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Freshman year in college is almost over - what I wish I had known before.

jackson17jackson17 Posts: 1,160Registered User Senior Member
edited August 2013 in College Search & Selection
So, as the title states, I am almost done with my freshman year in college. I attend a top private university and have learned a couple of things that I wish I had considered before. I also include some tips for living at school:

1. Do NOT underestimate the importance of an attractive campus. This is where visiting helps. While other aspects of the school may appeal to you more, when it comes to day-to-day living, ugly brick buildings get old fast. It's really nice if your campus has nice landscaping and lots of grass - it's much nicer to look at and it makes activities like Frisbee much more enjoyable.

2. SERIOUSLY consider the financial toll that private schools will take on you and your family. I thought about this before when I was deciding between a few excellent in-state schools and my current university, but the dramatic difference in cost didn't really hit me until I had to give every penny I ever saved just for one semester's tuition. Be absolutely certain that expensive schools are right for you (unless money is no problem, in which case you should ignore this completely). If grad school is in your future, you may want to reconsider. All the hidden costs like books and snacks add up fast, and colleges also tend to up the tuition from year to year.

3. Small colleges often advertise their small courses and one-on-one contact with the professors. My university is small, and we do get excellent contact with the professors, but there's one thing I didn't realize - going to a small school (especially a private one with a limited endowment) means that classes are not offered as much as they would be elsewhere. There is often only one section or one professor teaching a course, and many courses are only offered every other year or once every three years. It really makes it hard to choose the best possible schedule when the course offerings are limited, so if flexibility is really important to you, be aware that bigger universities may be able to offer many more class times and options.

4. Decide on living guidelines with your roommate before becoming friends. It's much easier to set rules when you're still getting used to each other as opposed to when you might be good friends and feelings could get hurt.

5. The quality of food is more important than you realize. At least as a freshman, you'll likely eat most of your meals during the week on campus, and limited offerings can be really frustrating. When you tour a campus, eat a meal there and scope out the options to make sure you'll be satisfied. Make sure your campus has a variety of different places to choose from. I cannot stress this enough!

6. My campus is ten miles away from a major city, and it is REALLY nice to be able to get off-campus on weekends. I came from a rural area, and it's great to be able to experience semi-urban living. If you are looking at similarly located schools, ask about public transportation and off-campus options. Believe me, there is nothing nicer than getting a change of pace on weekends. Rural schools may not have such options, so be aware of this when you apply.

7. I came from California to the East Coast, and everyone warned me about the cold. They should've warned me about the humidity for the first few months of school! It was ridiculously hot and I only brought a few summer-ish clothes, so I suffered for weeks until the weather finally cooled. Be aware of the weather in your college's area at all times of the year well in advance and pack appropriately.

8. I joined my school's ski team, and it's great to have a sport to break up the long winter. Even if you're not athletic, find something to do - theater, dance, pottery, etc., anything to keep you busy in the winter months when not much else is going on.

9. Take advantage of any event with free food on campus. They're usually fun and it's a great way to score a non-dining-services meal.

10. Last but not least, it's easy to avoid the freshman 15 with a little effort. I've found that working out with friends is much more fun, and playing intramurals is a great way to keep in shape without any serious time commitment. There are also good options at salad bars (usually), so take advantage when the lettuce is fresh.

Hope this helps...if anyone has any questions, feel free to ask.
Post edited by jackson17 on
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Replies to: Freshman year in college is almost over - what I wish I had known before.

  • jackson17jackson17 Posts: 1,160Registered User Senior Member
    One more, actually:

    11. Use your first semester to determine what kind of schedule works for you. Some people like to start class at noon and end late and others like to start early and end early, etc. I'm in favor of starting mid-morning and taking classes one right after the other. It's nice to get them all done at once and have afternoons off. Feel free to play around and figure out what works for you. The timing of your schedule is sometimes more important than the classes themselves!
  • A-CardA-Card Posts: 786Registered User Member
    hey this is great advice thanks.
  • steelerfan513steelerfan513 Posts: 215Registered User Junior Member
    Yeah this is great. If anyone feels like adding to this, I'm sure a ton of people would appreciate it. Thanks a lot jackson17!
  • theoneotheoneo Posts: 6,934Registered User Senior Member
    12. Don't get cocky about school - aka don't cram. Ask as many upperclassmen as you know how they stay on top of their work and try their strategies because almost everyone (who does well) will say some of the same things - namely go to classes, use office hours, don't study in your room, utilize the library, etc.

