Welcome to Northern Illinois University! If you’re reading this, more than likely you’re a new/prospective student to NIU and there are a lot of new and exciting things coming your way as you begin your journey into college. It’s a great experience, but before you get all excited about how amazing college is going to be, there are a few things you should know about NIU that will help you with the transition from high school to college. Keep reading for 20 things every Northern Illinois University freshman should know!
1. Beware of the geese.
If you’ve ever been to NIU’s campus, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. These geese are no joke; they’re everywhere and they’ll squawk at you because they run the school, basically. Typically, they’re not a huge problem, but you don’t want to be the person that starts one with them.
2. Take advantage of Welcome Week.
This is such a great experience because it’s a week solely dedicated to NIU freshman. There are events held throughout this week to make the transition from high school to college as smooth as possible.
3. If you can, apply early.
This is one thing I actually did and I’m SO glad I did it! Freshmen are typically the last students who get to choose where they live on campus next year because the returning students who already live in the dorms get first pick. The earlier you apply, the earlier you become a student. And the earlier you become an NIU student, the sooner you can pick your preferred housing and dining options for the year and rooms tend to go quickly.
4. Try to find where your classes are early.
You’ll definitely get a tour of the campus at some point before classes start, whether it’s during orientation or a college visit or any other event you may have had at NIU prior to going to classes. Though NIU isn’t a massive school, it definitely seems big when you’re new and it can be confusing to find classes. (Seriously, Reavis, Dusable, and Watson Halls are virtually connected and it’s very easy to forget which building is which at first.) My freshman year, I didn’t do this and I struggled on the first day of classes and was late to most of them. I used my GPS on my phone to find my classes, but why waste the extra data?
5. Beware of parking (or lack thereof.)
I’m telling you this now, parking at NIU can be crazy. I live off campus now and drive to class and even though I only live a few minutes away from campus (driving that is,) I have to leave early just to find parking.
A couple of things to know about parking at NIU:
1.) Freshmen will most likely be living on campus the first year and a downside to that is that there’s virtually no nowhere for you to park near your class because that parking is primarily for the commuter students.
2.) If you choose to live in the Neptune residence hall (I believe this is currently NIU’s least expensive housing option) and you’re bringing a car to campus, you’re going to be parking all the way in the Grant/New Hall parking lots and that’s about a 15 minute walk (or less if you’re a fast walker) from Neptune. Cars are super convenient (as someone who didn’t have a car my first 3 years of college, it’s great) but there are a few limitations you have with being an on campus student and parking.
6. Just buy the parking permit.
This coincides with the last tip, but just buy a parking permit if you’re bringing a car to campus. It’s about $85 for the year and no one wants to pay that, but it’s way cheaper than parking without one and getting a parking ticket or getting your car towed, which NIU does not joke around about. Take it from someone who got a warning and a parking citation in the same week! Not one of my best moments…
7. At the very least, participate in dorm activities.
Your CAs (commonly known as RAs at other universities,) work incredibly hard and take time out of their summer vacation and holiday breaks to make sure that the dorms feel like a nice home away from home for you. So please go to floor meetings, give them feedback if they ask for it, and participate in floor activities if you can.
8. Take advantage of what is free with your tuition.
No bus fare, free cable and free internet is usually a given at most universities. But take advantage of free home games or discounted shows and events as well. There’s also an amazing service called ResTech, which is a service for students to bring their computer in if they’re having problems with it and they’ll fix it for you.
9. Take UNIV 101.
This might be required, but it’s so beneficial. In college, a lot is thrown at you freshman year. You don’t know where anything is, what the bus routes are, what to get involved in, how to network in college, what the work load will be, among other things. This course is designed specifically for NIU freshman to answer all of those questions and more.
