Me, as a terrified freshman.
I love freshmen or - as Barnard would have us call them - first years. Having moved in early this year for Well Woman training, I got to see them as they went about their orientation activities and attended endless programming. And in between the student services fair, the perspectives on diversity training, the floor meetings, and the early morning introductory breakfasts, I remembered how overwhelming the freshman experience can be. So, since we are kicking off classes this morning, here are my 5 tips for freshmen, not just at Barnard, but at large:
1. Ask. It's simple, but we often forget that people around us want to help. Most of the time, administrators and upperclasswomen are going to be helpful and show you the way - and the same goes for people all over. We don't ask because we fear the other person's reaction, or we have been socialized to view it as "bothering" that person. If someone is mean to you, it's simply their problem, not yours.
2. Test the waters, but don't overcommit yourself. How many classes did you take in high school? For me, it was 7, and more than 4 clubs and extra-curriculars, often at the same time. I was swamped, but it was totally manageable. Not so here. In an academically rigorous setting, you do not want to commit yourself to more classes and clubs than you can handle. Shop around and find out the workload from the syllabus, go to introductory meetings and ask yourself whether you can give so many hours of your time, and take it easy on the first try. You'll thank yourself later.
3. Don't enter the stress Olympics. At Barnard, there is a culture war of who has the most stress. "I got 3 hours of sleep last night and wrote 4 papers," or "I haven't eaten a proper meal since Wednesday." Stop yourself from competing early on. If you're stressed, take some time for yourself, and if you're doing well, don't hide it! Soemtimes people feel more ashamed to be on top of their work than to be swamped by it - avoid becoming the lowest common denominator just because you think it will make you fit in.
4. Don't worry too much about fitting in. Appropriately, fitting in is one of the least of your worries here. Dare to be different and people will respond - there are so many niche groups and amazing opportunities at college that you need not fit a certain mold just to make friends. Trust me, they'll come with time.
5. Get to know campus inside and out. Not just for your own sanity when it comes to getting to class, but also because there are a ton of things to explore and know about on campus. The owl in the statue? The secret cafe that sells the best muffins in Dodge? All of it is there, waiting for you to discover it.
Have a great first day of classes, Columbia students!
Check out some other lessons and lists.