Freshman Advice from Current Freshman (Male)

<p>I decided I would have greatly appreciated hearing a few things from UW-Madison students before moving in to school. Obviously, a great deal of the 'college experience' comes from taking things on first-hand as they come, but foresight is nice too. Anyway....</p>

<p>On-Campus Residence
I ranked every Lakeshore dorm higher than Southeast, and ended up in Witte (17th choice). I probably turned something in late, and I think most people get a dorm in their top 7. If I had to choose again, I would hands down go with Chadborne or Barnard Hall. They have the absolute best location, and Rheta's (best UW eatery on campus) is directly connected to them.
I thought Witte would be much worse than it turned out. I got extremely lucky with my roommate (from Virginia, fairly reclusive, likes nerdy things that I like). My floor, on the other hand, turned out to be the worst-behaved in the building. We've had 3 students kicked out of housing and have had our floor's den closed due to vandalism. My neighbors were two of the students kicked out. My roommate and I had the joy of audible fornication (once at 7 in the morning) and loud arguments. Even considering my circumstances this semester were probably the worst any freshman could be dealt, it truly hasn't been that bad at all.</p>

<p>Room Layout
This subject is seemingly superfluous, but the extent to which you make your room inviting really can change your freshman experience. For example, I had no TV, video game systems, or futon, and resultantly communicated to others that my room was 'private'. I'm not saying to pander to whatever tactics will get you the largest number of friends, but bear in mind how you intend others to view your living space.</p>

<p>Home-Town Relationships
I'm from a very small, in-state town (96 people in my graduating class), and I had a girlfriend when coming to school. We knew each other since second grade, were dating for 2.5 years. We broke up 4 weeks in. Lots of people do, and nearly all of them are better for it. Again, self-understanding is paramount - embrace the new-found freedoms that college affords you.</p>

<p>Choosing a Major
When I applied to schools, I marketed myself as an intended engineering major. However, after being accepted into UW, I caved and went 'undecided' at SOAR. There are benefits to choosing an intended major right off the bat, but chances are you will change your mind. I'm still undecided, but I feel content with choosing classes that seem interesting and hoping that eventually a pattern will develop. It all depends on what you want out of school. How many elective do you want? How soon do you want to graduate? How much do you want your studies to facilitate career goals? etc.</p>

I began rushing with a frat second semester. I really liked that it was small, personable, and was making lots of progress. I also wanted a group of friends that remained fairly static. However, I decided the members weren't really the kind of people I tend to gravitate towards, and I figured the things attracting me to the frat were probably better served elsewhere (in clubs/student orgs, other housing options, etc.).</p>

<p>Sophomore Living
I don't see much justification for living in dorms more than 1 year. I definitely recommend it to freshmen, but beyond that it's $1000/month (including food) for a small, shared room. There are also lots of misconceptions about signing leases for fall. Your friends may get pressured into signing fairly early (November-December) and you may be left out in that respect, but you definitely have lots of time. I actually just signed my lease today (April 23) to live in a community co-op for $500/month (including food).</p>

<p>I'll update this post later if I can think of any further advice. Any requests?</p>

<p>Very cool and well written. Thanks for sharing. </p>

<p>Would you recommend students interested in a smaller college experience look into some of the themed learning communities?</p>

<p>I don't know much about any of the themed learning communities, but there are many ways to make the campus seem smaller. It's pretty intimidating finding clubs and org.s to join; I couldn't find any definitive lists. I'd advise you to network with people in classes and to read the fliers posted around town to find things you enjoy doing. You could even look on facebook to find groups that meet regularly. Once you find a niche and establish 'social security', things become much easier.</p>

<p>At some point the size of a university's student body becomes irrelevant because we can't comprehend its magnitude anyway. There are times when the enormous campus population hindered some pursuits (joining intramural soccer, for example), but there are always alternative ways to satisfy whatever endeavors you may have. Sometimes getting into certain classes is really difficult too, but I've been pretty fortunate so far.</p>

<p>As far as comparing Madison to other schools goes, I probably can't provide much confident insight, and giving advise to prospective students vs. enrolled students is two very different things with many different considerations to make. However, I can assure that happiness is certainly attainable at Madison.</p>

