Accepted student tours have been showing up more and more frequently on my campus and while they provide you with such cursory information as, "This is the library" and "It's good to study here," I thought that I'd provide incoming freshmen with some tips that they won't get from their tour guide.
1.You'd better not have a shy bladder
Imagine a public restroom. Now imagine one in your current place of residence. Welcome to dorm life. On the upside, the bathrooms are cleaned daily, which is about 365 more cleanings a year than most public bathrooms you've probably encountered. The downside is that there are still the few people who feel no need to flush (take solace in the fact that there exists a special level of hell for such people). One thing about the bathroom that you can always count on though is that there will always be someone in it. You will also most likely know this person so saying "hello" before going along with your business or even carrying on a conversation throughout is commonplace and will not be awkward... after the first month or so (you'll get used to it quickly enough, but I suppose you could go out now and get some practice in if you really wanted to). Note, though, that this is what goes on in the girls' bathroom; I can't speak for the boys' but I imagine that it would be a difficult situation indeed to have a shy bladder once urinals are thrown into the equation.
2. Not having a laptop really stinks
About four weeks ago, I dropped my laptop. After suffering what I am convinced was a mild heart attack, I scooped it up and was immensely relieved to see no visible damage. A week later I had done it again and this time my computer responded by only charging if I held open and sideways up in the air (I like to imagine that I looked as if I was making some offering to the technology gods but I'm pretty sure I just looked like an idiot). Two weeks ago, this strategy stopped working and my poor, battered Mac went dead. Now, being both lazy and broke, I have yet to bring my computer anywhere to be fixed and thus have been spending a lot of time at the library (I'm currently typing this piece on the sixth floor (and later on the 21st... and even later on the seventh)). Despite the fact that much of my previous computer-based activity consisted largely of creeping around on Facebook (don't judge me; we all do it), I didn't realize how convenient it was to be able to do my homework at any time I pleased because I didn't have to leave my room. The library computers here are often hard to get and I'm lucky to have found the one I'm using right now. Living without a laptop is certainly doable and only somewhat inconvenient, but if you have one, learn from my mistake and treat it very carefully -- or at least buy a case.
3. You will most likely not meet your "BFF" during your first week at college
There are, of course, exceptions to this; I'm sure that there are many people who have friendships formed within days of being dropped off at school that have stood the test of time. For the rest of us, though (and especially for my fellow shy people), things take a little longer. Upon arrival to my dorm less than eight short months ago, there was a flurry of social activity with no one wanting to get left out and behind. Everyone's doors were open and someone would come around daily and ask if I wanted to go to lunch or dinner with a group of people from the dorm (an excellent freshman indicator is our tendency to move in packs during the early part of first semester). It was nice to always have someone to eat with, but besides my roommate, I don't hang out with any of the same people now that I did during the first two weeks or so. Static groups were eventually established and the social order resumed its natural course. Long story short: Don't worry too much if early on you find yourself spending every meal with someone who only wants to talk about politics or hasn't showered for a month (the latter, of course, being the more preferable situation).
4. You will be miserable at some point
I love college, but nothing can be the cat's pajamas all the time. You will be stressed, you will feel overwhelmed, and it will be worth it. College isn't easy and it shouldn't be; at some point you'll be behind on an assignment or feel like you haven't learned anything in a class that you have an exam in the next day. These feelings suck but are very effective for future motivation (to not feel like that ever again). There's nothing like an abysmal first semester to produce a stellar second one (trust me -- I, unfortunately, know).
Also, homesickness: you will have it, you will cry. Wallow as much as you need to but know that this can be used for bonding purposes, as everyone is feeling the same way; my roommate and I spent the first night after we were done crying (for the moment) talking about how weird it was to be sleeping in a bed that wasn't our own and theorizing on the number of people who had done things in said beds that made us very grateful for out mattress covers.
5. Your dream school is not worth living the rest of your life in debt
This is actually one I'm sure you've heard -- probably in increasing amount amidst our ongoing economic crisis -- but I thought that it was important enough to include. Everyone has a school that tops their application list. One that they research endlessly and obsess over its admission requirements. One that they dream of attending. I got into my dream school and I have to say that it wasn't UMass. Unfortunately (I believed at the time), the cost of attending would have been astronomical at the end of four years and for financial reasons I decided to attend The University of Massachusetts at Amherst; I could not be more happy with my decision. My first semester was very difficult for me on multiple fronts, but this semester, cheesy as it may sound, I've really started to find my place. As hard as it is to imagine yourself anywhere else when you have one school in mind, know that your real dream school might be a little further down on your list.
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