Eight tips for a first-year student
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, November 3, 2016
Dear first year student,
You made it. You’re in college! Now what? You’re living in a dorm with 200+ people, eating dining hall food every day and trying to balance classes with the exciting responsibility of finally living away from your parents. Also, you’re at Notre Dame. So add to that an intense football tradition, sometimes overwhelming Irish Catholicism, a competitive “work hard, play hard” mentality and rigorous academics that include an additional Moreau First Year Experience course that you may not be too fond of. How are you going to manage it all? Here are eight tips that might help you adjust to the oftentimes crazy but undeniably rewarding college experience that is the University of Notre Dame.
One. Be friendly and say hello. The first few weeks of college are filled with meeting new people and typical “name, dorm, major” exchanges. However, now you know six Katies and five Patricks — all from Chicago — and smile awkwardly in passing at the people you met at Domerfest but never spoke to again. You may feel like you met so many amazing people at the start, but now that it’s after fall break, everyone seems reluctant to make new friends. This is usually the furthest thing from the truth, but often you don’t know how to continue meeting new people after the forced interactions of Welcome Weekend subside. My advice is to continue to be friendly and say hi when you see them in passing or class. Remembering their name can go a long way, but even if you don’t, a simple “hello” can make their day.
Two. Think a little deeper about the Moreau prompts. It’s sometimes easier to give a generic response for the weekly assignment. But I challenge you to see how you can incorporate what might seem like superficial or forced connections into various aspects of your life. Get creative and you might surprise yourself with how much you enjoy a particular assignment or reflection.
Three. Don’t knock it until you try it. You’re in college and there are so many new people, things, and activities that it can be overwhelming how much “new” there is. But don’t assume you won’t enjoy a new experience or activity just because it’s not what you’re used to. College is all about discovering yourself and as cliché as that sounds, you won’t know you enjoy something until you try it.
Four. Have more than one group of friends. Believe it or not, having only one group of friends that you hang out with all the time doesn’t mean you’re going to feel like you belong or that you’re happy. College is a time of drastic personal growth and transformation, especially during your first year. Not only are you going to change, but so are the people you are friends with. You will meet people from all different aspects of campus life, and you should be open to getting to know new people as your classes, interests and activities change. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make deeper connections with your current friends, but also don’t limit yourself and your friendships to the five to 10 people you randomly met on Welcome Weekend or happened to live next to. And more importantly, all your friends don’t have to be friends with each other! There is a campus of over 8,000 undergraduates. Chances you found the ultimate group of friends within the first few months are next to zero.
Five. You need sleep. No amount of caffeine can substitute for a couple hours of rest. Life in college moves quickly and can be stressful. There will be all-nighters, and I can that promise high school didn’t prepare you for finals week on a college campus. But regularly getting enough sleep will make a world of difference in the end.
Six. Don’t skip class. If you decided to forgo tip number five but still have gen chem lecture at 8:20 am, I understand the temptation to skip the long walk to Jordan in favor of an extra hour of sleep. Whether you’re an avid napper like me who can sleep through three alarms with surprising consistency or just don’t care about that 200-person lecture for a university requirement, establishing a weekly routine can help you organize your homework, courses and daily tasks. It may seem like missing one or two lectures isn’t a big deal, but when midterms roll around and missing one lecture has turned into missing a gen chem lecture every week, you may regret some of your choices. Establishing a routine is important not only to passing your classes and managing your time effectively, but also to creating a home away from home at Notre Dame.
Seven. Find what works for you. This applies to study habits, social life, sleeping schedules and basically everything else. Despite the deceiving appearance of homogeneity amongst the ND student population, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another. Your experience in college is what you make of it, but you have to figure out how you function best.
Eight. You’re at Notre Dame to get an education, and this means more than a diploma after four years. Yes, you want to do well in your courses and eventually get a job after college, but don’t make the mistake of thinking the only things you’ll learn at Notre Dame will be in the classroom. Once you graduate, life doesn’t have a GPA or an honor society or extra credit assignment. You’re the only one who can define who you are, but first you have to learn who you want to be.
May the luck of the Irish be with you as you enter one of the most exciting times of your life. Notre Dame will change you in ways you can’t imagine, but I hope that you can also change Notre Dame for the better.