games are the closest things you’ll find on campus to a big football game at a state school. It’s not huge or all-encompassing of campus, but the fandom of the Drexel Dragons basketball teams has grown every year. Spend a few Wednesday nights in the DAC and you’ll learn about the cast of characters that inhabits the stands, from DAC Pack leaders to the band & dance team. It’s really a lot of fun and it’s a great way to blow off steam post-study session.


17. All Groceries On Campus Are 2x The Real Price

This is similar to the textbook tip I gave earlier. Buying groceries at Market 16, Northside, or the bookstore is just a mistake. Everything is super expensive for absolutely no reason other than to steal your money. If you’re not going to go to Fresh Grocer (the Drexel shuttle goes there, BTW!) then at least do yourself a favor and go to 7-11 or CVS to save a bit of dough. 


18. Drexel Is Currently Obsessed with Chairs

You may notice that any empty outdoor space on campus has been filled with chairs and tables. These range from metal tables with umbrellas to beach style wooden relaxing chairs. They’re by the Buckley volleyball courts. They’re on a patch of grass in front of Millennium. They’re all around Chestnut Square. I assure you, freshies, these were not here 6 months ago. Some were not here 6 weeks ago. Maybe Drexel bought them in bulk to get a good deal or they “fell off a truck.” No one’s really sure. I guess we should sit in them?


19. Powelton Parties Suck, But They're Also Great

If you’re looking for a big, ol’ crowded party with strobe lights and red cups like you’ve seen in the movies, then as a freshman parties on Powelton (the street behind the dorms) may be your best bet. Are they movie-worthy? Absolutely not. Will upperclassmen snicker at you as you wander past townhouses looking for one with a senior waiting on the stoop to collect your $5 cover charge? Yes. But years later, when you and your friends are of age, hanging out at a cool bar or inviting all your friends to your first apartment, you’ll collectively reminisce over the smell of Red Bull, sticky floors, and sweating co-eds.


20. These Aren't the Best Years Of Your Life -- But That's A Good Thing

As most of my high school friends graduated in June (boo, five year program), all I heard — and by heard, I mean read on Facebook — about graduation was “X State/University gave me the best years of my life! I’m so sad to leave them behind!” Think about how depressing that is: you’re 22 and you’ve already peaked? After a quarter of your life, you’ve already seen the best of it? That was it? I’m calling BS. If you think college will be the best years of your life, I feel bad for you. Yes, they will be amazingly fun. You will make some of the best memories of your young life at Drexel and it’s going to be totally awesome. But this is just the beginning. There’s so much more! Enjoy the ride, my friends. It’s going to fly by, but that’s life. Nothing great lasts forever. That’s what makes it great.