Eleven Things to Do Right After You Arrive on Campus (page 5)
There are eleven important things you need to do within the next couple of days to ensure that your college experience gets off to a comfortable and positive start.
Get Your College Photo Identification Card
The college registration process begins with the issuance of your college photo ID card. At most colleges and universities today, given the increased emphasis on security, you need this ID card to get just about anything or anywhere on campus. Because of this, the freshman ID issuance process causes one of the biggest bottlenecks of the opening days of school, and the lines can often be very long.
Review your orientation materials, be sure you bring whatever proof of identification your college requires (often a driver's license or state-issued ID and one other item, such as your Social Security card), and make this your first stop in the morning.
Oh, and remember: this card will follow you around for four years, and you usually don't get to reshoot the picture, . . . so if you're concerned about that, grab a shower before you go.
Introduce Yourself To Your Resident Advisers or Freshman Counselors
Most colleges and universities place several resident advisers (RAs) or freshman counselors in every dormitory. Part older brother or sister, part mediator, part cop during the course of your first year, these experienced hands can be an invaluable source of information and advice during your first days on campus.
Usually you'll have a few to choose from, so meet them all and then find the one you are most comfortable with. Once you've identified that person, ask him or her the Three Questions you below. Remember, what you're looking for at this stage of the game is information: knowledge of where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them; ideas about what worked for others and how to implement those strategies in your own experience.
Question 1: What were the three biggest mistakes you made during your freshman year, how could you have avoided them, and what did you learn from them?
Question 2: What were the three best decisions or choices you made during your freshman year, and why do you consider them good decisions?
Question 3: What are the three most important things you learned during your freshman year?
Get Your Computer, Internet, E-mail, And Telephone Services Established
Two or three days after students start arriving on campus, the people who administer your college's e-mail, Internet, computer, and telephone services and systems are going to be inundated with service calls. A lot of people will need new versions of operating software, new drivers for printers or modems, new Ethernet or wireless cards. Other, less technology-savvy students will be completely lost and in need of significant hand-holding. Lines at your campus computer center can be hours long at the beginning of a new year.
Don't get caught in that nightmare.
As soon as you get to campus—before you unpack, go furniture shopping with your roommates, start partying with your new friends, or do anything else—get wired. Make sure you have the right operating system and all the software and hardware you need to fully integrate yourself into your campus's computer system. Double-check to make sure everything works. If it doesn't, get right on the phone with a technician, before things get out of hand. Doing this will ensure that while others are wasting aggravating hours standing in long lines at the computer center, you can be doing something more useful with your time.
Get The Key To Your Campus Mailbox
If you're one of the lucky ones, your college will deliver your mail directly to your dorm, in which case you can just pick up your mail key from your RA or residence hall postmaster and skip this section.
For the rest of you, though, the next place you'll want to go is to your campus post office—the other madhouse on campus at the beginning of any semester. To save yourself some grief here, best make this trip first thing in the morning too, as soon as possible after the post office opens. And don't forget your driver's license and college ID card.
Choose A Local Bank And Set Up A Local Checking Account
The other places where lines get ridiculously and frustratingly long at the beginning of the school year are at the local banks. Virtually every student will need to set up a local bank account, and as you may already know from experience, that involves another set of tiresome, time-consuming paperwork.
Accordingly, the next order of business is choosing a bank and getting an account set up before everyone else starts doing it.
In our view, there are three principal considerations in choosing the bank you'll use during your college years. First, choose the bank with the most convenient ATM machines. When you're running out to party on Thursday night, you're not going to want to have to cross town to your bank—and why pay $2.00 per transaction when you could be getting cash for free? Second, pick a bank that doesn't require you to maintain a minimum balance in your account. With the intense competition for business on a college campus, you should be able to find a bank that requires no minimum balance, or at least a negligibly small one ($250 or less). Finally, choose a bank that lets you do your banking online.
Spend An Afternoon Orienting Yourself On Campus
Break out a campus map and spend a leisurely afternoon just walking around.
Figure out which buildings are which, where the dining halls are, where the libraries are, and where the gym is. Figure out where the different fraternities and sororities are. Look for the best place to get coffee in the morning. If you're a runner or a blader, take note of good running routes around campus. If you like to study outside, look for some nice courtyards, gardens, cafes, or other places that might be suitable. Notice where the campus police substations are and what the campus security phones look like and where they are.
There is no real agenda here. Just allow yourself to wander, taking in the layout of your surroundings. You're looking for a sense of comfort—of belonging—that comes with familiarity. The sooner you get that, the easier your adjustment will be.
Find A Quiet, Out-Of-The-Way Place To Study
As you will soon discover, college life is rife with distractions. Between campus events, roommates tempting you to take a study break, television, the Internet, your cell phone, and the general bustle of your dorm, it can be hard to buckle down and actually concentrate on studying!
