By Mary Reischmann
One of the first things you need to know about making your official debut as a college student is how to navigate the complexities of the college social scene. The minute you set foot on campus, you’re going to be bombarded with new names and faces, all desperate to lodge themselves in your memory. Keeping them all straight can be a huge hassle, especially when you’re still figuring out your major, the best eateries on campus, and exactly how late you can sleep in before your 9 a.m. class. Lucky for you, we’ve laid all the important college relationships you’ll make your first year and how to make the most of them!
1. The Roommate
Welcome to college… and get ready to start sharing your closet space. Most budding college students aren’t exactly jazzed about suddenly having half as much space for their shoes, but meeting your roomie can also be your first shot at finding a college BFF. The two of you will be spending a lot of time together, whether you’re making a midnight run to the dining hall or silently cramming in the dorm over way too many cups of coffee. You’ll want your room to be a safe space to hang out and relax in at the end of the day, and both of you will be way more comfortable if walking back to your dorm means going home to a friend.
Moving in with a stranger can be scary, and it may be tempting to move in with a friend from high school who happens to be at the same college as you. Unfortunately, a lot of students find out the hard way that living in the close quarters of a shoebox-sized dorm room can wear on even the tightest friendship… especially when she gets a boyfriend and starts sexiling you. Check out how to deal with love-related roomie issues.
There’s no way to guarantee that you and your new roomie will click right away, but you can make sure you get off on the right foot! Since most colleges will let you know who you’re living with before you set foot on campus, look her up on Facebook so you can get to know each other a little. Ask her about her general studying and sleeping habits so you can be respectful of them and so she knows you’re making an effort to get along. And, for some pre-move-in bonding, see if the two you can come up with some fun ways to decorate your dorm! Your DIY interior design Pinterest board may finally come in handy.
2. The RA
Residential advisers, or RAs, are upperclassmen employed by the school to ensure that your dorm living runs smoothly, make you feel at home, and also enforce university dorm policies. Freshmen’s RAs are generally pretty attentive, so you’ll probably meet yours almost as soon as you move in. Even though they’re only two or three years older than you, RAs represent the most immediate authority figures dictating the success of your dorm room living experience. Befriending your RA can be key to that success, and, since they aren’t really that much older than you, they’re usually not too hard to win over. Of course, you still have to follow their rules, but they’re more likely to let minor offenses slide if you take some time to hang out with them in the common room while you’re both cramming for an exam.
RAs are there to help you and your floormates, and that doesn’t just mean shutting down dorm parties during finals week. Starting college means getting hit by a flood of unfamiliar people, classes, clubs, and more, and all that new information can be overwhelming. Feeling lost or homesick is totally normal, and turning to your RA for advice or just someone to vent to is usually way more comforting that making an appointment with the dean of students. And, if you’re really struggling with the adjustment to college, your RA will probably know a helpful on-campus resource that can help you, even if they can’t.
3. The Unintelligible Professor
Every college student will experience the joys of the lecture hall, and, with it, the challenges of connecting with a professor 20 rows in front of you who’s mumbling into his lectern. Not only are there hundreds of other students in the auditorium, but between technical difficulties, soft-spoken TAs (teaching assistants), and chatty classmates, it can be nearly impossible to even decipher the lecture, let alone ask questions or express your opinions.
Your priority number one should be hearing enough of the lecture to scrape together enough notes for the first exam. Your best bet is to befriend a classmate, whether it’s the girl with a color-coded notebook sitting in the front row, the cute techie who’s actually able to type fast enough to keep up with any mile-a-minute speaker, or even just someone you vaguely recognize from orientation. Between the two of you, you’ll (hopefully) be able to piece the key points of the course together. And, if you’re really struggling, don’t be afraid to speak with the prof or TA during their office hours. If you didn’t catch when those were, check the syllabus you picked up on the first day!