Last week I shared a list of tips for surviving freshman year and asked you to share your tips for incoming freshmen in the comments section, on Twitter using the hashtag #College101, my Facebook page and during an online chat.
The response was overwhelming. I combed through hundreds of tips and edited them into this 50-item “bucket list.” I suggest that you print it out, tape it to the back of your closet door and cross things off as you do them.
1) “Make a resolution to meet one new person each day your first two months there,” tweeted @pgersty.
2) Invest in shower shoes, a caddy that won’t fill with water and a heavy-duty robe. (Suggested by @washingtonpost and a bunch of other tweeters.)
3) Arrive at your dorm as early as possible on move-in day, said Chris Pollack, a George Washington University senior, during the chat. As soon as your stuff is unloaded and you have sent your parents on their way, volunteer to help your new neighbors haul in their duffel bags, televisions and mini-fridges. This is a great way to make friends.
4) Join an intramural or club sports team. These teams are booming with popularity on many campuses, so sign up as soon as possible to ensure you get a spot.
5) Sample a local delicacy. Like crabs in Maryland, baked ham in Virginia, half-smokes in the District, peaches in Georgia, barbecue in Kansas City — you get the idea.
6) Leave your dorm room door open whenever you are there. “It makes it easier to meet people on your floor,” tweeted Emily Cahn, a.k.a. @ec2011, a recent college grad who works at The Post.
7) Explore campus — and not just the buildings where you have classes. Spend an entire afternoon wandering, finding cool, out-of-the-way spots and becoming enough of an expert that you could help your clueless roommate find her/his classes at the last minute.
8) And explore your college town. Learn the bus route, find a funky coffee shop, shop at the farmers’ market and locate the best spots for late-night food. (Also find the closest emergency room and 24-hour pharmacy, just in case.)
9) Enjoy your student ID. Sure, it won’t get you into bars if you are under 21, but it can save you so much money on so many things: student rates on movie, theater or concert tickets, 15 percent off full-price merchandise at J. Crew, stand-by tickets on Air Tran flights, and a bunch of other things.
10) Attend a campus sporting event. (Bonus points for rooting on a team that gets less attention than football or basketball.)
11) Join a club. Any club. If you can’t find a club that meets your interests, than create one.
12) Visit the career center. If you think you know what you want to do with your life, learn what you need to do now to get an internship next summer or during your sophomore year. If you are still searching for a dream career, ask one of the counselors or advisers for assistance.
13) Get to know an upperclass student, such as your resident assistant, teaching assistant, student organization member, coworker or a classmate. Don’t hesitate to ask that person questions, check in throughout the year and draw inspiration from the fact that he/she made it through freshman year alive. (Suggested by food blogger Laura Kumin, a.k.a. @MotherWouldKnow.)
14) Rush a sorority or fraternity.
15) Volunteer in the community near campus. Many schools now have service offices or clubs that can help you find an opportunity.
16) Take charge and organize some sort of outing for everyone on your floor. It could be dinner in the dining hall, opening night of a movie or a Sunday afternoon hike.
17) Visit the library. Seriously. Your professor will be impressed to see cited sources that aren’t attached to a URL.
18) Play some sort of sport on the quad. Some ideas: ultimate Frisbee, touch football, soccer, hacky sack, tag or quidditch.
19) Attend a lecture, concert or cultural event on campus that’s not required for class.
20) After the drop date, make a friend in each class, tweeted @bluecykel. That way, if you have to miss a class, you have someone who can share what happened — and vice versa.
21) “Resist the free water bottle and credit card that it comes with,” tweeted @akilbello.
22) Embrace campus as your new home. “Don't go home until fall break. You should really try to get adjusted before going home. No weekend trips early,” tweeted @EGMerritt.
23) Mix up your study habits. If you always study in a quiet room, try a bustling coffee shop. If you always type your notes on a laptop, try an old-school notebook for one class. If you rely on study groups, try studying alone. You might discover new things about yourself and the way you learn.
24) Raise your hand and ask a question. In every single class. At least once.
25) Introduce yourself to someone sitting alone in the dining hall or in your first-period class. Who knows? That lonely person could be your new BFF.
26) Stay healthy. If you start to feel sick, eat healthy foods, get lots of sleep and visit the health center.
