The first week of college is a big one – on all levels. You have to adjust to not living at home, you have to adjust to demanding classes, you have to adjust to new people, and you have to adjust to a whole new social life. It’s exhausting work, but it’s also important work because the first week of university often sets the pattern for the next four years. This is why we’ve provided six handy tips to help you get through the chaotic first week unscathed.
1) Be friendly
Your uni life is going to be much easier if you don’t get a reputation as a social pariah in the first week. Be friendly to everyone you meet for three reasons: it’s just polite; everyone else feels just as strange and out of place as you and could use a friendly smile; and you never know who are going to be your best friends and most valuable study allies.
Start with your roommate. Start on a friendly-footing now and you could save yourself a lot of frustration later on. After all, this is the person who is going to share your personal space for the next nine or ten months, so you’d really want to minimise the tension.
Extend it to the other people in your hall or res, especially on your floor (it’s always a good idea to be on good terms with people with whom you will be sharing a bathroom). Take your friendly attitude with you to orientation events and to class, so you can meet people who share your interests.
There are two important points to remember about this initial meeting phase:
- According to Ericka Souter, you shouldn’t write off anyone just because of one iffy experience. Make allowances for the fact that some people don’t tolerate stress well or don’t adapt quickly to change and that this could affect their social skills. Give snippy or awkward people the benefit of the doubt, and maybe give them a little time and space before trying to be friendly again. Granted, they could be naturally unpleasant, but you could discover a friend for life.
- In an article for Teen Vogue, Rachel Simmons says that you should remember that some friendships are fleeting. Some friends are made out of necessity. You’re thrown into the same difficult situation and that one thing that you have in common is enough for you to be friends until the situation is over or you adjust. Then you may find that you have nothing in common after all. In fact, you might find that they’re the last people on earth you’d ordinarily hang out with. That’s fine. You can go your separate ways; just try to do it amicably.
Similarly, don’t get too attached to friends that you form in the first week. They’re also testing the water and could find that you are not their cup of tea. Don’t take it personally.
Join clubs. At the very least find out what extracurricular activities are available and test the ones that pique your interest. University is a time to try new things, so now is the time to see if you like jujitsu, kayaking, kiting, chess, tennis, badminton, and tai chi. If your university doesn’t offer classes that you like, don’t be afraid to go off-campus. The city is almost guaranteed to have hot yoga classes somewhere. The important thing is to get yourself out there – out there being out of your residence, outside of your class schedule, and outside of your comfort zone.
2) Be diligent
Do all of the admin things that you are supposed to do, like getting your student card, registering at the library, setting up your online account, and registering with healthcare providers.
Attend classes. This is very, very important for many, many reasons. For example, it’s another opportunity to meet like-minded people. It’s also important to find out whether or not you really enjoy the class, so you can change if necessary. Also, if it’s a popular course and you don’t pitch for the first few classes, you might be bumped to give someone on the waiting list a chance. And, it’s a good time to try and make a favourable impression on your lecturer.
3) Do your homework
Yes, do your class homework, but this isn’t your only homework for the first week. Your other homework includes familiarising yourself with the campus so that you build your own internal map. Explore so you can find the quickest routes to your classes and the library, find the cafeterias and dining halls, and find all the recreation clubs, and security points.
Explore the town. Find the nearest, cheapest supermarket; the nearest, cheapest pub; the nearest, cheapest takeaway; the nearest public transport links; and the nearest, cheapest chemist, etc.
You should get to know your turf so well that you can find your way on a starless night in the middle of a power outage (and with a few intoxicating beverages in your system, perhaps).
4) Be healthy
Establish healthy living patterns now. So eat a balanced diet, don’t skip meals, get some exercise, get enough sleep, start a study schedule, and try (really try) not to party too hard. Good habits started early are easy to maintain.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to textbooks.
One: get your books as soon as possible, otherwise you’ll fall behind and may struggle to catch up. The other risk is that the bookstore will sell out of the required course material if you procrastinate too long. However, as many books are now available from online stores, as well as in electronic format, that risk is minimised.
Two: wait to buy your textbooks because not everything on the reading list is actually required. Sometimes lecturers will tell students in the first week which books are compulsory and which are recommended (another reason to attend classes during the first week – the tips are great). Also, you might want to wait until all your classes are set before buying books for courses you will be dropping.
There are pros and cons to both getting your books immediately and waiting. The choice is yours.
6) Have fun – but be safe
Use the first week to find your feet, find friends, and find your own space. Have fun and let your hair down a bit. Party by all means, but try not to party so hard that you get into the habit of missing early morning classes and homework assignments. Also, don’t party so hard that you make stupid decisions, like driving drunk or driving with someone who is drunk.
Remember that to a lot of returning students, you’re fresh meat and fair game. So keep your wits about you.