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18 Things Incoming Freshmen Need to Know

First and foremost, congratulations on being accepted to one of the best universities in the nation! It’s almost the summer before college, and the nerves are starting to settle in as your initial excitement fades away. Lucky for you, I have compiled a master list of things you should take note of before your first year on campus.

1. Walk on the right side of the sidewalk.

This is a simple and easy one. If you’re going to walk real slow, stay to the right.


2. Avoid wearing your lanyard around your neck.

This is like a bright blinking light that screams, “I’m a freshman!”


3.  Don’t walk in a row with your friends on the sidewalks.

Clearly, walking etiquette is important here; most of us are trying to get to class on time after waking up just five minutes before class starts. Be courteous to others, and remember that some people wish to walk faster than you and your friends do.


4. Unless stated by the professor, don’t bring textbooks to class.

Unfortunately, I made this mistake and carried my biology textbook with me all the way up Bascom and around campus. If you’re looking for a workout, then I highly recommend it. For the books I do have to bring, I look ahead and bring just the pages I need for that day of class; doing that lightens the load in my backpack.


5. Do your homework!

Even if it’s optional, it’s another great way to practice what you’re learning. It helps you make sure that you understand everything for the midterm (and the final!) that is way sooner than you think.


6. Take time the first few days before each semester to find your classrooms ahead of time.

Getting lost or walking into the wrong room is completely okay! However, it will make your life a whole lot easier if you have an idea of where you’re going ahead of time. Good luck with the Humanities building. Don’t forget to do this before exams, too!

Also, here’s a list of the best places to explore: Memorial Union and the Terrace, Union South, State Street and Lakeshore in general.


7. Start studying earlier than the night before for exams.

Again, you might have gotten away with it in high school, but college is different. I studied for exams a week in advance my first semester here, until I really learned the study habits that worked for me.


8. Don’t do 8 a.m. classes.

Sure, you did this in high school, and you think you will be able to keep up the habit of learning early in the day — nope! College is different, and a switch will go off to make you absolutely resent anything before 10 a.m.


9. Follow UW-Madison Memes for Milk Chugging Teens Meme Page.

If you haven’t heard of it already, it’s a pretty big deal on campus — you’ll want to know what’s happening. Oddly enough, this is also a great way to keep up with campus news. 


10. Look up professors on Rate My Professor.

This is especially a good idea for before you go to SOAR, the orientation session in which you enroll in classes. You’ll know what you’re getting yourself into and what professors you want to avoid at all costs.


11. Don’t raise your hand to leave class to use the restroom. Just get up and leave.

You did in high school, but you don’t have to now. 


12. Don’t take drinks from strangers, watch people make your drinks, and open your own drinks.

Use your brain that got you into UW-Madison, and be smart and safe when you go out. Never go to parties alone or leave without the people you went with. Never take a drink from someone you don’t know.


13. Don’t wear headphones at night.

Another safety tip: campus is pretty safe, but being aware of your surroundings is important.


14. Attend the freshman welcome and all campus events.

One, it is a great way to meet friends. Two, there’s free stuff, including t-shirts and food! Take advantage of these opportunities early in the fall, and see just how many t-shirts you can get your hands on.


15. Buy used textbooks.

There is no need to spend more money on a new textbook when you could’ve gotten a used one. The University Bookstore has a chart for you to compare prices. But still, look into different sites before buying from the University Bookstore. Another great idea is to look up the textbooks you need on the textbook exchange Facebook group.


16. Apartment hunt early.

You really don’t have to sign leases as early as all the ads say, but apartment buildings do start to fill up towards the end of the year. I signed at the end of November, and there were plenty of units available. Also, before choosing an apartment, make sure you do your research and tour as many different places as you can.


17. Drink plenty of water on game days, especially if it’s warm out. Those other game day drinks are not hydrating.

It gets hot in those stands, and people do pass out. Again, use your brain, and you’ll be jumpin’ around the whole game! 


18. Don’t forget to call mom, grandma, dad, siblings and high school friends.

Staying connected is important. They miss you, and come on, you miss them too. They are your support group, and it helps with homesickness.


We are all in the same boat — stressed, nervous, excited about getting through college while having the most fun possible. You’ve got this! On Wisconsin!

Laura Dirk

Wisconsin '21

Hi! I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin - Madison studying biology. I am crossing my fingers to get into vet school to continue my education and follow my dream! Follow along my rollercoaster of college with me through my articles, learn new tips and tricks, learn from my mistakes, be inspired!
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