Sam’s Declassified College Survival Guide

Photo Illustration by Samantha Joslin

Samantha Joslin


First semester of freshman year is an anxious and intimidating time. Classic, if overused, advice still applies — go to class, get involved — but more than that goes into having a great first semester. Here are five things you don’t hear every day that will make your first college semester a great one.


1) Have a planner

I cannot say this enough: go buy a planner. I went nearly my entire first year without one, and let’s just say that wasn’t a good idea. There’s no way to keep the dozen moving parts of your array of classes straight without a planner. For online classes, you might as well kiss your “A” goodbye without a way to keep yourself aware of your assignments. Invest in the largest planner you can find with plenty of space to fill in each line of your syllabus. Assignments close when they close, and there is often no way to make up missing work. Teachers can be understanding, but any missing assignments will affect your grades more than they did in high school.


2) Be involved with your professor

Reaching out to professors at the start of the year, whether to introduce yourself or ask for clarification early on, can make developing a relationship throughout the semester easier. Additionally, sending a quick email sharing excitement for the class, expressing gratitude for the course or just sending a bit about yourself will make you more comfortable sending messages as the semester progresses. Reaching November without having spoken one-on-one with your professor, especially in an online course, will make it that much harder to reach out with questions. Trust me: you’ll be thankful for the good relationship if your grades slip near December.


3) Get to know campus

This point verges on entering the cliché realm of advice, but it’s insanely important to having a good first semester. I didn’t know until my first year was almost finished that there’s a Student Lounge (COM 322, check it out) with TVs, video game consoles (yes, an Xbox one, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii are included), ping-pong and foosball tables, board games and parties a few times a year to mingle with fellow students. Wandering into this room to meet others or see if it’s empty for some uninterrupted Xbox time between classes can’t hurt.


4) Actually try to make friends

My first year was spent wanting to go to events, from simple parties on campus to speed-friending, but I never ended up doing it. I didn’t think I’d end up connecting with anyone who went to events like these, but after my friends packed up for far-off colleges, I was left bored and wanting to form new friendships. It took me a while to realize that my desire to attend friend-making parties would be mirrored in other people like me. Also, wanting friends but judging other people who want friends is a pretty bad look. Honestly, what’s the worst that could happen in spending a few minutes checking out a gathering of peers? Reaching out in class isn’t the easiest and our college has provided a solution. Take advantage of it.


5) Stop for snacks

Depending on where you are, a ten- or fifteen-minute break between classes is all you need to grab a snack from any of the above. ViBE is a perfect place to stop for coffee or pastries when entering or leaving campus, as it’s positioned conveniently on the second floor of the CLB building which leads easily to a parking garage. Similarly, Encore! Espresso (CC lobby) and JavaJazz (COM 1.5) offer pastries and coffee, but JavaJazz also offers delicious smoothies. The food court, located in the Student Center, always has free seats somewhere and some seating options have a TV in view. With a fresh-food café, three coffee bars and vending machines stashed across campus and a food court with actually tasty options (Chick-fil-A, Firehouse Subs, BLVD Burgers and more) and a healthy, often vegan buffet with food deals after 3 p.m., there’s always somewhere to grab delicious food. With these convenient, fresh food options on campus, as well as grab-and-go vending machines, there’s never a reason to go hungry in class.

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