You’ve made it through your last year of high school, you’ve chosen your top universities and applied to them, you GOT IN and notified admissions that you would be attending in the Fall, and now it’s the end of your summer vacation. It’s finally a reality. Gone are the days of routine schooling and onto new beginnings and responsibilities.
It is equally exciting as it is nerve-wracking to begin your higher education, so we wanted to provide you with a list of tips to get you through the first week of university.
1. Move in as soon as you can
Most universities will send out a move-in schedule; this may be by residence hall, year, or major (it is common for some majors to have introductory seminars and programs). Don’t hold onto home until the very end and move in the day before classes start because that can be overwhelming. Get there early, unpack your belongings, set up your room, get to know your neighbors and familiarize yourself with the campus before classes are scheduled to begin.
2. Make your room feel like home
Home sickness is inevitable, especially when work gets busy and tough. Dormitories don’t tend to have a mother’s touch, so spend some time decorating with some of your favorite things and make it feel like a place you’re happy to go home to.
3. Figure out where your classes are located
Get a university map and walk to each building from your dorm to determine how long it will take to get there. Nothing is worse than getting to class late on the first day of school because you didn’t know it was going to take 20 minutes by foot.
4. Attend the club and activities fair
It’s very important to get involved. Whether you were a busy bee in high school or the type to go straight home after school, university is a different playing field and all should get involved. This is your new home away from home where it can be all too easy to be a recluse. Find out what clubs and groups are available – trust us, there is something for everyone – join a few and figure out what would be most enjoyable for you and how it can fit into your schedule.
5. Knock on your neighbors’ doors
You aren’t the only one starting fresh, and there is no telling who is behind a closed door. You could find a shy person in need of a nudge, or you could find an outgoing person that turns out to be your lifelong friend. Dorm life is unusual but totally fun. These will be the people that you essentially “come home to” each day, so get to know them!
6. Speaking of doors, keep yours open
Don’t lock yourself up in your room or people will be less likely to try to get to know you. An open door says “come in, introduce yourself” and makes for a friendly, energy-flowing atmosphere.
7. Find your advisor or mentor
Universities have a variety of support systems and you should make an effort to introduce yourself to whomever is available to you soon after getting yourself settled. You may have a Resident Advisor (RA) living in your dormitory, a general first-year counselor, an advisor dedicated to your major of choice, and even upperclassmen who have volunteered to act as student mentors, offering tips and tricks to get you through university life. These people are there to help you, so don’t be afraid to ask questions or simply show face so that when you do need them, you already have some semblance of a relationship.
8. Familiarize yourself with the campus
Where can you do your laundry? Where are the dining halls? Which spots have the best food? Where is the library and which areas are the best to get some quiet study time? Does the dorm have a kitchen? Is there a recreation center or gym? Think about the things you’d normally do in life, like eat, exercise and wash your clothes, and find out where you can do those things on campus.
9. Find a study buddy
As you are getting to know your neighbors, find out what they are studying and what classes they are taking. As a first-year, there is a good chance that you are taking some of the same general core courses. If so, you’ve just found yourself an in-house study buddy. If you aren’t living with anyone within your major, befriend the person sitting next to you in class and ask if they care to share notes and perhaps meet once a week to go over course material. It’s a great way to make a friend and an even better way to prepare for exams.
10. Attend first-week events
Over the course of move-in week and the first days of class, universities often have activities and speaking engagements for first-year students. Sure, these events can be a little silly at times – getting-to-know-you activities, learning the university chant, etc. – but they’re meant to crack open your shell and make you comfortable. They can also be a wealth of information about how the university works and where you can access all the resources available to you. Step out of your comfort zone and go to these events!
11. Come up with a budget
Chances are you purchased a university meal plan, but there is no question that you will need some additional spending money. Whether you arrived with a good amount of cash saved up or you anticipate needing a job, you should absolutely set a spending budget. Books, dorm decorations, school supplies, take-out food and weekend parties DO cost money, and that money can go fast if you don’t have a plan. It sucks to have to bow out of the fun because you ran out of cash too soon. Make a plan and stick to it!
The first week of university is a whirlwind of preparation and activities, so use these tips to make the best of it! Good luck!