<p>This may sound stupid but: Are you friends with a lot of OOS people? Or are they more of a separate group there?</p>

<p>Thank you Slosha - I find the information very helpful from a Freshman who is living the life that my D will soon be experiencing. I have a couple of questions -
How was the SOAR experience for you? Did you feel comfortable picking your classes? Was the staff helpful? My D has found information on line regarding requirements for her intended major but can't seem to find any "suggested" 4 year plans. Do you know if they exist for UW? Also, do you have a job and if so, doing what and how and when did you find the job? Thank you -</p>

<p>Parent here. The SOAR Parents Program is worthwhile, even for those who know Madison and/or UW. Check the department for any major, they will list required courses but probably only give when (sequence) to take courses if it matters. This is a good question for the SOAR advisor...</p>

<p>"Are you friends with a lot of OOS people? Or are they more of a separate group there?"</p>

<p>They aren't a separate group unless they make it a point to be. The dorms do a good job at mixing everyone together regardless of where each resident comes from. There are a handful of OOS students on my floor and they fit in very well, though a lot of it depends on personality and adaptability.
"How was the SOAR experience for you? Did you feel comfortable picking your classes? Was the staff helpful? Do you know if "suggested" 4 year plans exist for UW?"*</p>

<p>My SOAR experience was a great. I met some OOS students and got a good feel for the student body. I didn't feel comfortable picking classes, and I didn't feel the advisers were very helpful, but I'm probably an outlier in this case; I'm an indecisive person and didn't give them much to work with. The staff seemed to know the logistics of things very well (pre-reqs, etc.), so if your daughter knows what types of courses she'd like to focus on, she'll be fine. There are few decisions that can be made at SOAR which are irreversible.</p>

<p>"Do you have a job and if so, doing what and how and when did you find the job?"</p>

<p>I don't have a job, but many people do. The university has a website on which students can apply for on-campus jobs (Future</a>), but you may not have access to the website just yet. Sorry I can't be much help on the topic.</p>

<p>The above "Future" link opened up to the Res Halls Dining facilities job openings. There are sites on the UW site that show many jobs anyone can peruse. Not a good idea for parents to look up jobs and tell their S/D to apply to any, though...</p>

<p>Here is another place to look for employment opportunities: UW</a> Student Jobcenter</p>

<p>Slosha : Are you still around? Just found out that my D will be at Witte. I was surprised that she put most of the SouthEast "high-rise" dorms high on her priority list (besides her first choice of Elizabeth Watters) because she's more of a "lakefront / nature" type girl but I think she was concerned about being left out of the "fun" if she was elsewhere. And, obviously it was her decision, not mine. The good news is, many of her friends are also in Witte and they are familiar with her interest in social activities without the heavy partying part and accept that decision. (I know, anything can change in college but so far she's made very mature decisions.) </p>

<p>Anyway, just wondering if you had anything more to share about living in Witte - pros/cons - etc. </p>

<p>Thanks - A mom working on letting go (but still being informed and helpful when asked for input).</p>

<p>I think a lot of the first year experience is based on chance - who ends up on your floor, roommate, etc. However, you can still be your own person and find a niche if you are persistent enough and don't settle for who you find on your floor. I felt it was appropriate to put "(male)" in the thread title because I think gender makes a large difference, unfortunately. From my experience, it seemed easier for the girls, socially. The quiet girls got dragged along by the more outgoing ones. I think it may be easier to be yourself as a girl - you don't have to do much in order to get into a social circle. Of course, there will be pressure to conform to some standards that may or may not be best for her, but it's all part of freshman year.</p>

<p>It's really difficult to offer advice on the matter, since so much of it must be taken on a case-by-case basis. She may end up with an perfect match for a roommate, and she will be completely satisfied socially and find mental stability. Then again, she may end up with a crummy floor and struggle to find a balance. In either case, persistence is key. As long as she doesn't become complacent with an unsatisfactory situation, she'll be able to find something that fits well.</p>

<p>Madison is a great place with many, many different types of people. I really hope I don't discourage anyone with my posts because there is lots of fun to be had for any personality type, especially with an open mind.</p>

<p>Witte--good access to main library, union, Biz school, State Street, SERF, Kohl Center and most liberal arts buildings. Long walk to engineering and ag areas.</p>