    13. Shower daily. Always.

    Special emphasis on points 5, 9, 10, and 11 above.
  • zoosermomzoosermom Posts: 23,605Registered User Senior Member
    Jackson, I found your list enormously helpful. Would it be ok with you if I printed if for my high school student to look at as she begins her search?
  • jessiehljessiehl Posts: 3,328Registered User Senior Member
    7. I came from California to the East Coast, and everyone warned me about the cold. They should've warned me about the humidity for the first few months of school!

    *snicker* When I went off to college, I came from the South to New England. Humidity? What humidity? Summers in New England are gorgeous, less hot and humid than I was used to by far! I always got a laugh (always friendly, of course) at the expense of the kids from out West who never stopped going on about the humidity.

    Most of them, of course, got a laugh at my expense (and still get one) over my feelings about New England winters, which involve language that I don't think the mods would like. :)

    My point being, the weather adjustment is not going to be the same for everyone, even everyone going to the same school. You get folks who have never seen snow, and then people like an old hallmate who was from Siberia. You get people from the desert, and people from the topics. But anticipation of what sort of adjustment you are going to have to make is useful. Don't *just* go on stereotypes - the poster here probably knew about New England winters, but failed to consider the difference between it and his/her home climate during other seasons.

    I will have real advice later.
  • jackson17jackson17 Posts: 1,160Registered User Senior Member
    no problem, zoosermom!
  • jackson17jackson17 Posts: 1,160Registered User Senior Member
    One more about the finances - if you do choose to go to a school that will leave you in debt, be aware of the fact that you may not get to take vacations. Your friends will inevitably suggest trips to Europe or Mexico or Canada or somewhere, depending on where you are. If, like me, you're putting every last cent towards tuition, you may be stuck on campus over breaks while everyone else goes on amazing trips. In some ways, it might have been nicer to go to a more affordable school and then be able to go on these kinds of trips.
  • Determind15Determind15 Posts: 341Registered User Member
    Thanks a lot for taking the time to do this.

    Thanks a lot and hopefully things look up in the coming terms.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Posts: 16,662Super Moderator Senior Member
    Jackson,

    this is a really great list.

    I would like to add an addenum (other side of the coin to # 6) Also consider if you attend a school in a major city and when the weekend comes, is there a large percentage of the students that are leaving the campus to take in the city life? If money is a real issue, it is going to be really lonely being left on campus most weekends, when your friends want to leave campus to go out to dinner, club, show, bar, etc. Also consider that even with great transportation, it slows down during late hours and the friend will want to split a cab and you only have enough for the bus or train.
  • stacieherestaciehere Posts: 205Registered User Junior Member
    thank you so much! i found this very helpful, especially as i am a native californian planning to go to the east coast as well.

    this info is def. book worthy!
  • jazzymomjazzymom Posts: 3,176Registered User Senior Member
    Excellent advice, Jackson. I'll share this with my h.s. junior.
  • coureurcoureur Posts: 11,386Registered User Senior Member
    >>3. Small colleges often advertise their small courses and one-on-one contact with the professors. My university is small, and we do get excellent contact with the professors, but there's one thing I didn't realize - going to a small school (especially a private one with a limited endowment) means that classes are not offered as much as they would be elsewhere.<<

    Excellent advice. CC in general loves small colleges, but this fact you point out often gets lost in the LAC love-fest. The number of courses and sections for a given course that are available will be far larger, more flexible, and more in-depth at a big school. At a small school you might be offered a handful of courses of one section each to study say "Biology" - with everything lumped together. But at a big university you can often get dozens of courses in Botany, Zoology, Microbiology, etc. including many in-depth specialized courses such say Parasitology, Mycology, Virology, etc. If more than a general overview is what you are looking for, a big university may be the way to go.
  • jackson17jackson17 Posts: 1,160Registered User Senior Member
    coureur is absolutely right. However, since tons of people on here might choose LACs for other reasons, I would recommend looking online for past course catalogs. That way, you can see what kinds of courses were offered in different subjects and how it changed from year to year. Look at courses in all the subject areas you're interested in - if, like me, you're undecided, you can at least know the breadth and depth of the different options.
  • BigredmedBigredmed Posts: 3,676Registered User Senior Member
    The original post is good stuff...hard to get people to realize it before they get there, and this is the sort of stuff you forget when you're no longer in undergrad.
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