If you’re anything like me, you get blindsided really easily. Whether a deadline smacks you in the face, or someone gives you unexpected news, you’re always experiencing surprise after surprise. Let’s not allow your first year at the University of Pittsburgh surprise you like a speeding 71B would as you cross 5th avenue. So, after experience, here are some tips for freshman at University of Pittsburgh:
1. O-week is hoe week…
…at least that’s what freshman girls seem to think. Yeah, its a great time to party before you’re subjected to the torture that is school work, but you’ll stick out like a sore thumb if you wear what you believe all college girls put on for parties.
2. O-week parties are great…for upperclassmen.
For young Freshmen, you’re probably going to feel out of place. We will know who you are by your eager expressions and attempts to look older. The difference between being new to college and new to high school is that in college, most of us will still be nice to you despite your 1st year status. Just be yourself. We don’t bite.
3. Don’t try to act older than you are.
I promise the kids that thrive socially are those who accept that they don’t know their way around, but are eager to submerge themselves in Pitt culture.
4. Your dorm honestly doesn’t matter.
I remember praying for a chance to get into an LLC/nice hall, and it was a waste. I’d say I was in my dorm room 30 minutes a day. It’s just there so you can sleep.
5. Be careful about LLCs.
Going into college I joined an engineering LLC, but after a month living with other engineers, I realized I hated my major. I felt miserable, because no one else had similar interests. LLC’s are cool if you’re 100% sure you won’t lose interest in whatever they stand for.
6. If you don’t enjoy your living situation, you can always request to move halls.
I did. Best decision of my college career to date was moving to Sutherland West. I went from being a Biological Sciences major surrounded by engineers who had no common interests, to living with really intelligent students with diverse academic backgrounds. Of course, moving my belongings was a struggle, but 10/10 (if you want to move) would recommend.
7. Honors students are not what you’d imagine.
I was hesitant to live in Sutherland West (even though I technically was/am an honors student) because of the stigma behind it. All I can say is, whatever you think honors means, chuck it out of the window. Sure, many kids in my hall only found joy in studying, but many others were in Greek life, partied, joined clubs/teams, and loved being social.
8. RA’s are paid to watch you.
I sometimes forgot this because I lived in 2 halls and my RA’s were so awesome in both places. Yeah, RA’s are there to talk and joke, but they also have a purpose. If you need help, they’re there. If you’re doing something you shouldn’t…they’re there. So, you can become friends with an RA, but understand that at the end of the day, their job comes first.
9. RD’s are not to be messed with.
I’ve actually talked to a lot of RD’s because I was on RSA council first semester, and they’re really cool. One thing I will say is they’re paid to live in that hall with you and watch over everything like a hawk. They are definitely not your friends, but they are people you can trust to help you. If I hadn’t had such great RD’s, I don’t know how I would have made it through the year. Honestly.
10. Hall council is really fun to join, but no one takes you seriously.
I hate to bring up this point, because I truly LOVED being a hall council member. When I was a PR chair, I felt involved in my community and I felt special. My purpose was to spread the word about upcoming events and get my hall involved. It was a rewarding experience. When I changed halls, I could not participate in hall council anymore, and as an outsider I realized it looked kind of lame. All I can say is, make fun all you want, it’s still pretty amazing to be a part of.
11. Don’t write something off that seems strange.
I remember going to the activities fair and being overwhelmed by all the options there. I also remember cringing at the sight of some club names. Even if something looks out of your league, try it out. I promise you’ll find its more interesting than you thought it would be.
12. Be careful about joining too many clubs.
The activities fair is great, because you’re given so many options for clubs to join. When you sign up, you’re bombarded with emails nonstop until you unsubscribe. If you are overeager and join too many, you’ll regret it.
13. Emails become prevalent again.
I know you have used your email address before. Maybe it was when you were asking teachers for college recs, or maybe it was so you could get a result from a quiz you took online. Those reasons are irrelevant now. Your email is a prized possession. It is the gateway to connecting with leaders of organizations, research opportunities, professors, and other students at Pitt. YOUR EMAIL IS YOUR LIFE.