27) “Don't forget to call home every now and then!” tweeted @thecadvantage.
28) “[A]lthough this is a prestigious campus bustling with some of the world's greatest minds . . . we are NOT in a bubble. Please lock your doors (room & vehicle if you have one). Do NOT leave ANYTHING unattended. NEVER open your door for strangers. Take time to prevent crime.” — Commenter on the Tufts University Facebook page.
29) Buy a bike and a heavy-duty lock.
30) Try as hard as you can to earn a high GPA your first semester. Your junior and senior self will thank you.
31) “Be careful of what you post online — it only seems anonymous,” another online commenter wrote.
32) “The transition from high school to college might be harder than the actual classes. Take an easy load in your first semester to make sure you get used to it without the pressure of difficult classes. You can always make it up in sophomore year,” online commenter DCCubefarm wrote.
33) Get locked out of your dorm room. It’s going to happen. But try not to make it a regular thing, or you will annoy the housing staff.
34) Call home at least once. (Bonus points for a Skype session.)
35) If you plan to have sex, stock up on condoms so you will be prepared to be safe. You can usually find them for free at the campus health center. Sexually transmitted infections can quickly spread through a college campus, so protect yourself.
36) Become the person who says something if another person is in danger. Never assume that someone else will take action — because when everyone makes that assumption, nothing happens. Don’t try to handle these problems alone. Call 911, your RA, an administrator or your parents. In most situations, your identity can be concealed — and even if it’s not, it’s the right thing to do. (This tip was included on a list of advice I wrote for the WP Magazine.)
37) Learn how to do your laundry.
38) “[I]f you party and drink every night, or even just binge drink most nights, congrats! You will graduate an alcoholic! Just because it’s college doesn’t mean you are immune from developing a bad habit — and just because you graduate from college doesn’t mean you can turn off the tap after 4 years of constant drinking. You won't be able to — you will be on your way to a lifetime of hard drinking. So don't do it!” wrote online commenter davetheman.
39) Go on a date. A real, true date that involves planning ahead and hours of talking to each other.
40) Read your student newspaper every single day that it’s published. Not only will you learn more about your college or university, you will also stay on top of upcoming concerts and local events.
41) “Set one-year, four-year and ten-year goals and align your decisions with attaining those goals,” wrote online commenter topwriter.
42) Make time to exercise. Go for a long walk, visit the gym, go swimming, take a yoga class, do anything. “[T]hey aren’t kidding about the Freshmen 10 — it can actually be more than that — and it helps with the stressful situations,” wrote online commenter annwhite1, who also suggests taking gym classes for academic credit.
43) Take a class that has nothing to do with your major but sounds interesting.
44) Learn to be invisible. When it gets late at night, you need to learn how to work without disrupting your sleeping roommate or fellow studying dorm mates. Get your own desk lamp so you don’t rely on the overhead light, and invest in some quality headphones. Along those lines, @trove tweeted: “Earplugs. Muted roommates = best roommates.”
45) Visit someone else’s home or invite them to visit yours during fall or winter break. (Bonus points if your visitor is an international student.)
46) Delete some “friends” on Facebook. Maybe it’s people you met at orientation and then never saw again. Maybe it’s a high school classmate you never really liked. Narrowing your definition of friendship will help you focus on real friends who matter most.
47) “Get to know at least one of your professors well. Visit him or her during office hours even when you don’t have any particular issues and talk about the course, the news, or whatever is on your mind. Having one go-to professor will help you enormously when situations do arise. And a lot of times professors will bring you in to their research efforts or work with you on other projects.” — Advice submitted by a reader during the chat.
48) Visit your high school friends at their campuses, suggested online commenter das0213. This is an opportunity to visit other parts of the country and meet people from different backgrounds.
49) “Best way to ensure success at college? Show up to all your classes. Yes, all of them,” tweeted @kevfor84.
50) Have fun. You are only a college freshman once. Enjoy the experience. Good luck!
And starting on Tuesday, I will feature daily 300-words-or-less essays of advice for freshmen. Last year we called it “Dear Frosh,” and this year it will be called “College101.” If you are interested in writing a piece, please e-mail me at email@example.com.