Nervous about your first semester? Wondering what are the best ways to come out of your first semester on top? From a fellow student nearly done with my second semester of college, I’ve got the tips and tricks for making the most of your first semester at the UR!
1. Prepare for classes early
The first tip I have for any incoming first-year students is to prepare for your classes early on. At first, the first two weeks of classes may seem slow but by the end of the first month, the work will catch up to you. No matter what type of student you were in high school, the college curriculum will still take some time to adjust to, as well as your flexible schedule. My first semester, I didn’t have class until noon, so it was always tempting to sleep in, but working out how you can make the most of your free time by balancing your work and free time is crucial for first-semester success.
It’s never too early to start preparing for your classes; I found it helpful to contact my professors over the summer to 1. Introduce myself (that way they’ll remember you in the fall) 2. Ask questions about the course 3. Get any first-day jitters out of the way. Having a conversation with your professors, even over email helps to break the ice. It’s not as intimidating when you feel more familiar with your professor on the first day, and you’ll have a leg-up in communicating with them, which will be key throughout your time here at UR! It’s also extremely helpful to go through the syllabus before the first week, that way you can take note of future deadlines in comparison to your other courses. You can plan ahead and feel more at ease when midterms and finals come creeping up!
2. Don’t stress over making friends
Like any new environment, it can be easy to get in your head about meeting new people. Remember that as you move into your dorm and begin living on your own for possibly the first time in your life that it’s normal to not feel like you “click” with anyone right away, especially your roommate. Although my first semester was constrained due to COVID, I definitely felt like I hadn’t met “my people” until the second semester of college, and it will continue to change throughout my four years here. In the first few weeks, it’s okay to stick with your roommate or friends you met online over the summer, but don’t pressure yourself to stick to one set of friends. Branch out, and try new things.
Some of the best friends that I was able to make in my first semester were people outside of my regular living bubble– people that I worked with organizations like the Campus Times or WRUR, the school’s radio station. You definitely don’t have to hang out with the same group of friends throughout the semester; even having study-buddies for classes can help you feel more at home here. I continue to meet up with friends I’ve made in classes last semester, even if I don’t see them every week. Everyone gets busy, so don’t feel discouraged if it’s difficult at first to meet up with other friends outside your normal group.
3. Give yourself the freedom to have fun
Coming into college, you probably have certain expectations. There are many idealized versions of college, thanks to plenty of Hollywood movies and college YouTubers who make it out to be a specific lifestyle. Take it from a Film Major: college is NOT like the movies. Here at the UR, I believe there is a space for everyone, and although it may take some time, eventually you’ll find the space where you feel like you belong. Remember that it’s okay to have fun! College is not all about academics; it’s also about social life. It’s definitely untrue that parties are the only way to have fun.
That said, it’s okay to experiment with different activities and learn from them, as long as you are being safe. There are many ways to have fun on-campus, from joining a club like Outing Club (you get to go on hikes nearby), or an Intramural Sport like soccer. This is the time to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do in high school- audition for a play, pick up painting as a new hobby or dancing. Besides activities and clubs, you should always feel that your relaxing time is validated. It’s okay to take a break from homework to watch Netflix; it’s okay to go out with your friends and enjoy yourself without stressing over homework. Never feel bad about doing something you enjoy, whether it’s registering for a class outside your major, or buying a whole pint of ice cream from the Hillside Market.
Despite what everyone might tell you, the first semester of college is one of the best out of your four years. You have the freedom to take any classes you want, especially thanks to the UR’s flexible Open Curriculum. Don’t feel pressured to have everything figured out, especially if you’re coming in Undecided. UR has a very collaborative environment, and everyone is happy to help you! Don’t be afraid to reach out to upperclassmen for advice, or even to meet up for a coffee chat.
Office hours are also crucial to take advantage of, even if you aren’t struggling in the class. It makes a great impression if you take the time to have a conversation with your professor– that way, you make a connection for future years if you need a letter of recommendation, career advice, want to take an advanced class, or even need someone as a support system. Everyone is here for you, and despite your expectations and fears coming into your first semester, remember that you are not alone! Everyone goes through it, and it is a beautiful opportunity to grow.