You know how you only used to post so your extended family knew what you were up to? Yeah. Well now you’re going to use Facebook often. Some classes require you to join Facebook discussion groups, and of course your class page will be buzzing with activity.
15. Social Media becomes less prevalent.
At least for me it did. I went from being an avid Instagram user to maybe posting once every couple months. The thing is, when you’re busy studying until your vision gets blurry, your priorities change. Snapchat or sleep? I’m gonna go with sleep.
16. You’re going to lose touch with hometown friends.
You’ll talk occasionally, and you still care about them…but you’re in a new place, both physically and mentally. Unless you put in major effort to stay in touch, you’ll find that it’s really hard to stay as close as you once were.
17. Home isn’t the same.
At first you’ll crave the comfort of your own bed. You’ll remember how wonderful your life was back home…and then when you go back for a visit, it feels different. Your life isn’t there anymore, its at Pitt. Pitt has become home base now.
18. Packages are the holy grail.
Honest to God. I love it when I get those emails from Panther Central saying a parcel has arrived. It makes my day, and I’m sure other students agree, the feeling one gets while waiting in line for their package is indescribable. Heaven is real.
19. If your parents offer to visit, say yes.
I know, I know. You want the freedom. You’re learning to live on your own and its so exciting. You know what else is exciting? Going out to eat at great restaurants (Gaucho is my fave), getting your groceries paid for, and having time away from the stress of school. Parents are your ticket away from reality for a day or two.
20. Don’t let anyone make decisions for you.
It is so tempting to become dependent on someone else, whether that someone is one of your parents again or someone new. Don’t fall victim to this trap. College is meant to be hard. You’re meant to learn about yourself and figure out how to make it alone. This is your life, not theirs.
21. If you’re struggling, you should tell someone you trust.
Nothing will improve if you don’t make an effort/get help.
22. Advisors are not counselors.
They don’t care about your emotional state. What they want to hear about is your academic progress and your thoughts about your major. They’re there to point you in the right direction academically, but they won’t hold your hand while you cry.
23. The Counseling Center is a God-send.
Literally, just go. The appointment slots fill up really early, and there is a huge wait-list, but if you need someone to confide in or you’re feeling stressed, get help there. I understand there is a stigma with counseling, but I promise it’s a valuable resource to take advantage of.
24. ARC is your life boat when all hope is lost.
Schedule an appointment and GET HELP. I promise, if you take advantage of the ARC early on, you’ll be golden.
25. Office hours are necessary.
I went into college thinking that I would be fine because I was a 4.0 student in high school. This mentality is toxic. When teachers offer you their time and are willing to help you with anything you’re struggling with, you don’t turn them down. Office hours take a C-student and turn them into a B+/A student. No joke…its legit.
26. You’ll get a C, and you’ll cry…but oh well.
In college, C’s are average. Yeah, no one wants one, but its likely you will get at least one C during your college career. You aren’t dumb if you get a C. You are simply average, like most of your class. Study hard and try even harder next time. I promise it’s not the end of the world.
27. If you are consistently struggling in core classes, consider changing majors.
This isn’t me being rude, it’s just a fact. C’s may get degrees, but A’s and B’s sure as hell look a lot better. Don’t give up if it’s what you really want, but remember that a change in majors is NOT the end of the world–especially when there are so many to choose from at Pitt.
28. Pitt is geared toward STEM fields.
Most of the students you will meet are going to be majoring in engineering, a pre-med track, or computer science. You’ll meet a handful of Poli-Sci, but this school is science oriented. That means that if you are a STEM major, you’ll have endless opportunities. If not, there are a lot of student organizations for your field.
29. Arts and Sciences students get called out.
If you ever hear the term “Arts and Crafts,” try not to get angry. It’s annoying, but whenever I hear someone say those words I just laugh and think about how hard my classes are. They “hate us ’cause they ain’t us.”
30. Engineering is a difficult major.
I was an engineering major my first semester. I enrolled with 18 credits my first semester. Now I’m happily in the School of Arts and Sciences. Engineering is HARD and demanding. Most engineering students change their major/school by the end of their first year. Many retake core classes that they failed their first time. Be wary.
