BY ANNIE O'BRIEN '21, A CREATIVE WRITING AND ENGLISH MAJOR AT GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY
Receiving an acceptance letter is only the beginning of your college journey. Roommates, majors, and meal plans (oh my!), there is so much for which you have to prepare. The summer before college provides ample time to organize your life—and alter expectations—to thrive during your first semester away from home. In reflecting on my summer before college and orientation week, I did several things that set me up for success and others I wish I could erase. Below, I’ve listed several pieces of advice pulled from both positive things I did and negative experiences you should `avoid.
1. Be Wary of Roommates You Picked on Social Media.
Just because they slid into your DMs asking to be roommates does not mean you will hit it off in person. Many people I know who picked their
roommate over social media fought dramatically with each other. Perceived similarities created a rose-colored relationship. When they met in person, the roommate– and their level of loyalty– often fell far below my friends’ expectations, creating tense living situations. I, on the other hand, went random. My freshmen-year roommates and I lived comfortably, sharing compatible living habits, like bedtimes, cleanliness, and social stamina. I became close with one of them, and we lived together during our sophomore year. While random roommates aren’t immune to conflict, the mounting expectations before meeting chosen roommates tend to cause much more explosive fights. If you pick your roommate online, I strongly advise against expecting anything from them besides respect.
2. Don’t be Afraid of Connecting With Merion Alumni Attending Your College.
One of my current best friends and I both went to Merion, but we never talked. She was a year older than me. We connected over Twitter the
summer before my sophomore year and went out when I returned to school. We’ve been good friends ever since, taking courses together, going on long walks at night (strength in numbers!), and reminiscing about signature Merion moments. I wish I had connected with her earlier; she could have added familiarity and comfort during my first year.
3. Research Student Discounts.
One thing I remember about Merion is the sound of long nails scrolling through the internet, browsing for bikinis, formal dresses, and workout gear. I’m here to tell you that you probably won’t become more economical in college. I unwind or distract myself during long lectures by window shopping online– sometimes, even adding to my cart. It’s a bad habit, and I’m working to break it. In the meantime, certain stores offer student discounts to make an online shopping habit financially harsh on college kids caught in consumer culture. Register for student discounts from your favorite companies as soon as you can. Stores like Madewell, Asos, and Dormify will help you look stylish and have the most desirable dorm room.
4. Transfer Your AP Credits.
I recommend going through the tedious process with your schools' registrar to transfer any credits you can. After transferring all possible credits, I cleared introductory courses for my major, minor, and multiple Gen-Ed requirements.
5. Go to The Activities Fair!
Most colleges host an activities fair during orientation week. If, like me, you plan on embracing the freedoms of college by only attending orientation events that sound exciting, make you go to the activities fair! Student organizations are a surefire way to find underclassmen with shared interests and upperclassmen who can guide you. Unlike your homework, the projects you complete for student organizations won’t collect dust in Google Drive; you will share them with others in the organization or the rest of campus. Browse the activities fair and attend all the organizations that interest you. Eventually, you have to dedicate your time to one or two organizations.
6. Avoid Stressing About Registering for Courses and Credits.
For many universities, class registration as a freshman is even more stressful than applying to the school. Generally, first-year students pick their courses for the upcoming semester last, meaning they get upperclassmen’s burnt-over, undesirable leftovers. I fretted about registering for courses; most of the remaining options satisfied neither Gen-Ed nor my intended major’s requirements. It felt impossible to fulfill each requirement if I didn’t start my first semester. In reality, it did not matter what courses I took the first semester; I have been able to enroll in my required courses every other semester. Besides, courses were the least exciting part of my first semester. I wouldn’t have appreciated the good ones anyways!
7. Your First Stop in Your New Community Should be a Coffee Shop, Preferably Off-campus.
When my family and I came to campus for move-in day, we arrived short-tempered and already exhausted. In short, we needed coffee– ASAP. A quick Yelp search guided us to the nearest café. We promptly ordered enough coffee, pastries, and brunch snacks to cater for a small conference. As the year progressed, I returned to the coffee shop when I needed a nearby escape from college. I could read, do my homework, and enjoy a delicious brew while feeling a part of my new city in ways that stretched beyond the bounds of campus.
I hope this advice smooths what can sometimes feel like a rough road to your first year of college. If our readers have any additional advice, please share it in the comments section below!