The transition to college can be overwhelming yet exciting. Before going to the University of Florida, I had hundreds of questions because there was so much that I did not know. Going to college is a big adjustment, and it takes time to learn the ropes and establish a consistent routine. Here are 12 pieces of advice for potential Gators that you might not know:
The University of Florida has a huge campus. Your classes probably won’t be super close, and most freshmen do not bring their cars. This means that you will have to walk most places. Walking helps you get your steps in and stay in shape, but it can be tiring. Remember to pack comfortable shoes!
2. Cold, Old Dorms
Just because it is always over 80 degrees outside does not mean you should leave all of your cozy clothes at home. The dorms are cold and old. My dorm is constantly 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so I am always wearing a sweatshirt or holding a blanket. Remember to bring warm clothes to wear in your dorm when packing. The dorms are also dusty and humid. Make sure to bring plenty of cleaning supplies and potentially an air purifier if you have allergies to minimize the environmental impacts on your health.
It always rains in Gainesville! I never thought that it would rain as much as it does even though I am from Florida. There have been many times in which I have had to walk back to my dorm without an umbrella or rain jacket, which is never that fun. Always remember an umbrella, rain jacket, or both whenever you go anywhere.
Doing your laundry in dorms can take a long time. The machines might be on the older side. It is smart to invest in mesh bags for your delicate clothing items to prevent any tears, snags or pilling. Remember to always set a timer if you leave the laundry room or just stay there the entire time because someone might take your clothes out of the machine.
Meet with your advisor. I have learned that it is up to the individual to make sure that they are staying on track to graduate on time. The degree audit is incredibly confusing, and it is a good choice to get advice from trained professionals about course selection and extracurricular opportunities. Make it a goal to try to meet with your advisor at least once per semester.
Your professors are not your enemies. They are here to help us learn and watch us succeed. In high school, it is so much easier to create a relationship with your teacher, but in college, that becomes a lot harder due to the large number of students each professor instructs. In my experience at UF, all of my professors have been very engaged, interactive and supportive. Introduce yourself after class. According to Columbia Health, it has been proven that academic relationships developed between students and their professors or teaching assistants increases motivation, achievement and learning. You never know when you will need some extra help after class or a recommendation letter. Professors can connect you to resources, research and other involvement opportunities that you might not know otherwise.
Do not buy your textbooks before you go to class, unless your professor tells you otherwise. Textbooks are really expensive, and most of the time, you won’t even use them. If you need a textbook, look at all of the buying options online. Sometimes there are even free PDFs that you can use which will save you a lot of money. Also, I prefer having my textbooks online because then I do not have to carry heavy books all around campus.
8. Class Size
UF has over 50,000 students, so I assumed that all of my classes would be massive. Surprisingly, that has not been the case. While my statistics class had around 1,500 students, every other class I have taken has had under 20. Class size depends on the demand for the class and the number of sections offered. I have been glad to have such small classes, but even with statistics, I was still able to learn; the professor was incredibly helpful and responsive, and the course was very organized.
Get involved. Get involved. Get involved. There is no better way to make such a large university feel small than by joining on-campus organizations. It can be nerve-wracking to put yourself out there, but to make the most of your experience, it will be important to participate in an organization. There is a club for every possible hobby and career interest. You will be able to meet hundreds of new students and get connected with people who share similar passions.
10. Greek Life
UF is an SEC school, and SEC schools are known for having over the top Greek Life participation. At UF, there is definitely a good mix of people who participate and those who do not. My first semester, I was not in Greek Life and was still able to join clubs and meet many friends. During my second semester, I decided to join to be exposed to new people and to become a part of a smaller community at such a large university. Participating in Greek Life has its pros and cons but is not required in order to make friends or enjoy college.
11. Game days
Game days are the best days. It is so much fun to dress in cute orange and blue clothes, hang out with all of your friends and cheer on the Gators. There is so much school spirit and the energy all around Gainesville is so vibrant. With the sweltering heat, it is important to stay hydrated and be conscious of the sun exposure you’ll get throughout the day.
12. Campus Fashion
From elementary school until high school, I always had a uniform. I was super excited to be able to wear whatever I wanted in college. Most people dress very casually. Athleisure is very common because of the heat in the Swamp. Wearing sneakers is a must if you have classes because there is a lot of walking.
Ultimately, potential Gators, do not spend too much time worrying about what your next few years will look like in Gainesville, Florida. As long as you stay proactive, you will be completely fine. Everyone learns about the campus and tips with time. I hope that these 12 pieces of advice ease some of your worries and get you excited about being a Gator.