College is Hard: A Beginning of Semester Cheatsheet 

cr: @unewhaven on Instagram

As an elementary school student, the New Year meant new school supplies, toys, uniforms and clothes. I remember almost always pleading with my mother for the most adorable school supplies for the first day of school. My pleading was successful for a few years. While the ritual of purchasing new supplies has slowed over time, the excitement and anticipation still seem limitless.

Starting college can be stressful; for many of you, this is your first semester. And for you first-years, the transition from attending high school, living at home to living on campus, is no  laughing matter. You must first pack all of your belongings and transport them to your new residence. Then you have to meet your new roommates and figure out how to live with a whole new group of people. You must also learn to feed yourself while also keeping up with your school schedule. Overall, it can be a difficult process. That is why I have undertaken this transitions column, to help you start off on the right foot, beginning with a simple, but hopefully comprehensive, cheat sheet to navigate campus your first year. 

As the fall semester prepares you for the new spring semester in 2022, so does the shift from virtual to in-person classes. It may appear intimidating at first. Here are a few ideas to help you get ready for your on-campus semester.

Make use of a map: The college map is your best friend for navigating your way around campus, no matter how silly it may sound or appear. It’s a little more difficult to find your next lecture hall or lab than it is to follow a zoom sign in link. Fortunately, the building name and room number for your class can be found on the syllabus once you register. The best course of action is to visit campus a day or two before the semester begins and successfully locate where each class is held. If getting to campus before the chaos begins is not an option, the university has floor maps available. Figuring out where your classes are taking place beforehand will help ease the overwhelming feeling that often accompanies a new semester.

Realistically plan out your schedule: While locating your class, although building and room number is important, it is also critical to note if you have one or two classes scheduled on the same day. It is important to double-check that the lectures are held on the same campus for any consecutive classes. Your schedule will frequently have gaps where it would be inefficient to return home before returning to campus. In such cases, you may find it useful to look for a quiet study area or a computer lab near your upcoming class. You can make the most of the time you do have this way. A well-planned schedule can lead to an efficient routine, giving you a head start.

Knowing your limits is the first step toward academic success. Don’t overdo it with course registration(s). It also helps to be aware of the level of difficulty to expect from each course, the format of the class and any time constraints that may add stress (commute, potential distractions, childcare) and plan accordingly. For example, if the courses you’re enrolling in are more time-consuming, difficult or if you expect to have a lot going on during that time, you may want to take fewer credit hours. Avoid taking more credits than you’re ready for or that are manageable at this time in your life.

Make friends in class! Friends make everything seem more enjoyable and doable as a fantastic support network in a home away from home. We all have unique perspectives that we share with one another. When you have these kinds of relationships with your classmates, they are just as willing to help you as you are to help them. They encourage you just as much as you encourage them. Having that support system is priceless.

Spend time at the university. Participate and become involved on campus to get the most out of student life. While it is easy to become engrossed in schoolwork and staying in your new bed 24/7 binge watching Netflix, there is so much more to the university than an XL twin-sized bed. Take a risk and attend some events! The best method is to go to the ChargerConnection page. There are frequent activities and events taking place where you can learn about various organizations and events taking place on campus. Getting out of bed and looking outside your front door will allow you to meet friends– creating memories of a lifetime! 

Be Productive. Consider whether you are an early riser or a night owl. When are you most productive during the day? Use your answers from above to help you decide what work environment is best for you and when it is best for you to attend course lectures. Make the necessary sacrifices and prioritize your work. Keeping things organized either with the help of a digital or a paper planner works wonders. I have always loved the feeling of finishing tasks and crossing them off.

Roommates. Having a roommate is either a hit-or-miss scenario. There is always an expectation that we be extremely close to the people we live with. My experiences have taught me that this is not always the case. It’s important to remember that good roommates don’t have to be your new best friends. Good roommates are people with whom you can openly communicate and feel safe. If you ever feel unsafe, do not be afraid to seek assistance and leave. It can be difficult to make the decision to leave, but you should always feel safe in your own home.

Recognize that you are not alone. Several times during my first semester, I felt completely lost and alone. When I first arrived at the university, I left all of my friends behind to begin anew. During the transition, I felt like I was the only one who was struggling. The truth is that you are not alone. You should be proud of yourself for what you’ve accomplished. 

So much has happened this past year. A quick rewind: “We celebrated, We Committed, We Connected, and We Cared! Above all we Charged On!”

Almost no one knows what they’re doing completely, and they’re all just pretending until they succeed. So come on in! We’ll all make it through together.