31. Einsteins is the move.
If you have classes on O’hara street, take advantage of that wonderful place. Their diverse selection of cream cheeses always blew my mind. I’ve had conversations about how great Einsteins is with friends. No joke…conversations can be that boring when you’re a college student.
Never been. Looks amazing. Affordable, yet really cool clothes.
33. Don’t confuse Thackery with Thaw.
I remember I was told to go to room 240 in Thackery, but went to Thaw by mistake and was extremely confused. I ended up in the old engineering building, lost and defeated.
34. The library is not the only place to study.
It takes time to figure out, I know, but Hillman gets crowded and you’ll need a backup plan. There are so many options no one thinks about: The Carnegie Library, Cathy, WPU, Benedum, Towers study room, Lawerence, Posvar ground floor, Alumni Hall, Chevron, and more.
35. There will be cockroaches.
Disgusting, yet inevitable while living in residence halls. Just remember, the big ones are harmless. It’s the small bugs you should worry about.
36. The weather is more hormonal than a 13 year-old girl PMSing.
Bring an umbrella everywhere. Dress in layers. If you’re a girl, consider waterproof mascara. It has been a year, and I still have no clue what to expect regarding weather. Good luck.
37. When it snows, send nudes.
Not literally. Like, please don’t. Just be prepared to see a lot of hidden messages carved into the snow.
38. Panther Hollow.
You’ll figure this one out.
39. Rate My Professor only gives you half the story.
I’ve had professors who received awful ratings on that website, and I loved their classes. The website does help you understand their teaching styles, but don’t take everything you read to heart. It really comes down to how hard you try and how much you study.
40. Upperclassmen have first say.
We have lived through the annoyance of picking classes last. It’s your turn now.
41. Take a Physical Education class.
No lie, they’re extremely fun and easy-A’s. I took a swimming class and made great friends while learning how to swim better. Now I swim all the time for fun, and I still talk to a lot of the kids who were in that class with me.
42. There are so many places to work out.
We are ranked the 12th healthiest school in the U.S. for a reason. I really enjoyed taking advantage of Trees Hall, because there is a rock wall, basketball courts, dance studios, an Olympic-size pool, and more. Find your gym and go crazy.
43. Balance your time.
This one is easier said than done. You’ll want to make new friends and socialize, but you need to realize that you’re here for a top-tier education. Make time to study, eat, sleep, exercise, and socialize. If you plan your weeks out, you won’t be as stressed and will adjust a lot quicker than others.
44. Panther Funds are tempting.
You’ve seen the advertisements. You understand how amazing Panther Funds are. Don’t go crazy. These are for laundry and/or are essentially your rainy day fund. Use each dollar wisely.
Crazy to think you have to budget your swipes, dining dollars, and panther funds. Your parents probably did this for you your entire life, and now you’re stuck managing your money. It’s like monopoly. You can buy Boardwalk and add hotels to the property, but you may not have anything left when you’ve finished. You can waste hundreds of dining dollars on Cathy Cafe and Starbucks stands, or you can pace yourself.
46. The life of a college student is not healthy.
You’re essentially asked to cut your time sleeping in half, study most of the day, go to class, and then use whatever free time is left to either exercise or socialize. Then on the weekends you can either cram in a study session until all-hours of the night or cram in a party session until all-hours of the night. Either way, you’ll be exhausted the next morning.
47. The O.
Amazing food when you are a bit…happier than usual. Get fries. They’re the best.
48. Panther Central is… amazing most of the time.
They complete maintenance requests and help with lock outs. They probably do a lot more than that, but I’ve never used them for anything else. Go there or call them for help. It’s literally in their job description to help you.
49. People wear strange stuff.
I still haven’t gotten used to the outfit choices some make, but in most cases, people stay casual. Jeans and a T-shirt are go-to’s. I actually haven’t seen people wear sweats in my classes, but I bet someone does. I wouldn’t worry about fashion choices. No one will remember a week later.
50. College is a new ball game, but you’ve got this!
Especially since you chose Pitt. Get ready for intense football games, crazy school spirit, amazing concerts, and countless opportunities. As many say, “Pitt is lit.” See you in August.