So, with all the freshmen orientations going on at UTD, I was thinking about my first year. I actually had a blast and loved the experience, so I put together a little guide to help you survive in your first year. Here are the most important things I could think of.
Create a relationship with your roommates
I cannot stress how important this is. Before I moved, I e-mailed my two future roommates and asked them if they’d like to talk. We made a group chat on Facebook and started talking about how we pictured our future college life to be, see if anyone had any allergies, what pet peeves each had, etc. We talked about everything we could think of that would make our transition easier, and it actually did. Out of the common area, we decided who would bring what and just put everything together. Let me tell you, one of my roommates and I are now best friends and even though we only stayed at the dorms one semester because of finances, we still hang out quite often. Be aware though, this is not what happens to everybody. Some people will spend lots of time with their roommates and make super friends with them. Some people only barely do small talk and that’s also good. The point I’m trying to make here is that you should AT LEAST talk to them and set some ground rules so you guys have a smooth ride, at least relatively smooth.
Okay, yes, I know sometimes staying in and not talking to other humans seems like the best plan, but seriously, go out, get to know the campus, scavenge nice spots for studying and nice spots for hanging out, but most importantly: make friends. Just talk to people! You would not believe the good that would come out of it. Advice, tips, tricks, warnings, etc. I made friends the first days that I still keep in contact with and they are great help! Most of them are a year or two ahead and know which professors are the best, know who you should ask for help, know where University Services are provided, all that good stuff, some have already taken the classes you are in and can help or tutor you! *cough cough thank you Michelle* Believe me, friends will save your life. Not only when you need help, but when you want to do something fun, they will be there. 😀
Learn how to do chores
Guess why? Because you will have to do them. Nobody will be there to do them for you. You need to clean your dishes yourself, do laundry yourself, broom and mop or vacuum yourself, clean the bathroom yourself, COOK (D8!) yourself.. and yes, even if you have a roommate and you divide the chores, you will end up cleaning at least your area so you still have to know how. I will be honest with you: I’m scared of the vacuum. Once the bag of a vacuum exploded on me and all the ugly stuff was all over the room and me. But now, I actually brave it (hehe) and vacuum the apartment. Worry not, I will post a chore guide eventually xD.
Create a feasible packing list
So, there are two types of students: those whose actual home is still with their parents and just take the essentials to college, and those (like me) who completely moved out and are now relatively independent. If you are like me, please consider some ‘Spring cleaning‘ and get rid of the stuff you are not going to use. Seriously. It will not only make your moving easier, you will have less items to move and your new place will be less clustered. Now, if you are still going to be living with your parents and go back during breaks and vacations, pack what you NEED. No, you may not need that collection of stamps. No, you may not need every single one of your previous Halloween costumes. Oh wait, that was me.. Never mind. The point is, if you are going to be moving back and forth on a regular basis, you want less boxes to carry. Bring your clothes, your shoes, your toiletries, etc. Visit Haley for the BEST list of college packing ever!
Do not schedule early classes
Yes, I know you have been waking up early since Pre-K and yes, I know you just want a schedule that you are already used to… It’s horrible. First of all the load of your High School classes is not even 1/5 of the load of your College classes. These are harder and there will be times where you have 4 exams, 2 essays, 3 major assignments, AND a formal presentation on the same day. You do NOT want to start this day at 7:00 am after cramming all night, probably not even sleeping, and right up to the the time of the first test, without breakfast. It will not work. (This is also the reason why you want some breaks in between your classes. You get to rest, eat, cram some more, or whatever you feel needs to be done.) Second reason why you do not want early classes, is that now you will not have your parents to impose a curfew or tell you when to do things, It is your turn to make your rules, which is awesome! The bad news? You can just as easily break those rules. Believe me, if you do not feel like waking up at 7:00 am while at home with your parents when they are throwing the dog at you, you will most likely not want to do it from the comfort of your dorm (and nobody will throw a dog at you this time). The third and last reason why you do not want early classes: professors don’t really take attendance. Out of the 5 semesters worth of classes I have taken, only 2 professors took attendance. And this is something you need to consider very seriously. The way I saw it, if professors didn’t take attendance, they wouldn’t mind me skipping one or two classes (and they don’t, but you do). So I did, and then the one or two classes turned into 5 or 6 and than to basically just going to one or two classes. Yes, I ended up dropping that class and doing it all over again, but guess who now holds an impeccable record of attendance? :3 The point is, it is far more likely for you to sleep in and not go to your classes if there is no tangible incentive for you to be there. Please don’t.
Go to class and pay attention
If my above shared experience was not enough, I shall elaborate. Go to class. Trust me, if your professor talked about it during class, it will be on the test. And this does not mean it is in the textbook. A professor is there to teach you the things he/she thinks are valuable to you, things the authors of the textbooks may not deem as such, so they will usually pinpoint the section of the book you will need, but they elaborate on the test material. Disclaimer: this does not mean you do not need the textbook. Actually, the textbook is going to be very important because sometimes professors will not go over things and tell you to refer to the book. If you do not have it well, tough luck. What I’m trying to say is that you should not skip class just because you have the textbook. You will need and take advantage of both. Do not worry, many of the friends you already made have these textbooks and could lend them to you! 😉
Learn how to e-mail your professors
So, say you are a professor, who has been through graduate school, studying for many many years, and you are giving a very important class and pouring your soul out for your students. Then you receive this e-mail:
Yo, professor. Did u do anything important today? Can I get notes from u? Come on, dude, help me out! – Your most awesomest student!
Nothing could be more infuriating. *Note: you will usually need to email them from your college e-mail; please don’t use firstname.lastname@example.org* Anyways, please be cordial and respectful. Basically, address them the way you would want to be addressed if you were in their situation. A rule of thumb is to always greet, state who you are and which class you are in, ask respectfully for what you need, and sign appropriately. I will go into detail on a future post, but here is an example:
Good evening Professor:
My name is Yesenia and I am in your Literature class Mondays and Wednesdays at 10:00 am. I send you this e-mail to ask about the research paper due July 28th. I was wondering what type of citation style you were looking for. I am accustomed to APA and MLA, but do not know which you prefer. I would appreciate any help on this matter.
I think professors would be a bit more pleased with this e-mail than with the previous one.
Anyways these are the things I thought most important. My friend Haley also has a a survival guide that I love. Trust me, we have been there, we want to help. Comment below or send me an e-mail. I am happy to aid in any way I can. If you go to UTD, find me, I will give you a tour! Did I forget to mention something? Let me know. I want to hear from you!