This may only be my second semester here, but there are already many things I have learned along the way that I think every incoming Illinois State University freshman should know before they even set foot on campus. Here are 20 of them:
1. Do not live in Tri-Towers unless you like to walk… a lot.
Unless you are an athlete or don’t mind walking about ten minutes to the quad everyday. Tri is located by the football stadium and basketball arena. It’s close to anything related to athletics, which is why most athletes choose to live there. It’s not the most convenient place to live, but if you don’t mind walking a little bit longer everyday, especially in the winter, then it’s perfect for you.
2. Get the unlimited meal plan.
Unless you plan on going home every weekend, the unlimited meal plan will become your best friend. If you know that you will have nights where it will be 8 pm and you just really want an ice cream cone or fries, then go with the unlimited plan. You have unlimited access to the dining center all hours that it’s open. You can swipe in as much as you want, as often as you want. I mean who doesn’t want unlimited access to food in college?
3. Bring ear plugs.
I didn’t do this but I wish I had. The dorms at Illinois State University, (except Tri) are in very close proximity to the train tracks, so all hours of the day and night you will hear the trains blowing their horns. It might even be 1 am and you will wake up to the sound of a train coming by. They’ll also come in handy if your floor or the floors above you like to party until 4 am on a Tuesday and you want to sleep.
4. Get involved on campus.
Usually within the second week of classes, Illinois State University hosts an event called “Festival ISU” on the quad where all the clubs set up tables and try and get you involved in their organizations. There are hundreds upon hundreds of clubs to choose from. That’s also where the sororities and fraternities come if that’s something up your alley. There are so many different clubs ranging from anything in your specific major to something completely random like the cereal club (yes it’s a real thing, and yes we have it.) There’s something for everyone.
5. Take full advantage of “Welcome Week.”
The period where you’re actually moving in to the dorms and the week before classes start is called “Welcome Week” at Illinois State University. I advise you to actually go out and do the Welcome Week activities. You might think they’re stupid or not something you want to do, but you’ll meet a ton of new people. There are so many different events like a luau where you can get free bamboo or “Up Late At State” which is just one giant dance party in front of Milner. And you get free glow sticks and cotton candy. I mean what’s better than free stuff? There is a lot of free stuff during Welcome Week as well. Don’t pass up on the free ISU spirit gear.
6. Do NOT buy textbooks before school.
There are a bunch of people who make this mistake every semester. But absolutely do NOT buy your textbooks until classes start. The syllabus often will say that the textbook is required for that class and once you get there, the professor will tell you that you won’t need it. Save yourself a ton of money and wait to get your textbooks.
7. Invest in a Bubble-Umbrella.
This one might not seem important, but trust me, it is. When it rains here, the winds are insane. If you have a regular umbrella, it will surely break. No matter what. It cannot withstand the wind around Illinois State University. A bubble umbrella won’t break because it essentially surrounds you…so you won’t get wet either.
8. Don’t mispronounce “Schroeder.”
It’s pronounced sch-ray-der not sch-row-der. If you mispronounce this, it will be more than obvious to everyone on campus that you are a freshman and that is not necessarily something you want to flaunt.
9. Put your lanyard away.
People will tell you that if you are lost, wear your lanyard around your neck and swing it around. This will flag down an upperclassmen and they will be able to help you. This is 100% a joke. If you do this, everyone will know you’re a freshman, and a gullible one at that.
10. Don’t leave your clothes in the washer/dryer.
Once your clothes are done, immediately go and take them out because someone will come and take your clothes out of the machine and throw them somewhere else. During the weekend, when everyone is doing laundry, people are going to take your wet or dry clothes out and just leave them in a pile somewhere. To avoid this, set a timer to remember to take out your clothes.
11. Don’t buy a wireless printer.
Now, I didn’t know this rule before I got my printer, but you’re not allowed to connect it to Wi-Fi. I spent the first three days trying to connect it and it wouldn’t. You need to buy an Ethernet cord to hook it up. Any electronic device that needs Wi-Fi besides your computer and phone are essentially not allowed.
12. Learn to use a microwave.
This one might seem like common sense, but I can’t tell you how many times in the beginning of the semester the fire alarms went off because someone didn’t know how to make Ramen noodles or popcorn. The alarm went off at least once a day. To prevent yourself from causing the evacuation of an entire building, please learn how to make food in the microwave properly.
13. Budget your “Flex Dollars.”
Flex dollars are money on your ID card that you can use at various restaurants on campus. Every meal plan comes with a set amount of flex. Don’t spend all your flex dollars within the first few weeks. They are to last you the entire semester. Going to Subway or Einstein’s every day is going to really eat up your flex. At the beginning of each semester, you get more flex. However, if you don’t use all your flex from the fall, they roll over into the spring. So say you had $100 left over, it rolls into spring and instead of $235 you have $335.
14. Check the dining hall menus beforehand.
On the dining center website, you can check the menus for the two dining centers (Watterson Dining Commons and Marketplace at Linkins). Most days, there is a menu posted with everything that is going to be served every day for every meal. This way you can plan accordingly and you can avoid some of the not-so-great meals. Just a side tip: always get the macaroni and cheese when it’s served. It’s amazing and one of the most popular food items. You can also figure out when would be the best time to go eat because some meals are more popular than others and the line will reach out the door. So get there early on the good nights.
15. Family weekend.
At the end of September and beginning of October, Illinois State University hosts family weekend. This is where you can bring your families up and there are a lot of fun activities and events to do. There are football games, volleyball games, movie showings, etc. If your family wants to stay over night, they need to book their hotel about a year to a year and a half in advance. This is no exaggeration! Hotels for this fall are already selling out. Also it is going to be super hectic so if you don’t want to participate in the activities on campus, find other things to do. But be aware it will be crowded anywhere you go especially in Uptown!
16. Be aware of drinking.
Drinking is really big here because we are a huge party school. If you don’t like to drink or just don’t want to, don’t feel pressured to do so. Yes, there are a ton of people here that drink, but there are also plenty of people who don’t. Just be prepared to have to deal with drunk people basically everyday. Especially around Thursday’s (Thirsty Thursday) and the rest of the weekend.
17. Prepare for “No Tech Zones.”
You might think, “I’m in college now I can take all my notes on my laptop.” Wrong. You can in some classes, but it depends on the professor. A lot of my classes are “No Tech Zones” meaning no laptops, phones, etc. If they see you with it, there is a chance they will kick you out. During the first week, check to see if you can use your laptop or not. If you can, you’re set. If not, be sure to bring a notebook and pencil.
18. Purchase a CVS card.
CVS is a 5 minute walk from both Watterson and Hewitt/Manchester on the Illinois State University campus. Get a CVS card so you can save some money when you shop there. You won’t always have time to take the bus to Target or Meijer. You will need to run to CVS to get water or medicine, and who doesn’t want to save some money? Besides, CVS can be expensive.
19. Know the bus routes by heart.
Unless you have a car on campus, you can’t just walk to the grocery store or the mall. It is important to know which bus line goes where and at what time. You also are able to ride for free when you show your Illinois State University student ID. And just an FYI girls, the mall doesn’t have a Forever 21 or H&M.
20. Watch for the police when consuming alcohol.
The police at Illinois State University are pretty brutal. If they catch you drinking or acting even remotely intoxicated, you will get a drinking ticket. Drinking tickets start at $275 and go up $100 every time, so save yourself the money and don’t drink in public or at least don’t get caught doing so. They can also search your room if they get a tip that you might be engaging in underage drinking.