Hence task number 7: find one or two campus "hideouts" where you can concentrate and study without distraction.
Remember, these are places to study—not places to go to be seen or to scope people out. Look for places that are quiet and off the beaten path. Avoid places that give you a view of the whole room or of doorways, where you will be likely to watch the comings and goings of others. Don't pick a place near your roommates or friends, and don't pick a place like a coffee shop, cafe, or bar, where noise may prevent you from concentrating. You're looking for a place where you can be alone with yourself and focus on your studies.
Check In With The Registrar
In a few days, classes will begin, and with that the process of registering for those classes. Before you can register for any classes, however, your tuition bill must be paid in full, your inoculation record must be up-to-date, and all your personal information must be updated and on file.
With the enormous volume of paperwork that the good people in your school's registrar's office have to deal with, mistakes do happen. Checks get misplaced, and paperwork gets misfiled. Data entry errors occur. Sometimes you even forget to send in something they need.
Make Your Room A Home And Get Organized!
For most of us, going away to college was the first significant time we spent away from home. You're in a new place, with new people and new surroundings. The experience can be somewhat disconcerting for even the most confident among us. So once you have the groundwork taken care of, spend some time setting up your living space"and make it your own.
First and foremost, make it comfortable. Spend a few dollars for a good pillow, good sheets, and a comforter that will allow you both to sleep well and to make your bed with a minimum of fuss. Hang some posters. Put out some framed pictures of family and friends to remind you of your connections to others in these exciting (and sometimes scary) days of disconnection in your new place. Create the vibe you want.
Be as social as you can during these first few days. Sure it feels awkward.
It feels awkward to everyone. There are hundreds or even thousands of new people to meet. There will be people from all over the country and all over the world, people from backgrounds similar to yours, and others who are completely unlike you.
Some you will like. Others you won't.
Resist the urge to stereotype people, to just cling to your roommates or to your friends from high school or boarding school, or to gravitate to the people most like you. Resist the urge to be shy.
Have A Roommate Or Suite Meeting To Set The Ground Rules
The importance of getting off on the right foot with your roommates and suitemates cannot be overstated. As soon as all your roommates or suitemates have arrived on campus and all parents and relatives have departed, gather everyone together and set some ground rules.
Campus Confidential Mentors and Uber-Mentors:
Campus Confidential contains the collective advice of a a diverse group of people who have traveled the road to college. Some are recent college graduates who can counsel you on the college experience as it is today. Other are a few years removed from their college days and can provide a longer view of the decisions you will need to make before, during, and after college. Here is a little bit about the mentors and uber-mentors in these articles.
Dan Bissell – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B.A. Middlebury College cum laude, 1993. Major: Geology
M. D. University of Colorado School of Medicine, Adler Scholar, 2002
Tom Teh Chiu – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Brooklyn, New York
B. A. Yale University, 1993. Major: double major in Chemistry and Music
M. M. Juilliard School, 1995
M Juilliard School, 2001
Jim Bright – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
B. A. Duke University, magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1997. Major: History
Amanda Cramer – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Paso Robles, California
B.A. Cornell University Phi Beta Kappa, 1993. Major: Mathematics
Graduate study in food science – Enology, University of California at Davis 1997-2000
Zoe Robbins – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B.A. (1) Wellesley College magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa, 1997. Major: Economics
B.A. (2) University of Pennsylvania, 2001. Major: Nursing
Carolyn Koegler – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
Hopkinton, New Hampshire
B. A. Tufts University, cum laude, 1993. Double major: History and Spanish
Erik Norton – Campus Confidential Uber-Mentor
B. A. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1993. Major: Mathematics
Lyndsee Dickson – Campus Confidential Mentor
Concord, New Hampshire
B.A. New York University, cum laude, 2004. Major: East Asian studies
Kevin Donovan – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Boston College, honors in the major, 1993. Major: English, Minor: Creative Writing
Tiffany Chan – Campus Confidential Mentor
Concord, New Hampshire
B.S. New York University, 2005. Major: Communication Science
Erica Eubanks – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Tennessee State University, National Deans List, 2003. Major: Criminal Justice
Dave Irwin – Campus Confidential Mentor
B.A. Middlebury College departmental honors, 2004. Major: American Civilization, Minor: Education
Chase Johnson – Campus Confidential Mentor
B. A. Duke University, with Phi Alpha Theta distinction in history, 2005. Major: History
Aaron Paskalis – Campus Confidential Mentor
West Point Military Academy, then transferred to UMass Amherst
B. A. University of Massachusetts at Amherst, 2005. Major: Legal studies
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