Starting college can feel like a whirlwind: getting new class schedules, meeting new friends, getting used to a roommate, figuring out your meal plan…the list goes on and on! Luckily, most schools have an orientation program to help you through the transition into college and teach you the basics to survive freshman year.
While your school’s orientation may be awesome, there are certain things that you won’t learn until you actually dive into college life. We’ve asked real collegiettes about things they wish they knew as freshmen to help make your life easier!
1. Get off campus and explore
It’s possible you’re still getting a little lost on campus (where’s the library again?), but take advantage of your school’s surrounding area as soon as you can.
“At orientation, I wish I would have learned about how much there is to do in the town surrounding [my] campus,” says Caitlin Duncan, a junior at University of New Haven. “It took me an entire semester to finally get off campus and explore, and I regretted not [doing] it sooner!”
Do a quick Google search or ask your RA about that cool sushi place downtown or check out a street food fair in the city. College is not only about making a campus a home, but also stepping outside your comfort zone and adventuring to new places.
Want to get off campus but don’t have a car? Research public transportation in your area or see if your school provides a shuttle service. “I learned how to take the city bus and that got me everywhere freshman year,” Caitlin says. “A lot of schools also have shuttles that take [students] to areas of interest off campus for free! It’s definitely a good idea to learn about transportation around [your school].”
Of course it’s important to learn how to get from your classes to the dining hall and back to your dorm, but don’t be confined to campus for too long. There are a lot of great things nearby so go out and explore!
2. Go out on weeknights occasionally
We’re not saying you should blow off all your studies to go to a party on a Tuesday, but every once in a while it’s okay to go out during the week. After all, when else will you ever partake in weeknight three-dollar drink specials and not be judged for it?
“Understand that not all schools party on the same night,” says Iris Goldsztajn, a senior at University of California, Los Angeles. “When I was a freshman, I assumed that things would be the busiest on Friday and Saturday nights, but it turns out that Thursdays and random week nights from time to time are the big party nights at UCLA!”
So when your 8:30 p.m. class gets cancelled or St. Patty’s Day falls on a Monday, get your work done and head to the party. Your schoolwork should always come first, but it’s fine to have a little fun during the week every once in a while.
3. Do your laundry at night
Make your mom proud and actually learn how to do your laundry. Trust us, you will run out of socks and your sheets will get smelly eventually, so it’s better visit the laundry room at least once a week to avoid cluttering your room with dirty clothes.
To make laundry day more bearable, take it from Krista Jaworski, a junior at St. Joseph’s University, and do your laundry at night. “I always go late at night because I’m up and it’s usually empty,” she says. “You can do multiple loads at a time too. Just make sure you set an alarm so you know when it’s done!”
Be sure to stock up on quarters (if your laundry machines take them) and detergent. If you’re in a rush and don’t have time to do multiple loads, wash everything on cold. “Sometimes I just want to do one load and be done,” Krista says. “So I don’t separate my darks and lights and just wash everything on cold. That way the colors don’t bleed.”
If you know you usually stay up until midnight every Wednesday, do your laundry around 10 p.m. the same day. You can finish your work while everything washes and dries; multitasking at its finest!
4. Hit the gym in the morning or early afternoon
You’re super excited to start on your school year fitness goals only to get to the gym and realize that every machine is taken. By the time you actually on the treadmill, you have 15 minutes before you have to go to class. Talk about annoying.
It’s great the students want to utilize their schools’ facilities, but crowded gyms can really kill our patience. The trick is to hit the gym when the time is right to guarantee a full workout.
“The time to go to the gym is between 10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.,” says Elodie Jean-Philippe a junior at Duke University. “People usually have class during those times.”
You can also opt for a later dinner and go to the gym during prime dining hall time. It may take a couple weeks to figure out when most people are too busy to workout, but eventually you’ll figure out when the gym is the least crowded If you’re new to gym equipment, make sure you make an appointment with an on-campus trainer. They will walk you through how to work out safely and effectively on the machines!
5. Actually meet your professors
You’ve probably heard this tip a million times, but getting to know your professors actually helps in the long run. Not only will you do better in class, but you might also make long lasting connections with them.
“Take advantage of you professors’ office hours!” says Lindsay Fuce, a sophomore at Gordon College. “Even if you just go to introduce yourself, they’ll appreciate making the face-to-face contact.”
Especially if you go to a school with large class sizes, it’s important to get to know your professors. You never know when you’ll need help with an assignment or a recommendation for an internship. Plus, professors have a wealth of knowledge and understanding of college life. They can be great resources as you go through your four years.
“I’ve really loved my professors so far,” Krista says. “I never thought I would become close to any of them, but they’re really cool people and have helped me a lot.”
So when your professor mentions his or her office hours, make a note. Showing up for a quick conversation can go a long way.
6. Get to know your library
Every school’s library is different, but there are certain secrets that seasoned collegiettes know. You will study in your library at least once, so make sure you know what’s up.
“One day when you don’t have study, go to the library and just explore,” says Deanna Manniello, a recent graduate from Villanova University. “Figure out where the outlets are. Find the quiet spots early in the semester and do some research about cool amenities, like being able to reserve a classroom or rent out a charger.”
You’ll find that people flock to the library during midterms and finals, but if you go throughout the semester or scope it out a few times, you’ll know to make a beeline to the second floor to grab a comfy chair or that there are writing tutors available to help you with your paper. It’ll make your studying way more enjoyable if you know your way around the library!
Whether it’s when to hit the gym or tips for getting off campus, there are some things that you won’t learn at orientation. But if you keep these six pieces of advice in mind, you’ll be rocking your freshman year in no time!