Being a rising senior is as scary as it is joyful. As I near the climax of my education at St. John’s, that mix of emotions is a nostalgic reminder of freshman year. For me, nostalgia often accompanies a time for healthy reflection, and in reflecting on that all-too-familiar mix of terror and excitement that I know many of you must also be feeling right now, I am taken back to my time as an incoming freshman. That time too was riddled with as much anxiety as excitement, and as Convocation (August 29th) approaches for you all, I know it can become increasingly easy to forget about the excitement and think only of your worries.
I hope to curb that temptation by providing a list of tips & tricks on how to get through not only this summer, but your first few months at the college. Here are, from an upperclassman’s perspective, the 15 most important things all incoming freshmen should know:
- Be mindful of your mental health. Not everything needs to get done every day. Pace yourself. Self care always comes first! Clearly define your priorities and then stick to them.
- Read the Illiad now. Just do it. Get it all done now, you’ll thank me later. [P.S. It’s an amazing read!]
- Same with the Greek alphabet. Start learning it ASAP. Make flashcards, practice writing them, learn the sounds they make, record yourself speaking it out loud and play it back. If you do this early, your first weekend here can be spent getting to know friends, not studying Greek. People will tell you that Greek is hard and that you should spend ridiculous amounts of time on it. That’s just not true. Is Greek tough? Yes. Is it impossible and the most important thing in your life? No. Give it the time it deserves but don’t stress about it. Make Greek fun, because it can easily turn sour if you let it. [PRO TIP: Ask an upperclassmen about “Perseus” for Greek study help.]
- Euclid. I cannot stress enough how important Euclid is! Throughout the year when studying Euclid, learn The Elements cover to cover. Learn the definitions, postulates, and common notions. Memorize what each prop proves after you encounter it. Figure out how Euclid thinks. You should spend most of your time on freshman math, not Greek. Trust me. Greek is amazing and very rewarding, but it goes away in three semesters. Euclid never leaves. Every mathematician we study until senior year uses both Euclid’s style and proofs. Learn it throughout freshman year so you don’t have to waste time later catching up.
- Student discounts. Remember, you’re a student now. A lot of companies offer big discounts on software if you use your student email—Microsoft Word, Spotify, Hulu, Photoshop to name a few. Dell and Apple give student discounts on hardware (laptops, etc.) and some in-town options for discounts include: The Violet Crown (a movie theater) and Iconik Coffee (a coffee shop).
- Meet with your tutors within the first month. They don’t hold office hours, but instead are very approachable, and love engaging with students outside of class. The longer you wait, the harder it gets to reach out and find a time to meet.
- Get your leisure reading in over the summer. You won’t necessarily have time or energy to do it during the semester if you are giving your schoolwork its due diligence.
- Get organized NOW. While you have the time to do it, get all the paperwork you’ll need for registration in order: financial aid documents, I-20 (if applicable), medical records, resume for work-study, etc. Make a folder, put all the necessary paperwork in it, and bring that to Registration. Registration day (August 26th) can be a pain but it doesn’t have to be. If you get organized now, registering will be a breeze and you can move in and hangout with friends sooner!
- Start buying dorm stuff now. Bedding (twin extra long), fairy lights, general dorm decor, and school supplies—this stuff goes fast. Go now while you have options, and don’t be afraid to shop at thrift stores for that new Convocation outfit. International students and those domestic students who live far away, ship your things early. [Don’t forget to write “hold for registration” on the package.]
- Apply for work study ASAP. There are many different jobs to choose from but the the good ones go fast. Put your application in as early as possible to give yourself the best opportunity to be hired for the job you actually want.
- If you can, contact your roommate. Get to know each other. Set personal boundaries and expectations for living together. Give them a chance, but if things aren’t working out, do not be afraid to talk to Residential Life about your options.
- Get over yourself. Be humble, be willing to have your mind changed by both the program and your peers. This education will challenge you. Let it, or be doomed to an unsatisfying experience.
- Start thinking about your extracurriculars. You have many different options for engaging in student life like: Chrysostomos (theater club), The Moon (student newspaper), Polity (student government), ISA (International Students Association), JCB (Johnnie Community Board), Study groups, Intramurals, etc. [… and yes, you will have time for them!]
- You can bring your car as a freshman (there is both free parking and an annual fee to park in the student lot), but if you do not have a car, there is a campus shuttle that will take you anywhere in the city for free.
- Enjoy your summer. It’s your last one before college. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed about all the things on the horizon. Take those things as they come. Let this summer be fun and full of post-high school R&R.