Leaving for college can fill you with so many emotions – fear, excitement, nervousness. One of the most stressful parts can be the fact that you are leaving home and living with people you don’t know, in a building you’ve never been in, attending classes you’ve never heard of. But do not fear, I am here to help you with the best tips for you to survive and thrive your freshman year. Here are 21 tips for Cal Poly freshmen.
1. What To Pack
For me, packing was the hardest and most confusing part of leaving for Cal Poly. How was I supposed to fit my entire life into a car. drive for hours, and unpack it all in a tiny room that I was going to share with two other people? The best advice I can give you is to pack only the necessities. And if they won’t all fit, recruit a friend who hasn’t left for college yet, to take a second car and carry some of your extra stuff. Do not worry about taking that teddy bear, your favorite blanket, that poster you “can’t live without,” or any other stuff like that. Take the bare minimum, and later on, if you realize you have more space in your room, have your parents ship that stuff to you.
2. Making Friends
Leaving your home friends can be sad, and the prospect of having to start over completely can be daunting, but do not be afraid to put yourself out there. During WOW you will have to participate in certain activities, and this is the perfect time to reach out to people in your orientation group and your leaders. Most of the time they are not much older than you, and went through WOW themselves a year ago. One of my WOW leaders was so close in age to me, we became really good friends, and she helped introduce me to more people as well.
3. Be Diligent About Laundry
Be sure to try to pick a specific day and time that you will do your laundry every week. For me, I found that mid afternoon in the middle of the week was best, because most of the machines are open, and it’s a nice break from homework. Always make sure to set a timer on your phone, though, because if someone needs your machine, as soon as your clothes are done they will take them out and put them somewhere; and most of the time, they will end up dirty all over again.
4. Eating Healthy
Trying to eat healthy in college can be difficult if you are on a food plan, but luckily Cal Poly has a very flexible plan. You get a certain amount of Plus Dollars at the beginning of each quarter, and you are free to spend them as you please at any place that serves food on campus. The best options for healthy food would be Red Radish – a gourmet salad bar that has fresh fruit, vegetables, and many types of meat for protein. Another option would be Sandwich Factory or Subway; just be careful about what you choose to get on your sandwich, and try to include all the major food groups that you can.
5. Staying Active
Staying active in college is so important. It not only helps to keep your body in shape, but it’s also a good break for your mind from the hectic day-to-day tasks of college. Cal Poly has an absolutely amazing gym, recreation center, and pool that are all fairly new, very clean, and easy to use. Access to these areas are included with the tuition you pay, so definitely take advantage and attend some of the amazing free fitness classes that are offered. Some of these include spin, weight lifting, cardio, and yoga.
6. Getting To Know Your Professors
One of the best things I ever did was introduce myself and shake hands with my professor, at the beginning and end of the first day of class. This way my instructor could put a face to the name, and always knew who I was when I went to office hours. This can help you in the long run, because they see that you are working hard and applying yourself; and they may or may not boost your grade because of the effort you put in.
7. Shower Shoes (Trust Me!)
No matter what, you absolutely need to wear shower shoes or flip flops every time you take a shower. So many people use these same showers every single day, and it’s just a good idea to wear them.
8. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
Studies have shown that freshman year is the most difficult year of college. Students are going through so many changes, and just learning to live on their own. Being in a new environment can be difficult, so if you’re struggling, do not be afraid to ask for help. There are so many resources for you to utilize, from the RAs in your dorm to the specialized counseling offered at the health center. You could find that using these resources is the difference between having an “okay” freshman year and a great one.
9. Understand The Registration Process
Registering yourself for classes can really suck. The classes that you want can fill up immediately, and sometimes you are stuck taking classes you do not enjoy. If you understand how the registration process works and you register exactly at your designated time, you are more likely to get the classes you want.
10. Go To The Library
When you study, get into the habit of going to the library. Dorm rooms have so many distractions, and being alone in your room makes it more likely that you will end up watching Netflix instead of actually studying. In the library, it is quiet and almost completely distraction free. If you get into the habit of going to the library, it will not seem like such a pain walking up all those stair just to study, and your grades will definitely thank you for your hard work.
11. Don’t Bring A Car (Unless You Absolutely Need It)
Your freshman year is mainly spent on campus. You live on campus, eat on campus, and go to class on campus. Odds are you will not leave campus that often. When you absolutely need to go somewhere in town, you can always take the bus, which is free with your PolyCard, or you will find a friend who has a car. Bringing a car to campus can end up being more of a pain than a blessing.
12. Be Mindful And Careful When Going Out
Luckily Cal Poly is relatively safe, and the number of unsafe incidents that have occurred in the past is not too high, but it doesn’t hurt to be safe. If you choose to go to parties, always go in a group, and make sure you or anyone else in your group is never left alone.
13. Take Advantage Of The Topography
Go on hikes! There are three peaks that surround the Cal Poly campus and hiking them is a great way to be active and explore. For a quick study break, hike to the “P,” that is just up behind the dorms. If you’re ready for a real challenge, you might want to try the “Tri-Tip Challenge” – hike the “P,” Bishop Peak, and Madonna. At the end you can reward yourself with a Tri-Tip sandwich from Firestone. This is something most people try to complete at least once before they graduate.
14. Do Not Skip Class
In college, it is a lot easier to skip class. Most professors will not take attendance, and it’s pretty easy to sleep through your 8 a.m. class. Trust me though; you will not want to skip class. You may miss vital information that could help you on tests and quizzes.
15. Create A Savings Account
Whether you are paying for college yourself or you have no need for student loans, it is always a good idea to make a savings account. Start early and save all that money you got as high school graduation gifts. When you’re sick of campus food and have the opportunity to eat a nice meal off campus, you will be glad you have that extra money to splurge.
16. Do Not Rely On Target (When Moving In)
Something I saw a lot when I was moving in was parents making runs to Target to get anything they forgot. All the parents would rush to Target, only to realize they were sold out of all the college essentials. After all, San Luis Obispo is a college town. If you forget any essentials, such as a fan for your room, try to live without it until you have time to order one online or have your parents ship one to you.
If you decide to get placed with random roommates your first year, try and contact them before you get to school. Text, email, and Facebook message are all good ways to start communicating. This way you can get to know each other’s personalities, likes and dislikes, and decide who is bringing what to share in the room beforehand.
18. Home Life – It’s Part Of Who You Are
Although college is a time to experience new things and meet new people, do not forget about your friends and family back home. These are the people who have shaped who you are today. Talking to friends from high school, who are at different colleges across the country, can also help you to realize that a lot of the experiences you are having are the same as the ones they are having.
19. Have An Updated Résumé, LinkedIn, And Cover Letter Handy
The whole point of college is to begin figuring out what you want to do wit the rest of your life. Cal Poly offers many opportunities for internships or beginning level jobs, so have a LinkedIn account and résumé, so potential employers can follow your success and progress throughout college.
20. Make At Least One Friend In Every Class
Starting conversations and introducing yourself to strangers can seem awkward at first, but it will pay off. If you’re struggling with a particular concept or assignment, you can contact the people you meet in your classes to see if they can help you. It’s also nice to have a friend when you are assigned a group or partner project, because then you have an automatic partner.
21. Have Fun
Cal Poly and San Luis Obispo have many opportunities for you to get out of the classroom setting and cut loose for a little while. Don’t stress too much and enjoy life. Hit the beach with some friends, take a road trip to Santa Barbara for the day, go shopping at the boutiques downtown, and enjoy being independent.