You eye your roommate, hoping they’re as normal as their Facebook profile led you to believe. Hundreds of new students flood the campus and fill the dorms, chatting, unpacking, and saying final goodbyes to family. It’s move-in day and your college experience has just begun.
The first week of college is a whirlwind of new faces, new food, new places, new everything. It’s a lot to take in, but I promise you’ll get the hang of things faster than you think. As someone who survived her own college move-in three years ago, I have some advice to help you get the most out of your first week of school.
Go to Orientation events.
It’s not all name games and icebreakers (although those are a great way to meet new people). Orientation is designed to benefit you as a student. You’ll learn where different buildings are, discover the resources available to you, and hear the college tips and tricks that only upperclassmen can give. I not only loved Orientation, I’m coming back to do it again – this time as an Orientation Leader. So don’t skip out on Orientation, because you only get one chance to experience it as a freshman! And I promise the icebreakers are worth it – you’ll learn more names in half a day than you thought possible.
Take time to get to know people.
Icebreakers are a great start, but try and take it a step further. Everyone is just as nervous as you are, so don’t be afraid to start up a conversation. These are the people you’ll be spending the next four years with. They may not end up being your best friends, but they probably have the same fears about entering college as you do. Make connections whenever you can!
One important thing to remember is that you don’t have to find your best friends right away. I met some of my closest friends in my sophomore and junior years. You’ll always be meeting new people, so don’t worry if nothing clicks in the first week. You’ll find your people.
This is your home away from home for the next four years – get to know it! It took me more than a week to realize there was another half of campus I’d never seen before. So do as I say and not as I did – get out and explore! Find a study spot you can call your own, map the fastest route between your classes, and find the most comfortable chair on campus. Once you know the campus, you’ll feel much more comfortable starting school there.
Meet your profs.
Many students don’t do a very good job of this freshman year (myself included), but it is so important. Your professors are people too – they want to get to know you and support you. Office hours are a thing for a reason. Just drop by sometime in that first week and introduce yourself! I guarantee your professors will appreciate it and you’ll feel more comfortable coming to them for help (or recommendations!!) later on.
Keep. Your. Syllabus.
The first week of college is typically known as “syllabus week.” Professors go over their expectations and give you a slip of paper (or email you a link) with the schedule for the semester. In high school, you may have been able to toss the syllabus on the way out the door, knowing you’d never use it. DO NOT DO THIS IN COLLEGE. That syllabus may be the only thing between you and a failing grade. It has paper deadlines, assignment parameters, and office hours. And professors occasionally forget to mention you have a major research paper due next week or that everything must be cited in Chicago style. So read it. And don’t lose it. (And in case you’re wondering, the plural of syllabus is, in fact, syllabi. You’ll probably be using that word a lot in the first week.)
Start using a planner.
I cannot emphasize this enough. You don’t have to write every detail of each assignment in an hourly planner (you can if you want … I may or may not take that approach), but you should at least jot down the most important dates from your syllabi (which you did not throw away, as previously advised). Due dates come up quickly, and sometimes professors will assign something right at the end of class. Odds are you aren’t going to remember it unless you write it down.
Call your folks.
While you are keeping busy with Orientation events, meeting new friends, and going to classes, your parents are at home worrying. You don’t have to call them every night, but make sure they know you’re doing all right. Even a text guaranteeing you aren’t lost and afraid would be better than nothing. This transition is hard for them, too!
Keep this advice in mind, but experience college in your own way. Everyone will look back on their first week differently, and that’s a good thing. Just be yourself, have fun, and relax. And don’t wear your lanyard around your neck! (That’s what people say, anyway. I think it’s pretty practical, but you can make that decision for yourself).