Congratulations, collegiate! You’ve made it through those awkward four years of high school, and you’re about to begin the next exciting chapter of your life. And if you’re reading this article, then that new chapter most likely begins at Northern Illinois University. I’ve loved my time at NIU thus far, and I’m hoping that you will too. But before we get to the exciting parts of making that transition from high school to college, there are a few things you should probably know, specifically about NIU. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before freshman year at NIU.
1. Before your freshman year at NIU, go through your closet and throw out or donate everything you don’t need.
All too often, college freshmen bring every clothing item in their closet to college, and soon realize that they have absolutely no place to put this plethora of clothes and accessories. There will definitely be times when you’ll need to bring nice, dressy clothes with you, but do you really need to have each clothing item that you wore to every homecoming? Probably not. Also, unless you’re living in New Hall, you’re not going to have much closet space. What I did was throw away anything that was old and raggedy, or anything that I hadn’t worn in at least a year. Doing this way ahead of time (way before packing for college) makes the entire moving process much easier. And if you have clothes that you’re choosing to sell, then you’ve got a little extra cash in your pocket as well.
2. Invest in a good backpack.
When I was in high school, all of the students were required to put their backpacks in their lockers, so I never thought about spending money on a durable backpack. I soon realized that this wasn’t the right mindset to have in college. I purchased a cheap, flimsy backpack that I thought looked really cute; and it was. But I learned on the very first day of my college classes (after picking up my backpack, just to have the entire strap break right off of it) that having an aesthetically pleasing backpack may not be more important than having a durable one. You can find great quality backpacks for your freshman year at NIU (that look great and are affordable).
3. Don’t buy anything from the bookstore, unless you have financial aid that will cover it.
This includes textbooks, school supplies, electronics – anything. Seriously, don’t even buy a pen. I love my school, but let’s be real, NIU (and pretty much every other university bookstore everywhere) will generally sell things for a higher price than you would pay if you were to get things online. Whatever you need, it’s probably on Amazon.
4. Speaking of which, there are student discounts EVERYWHERE!
Spotify, Amazon, various events, and vendors around campus (and some places online) also have student discounts. If you’re looking to get an Apple product, NIU has a student discount there too! Would someone just please ask Netflix to get on the student discount band wagon? Check out StudentRate for some awesome student discounts and deals.
5. Don’t study in the library.
On every college visit I’ve ever been to at NIU, there were people studying or in some way working in the library. But imagine how crowded that place is during midterms and finals week! Unless you’re in the library at the crack of dawn, you may not find a good place to study and don’t even get me started on trying to find a place with a nearby outlet. If you can, try studying off campus. That’s what I started doing last year, and it’s completely changed my life. Most students who live on campus will probably study in their rooms, at the library, or in the Holmes Student Center. Try places like Panera, or any other local coffee shops. Be wary about Starbucks, though; it’s always packed in there.
6. Even if you’re not putting holes in the walls in the dorm rooms, check to make sure you’re allowed to hang stuff up.
In my second year of college, I moved into a recently renovated dorm room. I used tape to hang everything on the walls, but my roommate and I were both unaware that the walls had recently been painted. Even though the paint was dry, it still needed to set. So when we went to remove some items off the wall to redecorate, all the paint on the wall came off with it! Luckily, we weren’t in any trouble due to the fact that this information had not been shared with us. Check with your CA about the rules beforehand.
7. Beware of impatient dorm residents when it comes to laundry.
Everyone has to do laundry in the dorms and everyone, in some way, is paying for it (except for those lucky people who live close by and take their laundry home). Don’t get in the habit of taking the entire day to do laundry, because I’m warning you now, people will take your clothes out of the washers and dryers and leave them lying around for you to finish later. I’ve seen this happen way too many times. It’s not pretty.
Respect other people’s time. Also, DO NOT overload the washers. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve had to manually wring out my clothes, because I stuffed way too many things in the washer in order to save money by only washing one load. If you’re really tight for cash, ask a roommate or a friend if you can use their One Card to wash clothes, and offer to pay them back in some way later. It’s not worth the stress or the physical labor, especially during your freshman year at NIU.
8. The walls in the dorms are thin.
I’ll let you take that however you wish to. But no matter what you’re doing (like seriously, WHATEVER you’re doing), try to remember this little fact. What you do in your free time is your own business, but keep other residents in mind (because we can all hear it).
9. Wait until classes start to see if you actually need to purchase a book.
But be careful with this! There are some classes you’ll obviously need to buy a book for during your freshman year at NIU, and if you do, your professors should let you know ahead of time; they’re usually good about that, for the most part. For other classes, however, I’ve found PDFs or Kindle copies of books for little to no money for classes that rarely require the reading material in the first place. But again, check with your professor and look ahead in your syllabus to see how often the book will be used before you decide to skimp out on or spend the money on a textbook.
10. Be prepared to get little to no cash back for buying books if you purchased them from the bookstore.
This past semester, I sold my books back and got back enough money to MAYBE put a down payment on a thrift store t-shirt. But money is money.
I hope these tips helped some of you, and enjoy your freshman year at NIU!