10. Learn about Huskie Bucks.
“Huskie Bucks” refers to the money on your NIU One Card, which is your student ID and basically an NIU debit card and you have an account once you become a student and sign up for your housing and dining plan. You can add money to this account on your own or you can charge $200 to this account per semester so that money will be on there when classes begin. Either way, you need money on this account because your One Card is used for everything and it’s the ONLY way to pay for your laundry. You can also use it for restaurants and other places on campus.
11. Try the healthy options in the dining halls.
NIU has funnel cake, fries, and other amazing options that taste amazing. But they also have healthy options and the freshman 15 can be very real. If you’re confused about what to eat, you can look up the dining hall menu for the day for each dorm. There are also dietitians available at the Campus Rec if you’re serious about creating healthy food habits.
12. Respect the Quiet Hours.
Some people are annoyed by quiet hours and it’s usually the really loud residents that everyone secretly hates. Don’t be that resident. No one’s saying you can’t have fun, but just respect that some people on your floor may have 8 AM classes and won’t appreciate a lot of noise late at night.
13. Streaming devices doesn’t work in the dorms.
This may be something they change and it absolutely sucks, but every college has its pros and cons. NIU is great, but this is definitely a con. So Google Chromecast, Roku, and other devices like that won’t do you any good in the dorms.
14. Be open minded and willing to learn new things.
You’ll probably take classes in college that will change your views on things, or at least challenge them. That’s what college is for, to make you think, to challenge you, and to get you to ask questions and formulate your own opinions. Your college years can have a major impact on how you end up viewing the world. Nothing is set in stone of course, but be open minded and at least accept the fact that you’ll be opening yourself up to a lot of new and confusing information in a lot of ways depending on what classes you take, what organizations you become a part of, etc. Just be prepared for that.
15. Don’t be afraid to participate.
You’ll probably have classes with a variety of people from different backgrounds and age ranges. I never participated when I started college because I didn’t want to say the wrong thing or upset anyone that had different opinions than I did about certain topics. I was also a little shy around people. If this isn’t a problem for you, then great! You’re already ahead of the game. But if this sounds like you too and participation has always been a struggle, don’t worry; you’ll get better at it. Everyone has to take a Communications (Speech) class to graduate, so you’ll get a lot of practice in that aspect. And most classes are participation and discussion based, so you’ll get practice there too.
16. Get involved, but don’t overwhelm yourself.
Most organizations, (and NIU has a ton of them,) have their mass meetings at the beginning of the semester. And most of these meetings involve free food, so naturally, it draws in a ton of students. It’s normal to want to get involved in everything you possibly can, but once school catches up to you, being involved in so many organizations will start to take its toll on you. Start out by getting involved in just a few organizations and work from there.
17. Buy your books online.
This probably goes for every college, but books are way cheaper to buy online than they are in the university bookstore. Unless you have financial aid that will cover the cost of your textbooks and that really isn’t an issue, get them online at Chegg or Amazon or somewhere like that.
18. There will be fire alarms that go off at inconvenient times. Sorry.
People tend to do things like smoke in their rooms or leave coffee machines on and fire alarms can go off. When this happens, everyone has to evacuate the building, even at 2:00 in the morning. This happened my freshman year of college and I hated it. But these things happen in the dorms sometimes.
19. Bring your own printer if you can.
Unfortunately, the printing quota for students at NIU seems to go down almost every year. Most professors here will have you email assignments to them or turn them in via Blackboard. But you always have those professors that require printed copies of assignments. So it may be easier to bring your own printer if that happens.
20. Check your school email FREQUENTLY.
I cannot stress this enough. I check mine multiple times a day, but at the very least, check it once a week. This is how all of your professors will get a hold of you. It’s also how school-wide announcements get to you. There are so many times freshmen will go to class to realize it’s been cancelled. But they didn’t know because they didn’t check their emails. Or assignments have been changed, cancelled, or moved up. I would recommend turning on notifications from your school email on your phone so you never miss anything. If checking your email isn’t a habit yet, try to make it one.
I really hope these tips are helpful and by using a few of these tips, you should be good to go when classes start. Good luck and have a blast at NIU this fall!