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Top 10 ways to prepare for first year

Looking ahead to first year during the summer? Here is my guide to making the initial transition as easy and as enjoyable as possible.

<p>Overpacking seems like a splendid idea until you must somehow transport an embarrassingly large number of Ikea bags into your tiny dorm room&nbsp;</p>

Overpacking seems like a splendid idea until you must somehow transport an embarrassingly large number of Ikea bags into your tiny dorm room 

Having just finished my first year, I hope to provide some insight into the experience for members of the Class of 2026. I now know how fast first year flies by, so making the most of the sometimes nerve-wracking experience is vital. Even though the beginning of the next semester is still far out, I wanted to share my insights before class registration begins and before you may embark on your college shopping sprees. Cheers to the highs and lows of being a first-year student — it is one unique journey. 

1. Make Google Maps your best friend

I know I was worked up about finding my classes at the beginning of my first semester. To combat this, I leaned heavily on Google Maps — you can even save locations onto your Google Maps account and label it with the relevant class name, making it even easier to navigate Grounds. The good news is that within a few days of walking around Grounds, you will feel much more comfortable with your new environment. Having Google Maps as a steady and reliable back-up option, however, is a simple way to avoid unnecessary extra worries at the start of your first year. 

2. Even if you are dead set on a course or professor, peek at theCourse Forum 

theCourse Forum is a part of every college student’s essentials. I am begging you to learn from my first semester mistakes. As an overly eager first year, I enrolled in a psychology course that I failed to do any background work on. Open seats in August? Sign me up! What could possibly go wrong? Short answer— a lot. While I did not enjoy this particular psychology course nor did I even have a reason to enroll in it, I persevered through a seemingly impossible course. I emerged on the other side a more resilient person, but I could have done without the heartache this course caused me. 

If theCourseForum reviews are overwhelmingly negative, I suggest you ask upperclassmen for advice and do more research on the course — you can also drop the course if needed. There is always the chance that you will love the course, but there is also a chance that the reviews truly have merit — had I taken the course forum reviews more seriously, I would have had a more enjoyable first semester.  

3. Consume college-related Internet content with caution 

The summer before my first year, I felt like I was surrounded by endless amounts of YouTube videos, TikToks and articles with topics ranging from what a typical day in the life of a college student looks like to ultra-specific lists of things you should pack. While I think many of these resources can be helpful, I also think many of them can have a less-than-helpful effect — especially Youtube videos and TikToks that present unrealistically positive or negative expectations for the college experience. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by the information being thrown at you, remember that these videos and articles are just the opinions of some random people on the internet and are not necessarily indicative of the experiences you will have. 

4. Do you really need to pack every shirt that you own? Hint — no 

Something that made me feel in control while preparing for move-in was being organized and methodical while packing. Nevertheless, I found myself having the urge to overpack. It seemed unfathomable to not have every single piece of clothing that I own with me. Overpacking seems like a splendid idea until you must somehow transport an embarrassingly large number of Ikea bags into your tiny dorm room — save yourself the pain I endured during move in and move out and leave that polka-dot dress you are convinced you will need at home. 

5. Aim to plan Halloween costumes early. 

I severely underestimated how important Halloween would be when I arrived at the University. In hindsight, I should have had my costume planned out well in advance. Nonetheless, I was one of the desperate souls at the Barracks Road Shopping Center’s The Party Starts Here store searching for a costume with hours to spare. To avoid frantic Amazon orders, having random costume parts for themed parties such as tropical and neon themes is also always a smart idea. 

6. Familiarize yourself with a laundry machine.

For many people, this may seem painfully obvious. Take one step into a first-year dorm, however, and you will quickly understand that laundry is a constant problem for first-year students. Whether people forget to retrieve their clothes from the dryer, do not understand the purpose of separating laundry by color or do not know how to properly use a Tide Pod — the problems surrounding laundry seem to be persistent. Be sure to set a timer to pick up your laundry as soon as it is finished to avoid being the target of a snarky dorm GroupMe message pleading you to pick up your laundry to open a machine.

7. Make a plan for organizing your schedule, courses and assignments.

The first few days of first year are definitely very busy. There are many mandatory events that first years must attend leading up to the first day of classes, like Grounds for Discussion and Hoos Got Your Back. It can feel calming to already have some things in place for the first day of class. Making a plan for your own system of organizing your schedule and assignments is a great way to start. This can include creating folders for your courses on Google Drive, setting up your calendar or picking out a few notebooks for your courses. Nothing needs to be perfect for the first day of classes — as the semester progresses, you will naturally figure out what works best for you. 

8. Get ready to feel comfortable in uncomfortable situations.

This may sound harsh, but I think it accurately captures how the first few weeks of first year can feel. You will be meeting so many new people, which means you will be introducing yourself repeatedly. You will likely be in situations that require icebreaker activities, which I find incredibly painful. Knowing this ahead of time can give you the power to simply submit yourself to the process. Everyone is feeling uneasy in some way, but I promise that this is how you can find some of your best friends. 

9. Say it louder for the people in the back — under-the-bed storage!

As the chronic overpacker that I am, under-the-bed storage really saved me during my first year. It is the perfect place to put anything and everything that you do not want in your way. I strategically stacked plastic bins underneath my bed to store extra clothes and things I did not access daily — I even kept my printer under my bed. Living in a dorm requires some creative approaches to storage, so making every inch of space under your bed count is so important. 

10. Try to let go of any expectations and instead get excited for a transformative year. 

As you enter your first year, it can be easy to let too many expectations for how things should be overtake the possibilities for how things can be. As I reflect on my first year, many of my favorite memories come from random moments with my friends — moments that could not have happened even if I tried to plan them. First year is such a special experience. There are many difficult moments, but I now look back to first year with a mix of nostalgia and excitement for the rest of my time at the University. You truly have an amazing time ahead of you.