Freshman year at any school can be very confusing and frustrating especially if you don’t know what to expect. Here are 20 things I wish I had known before my freshman year at Cal Poly SLO.
1. The quarter system is really (really) fast-paced.
There are 3 academic quarters (Fall, Winter, and Spring) that are each 10 weeks long and they go by very quickly. By week 3, you’ll already be taking midterms, so make sure you keep up with your course material and note important dates from your syllabus!
2. Check your emails often and actually read them.
If you aren’t used to checking your emails, college will drastically change that for you. Emails are Cal Poly’s main and only way of communicating to you so be sure to actually read the emails they send or you might miss crucial information.
3. “25-35 Hours a Week.”
This is phrase you’ll often hear or see all over campus. Although it may sound overwhelming, make sure you implement it when you begin studying for your classes because the 25-35 rule isn’t supposed to include the hours you spend on doing homework. Those hours are generally supposed to be dedicated to studying your course material.
4. The food is terrible.
Whether you live in the dorms or the on-campus apartments, make sure you bring your own food. Cal Poly is notoriously known for having poor and unhealthy dining options, so try to implement Red Radish, Lucy’s, or acai bowls from Metro Express in your diet to combat the freshman 15!
5. Get to know your professor (make sure they know your name).
Whether you’re in a class of 20-30 students or a lecture hall filled with 250+ students, knowing your professor or at least being a familiar face to them will improve your relationship with them.
6. Sit in the front of your classes.
This is a great way to eliminate distractions while also letting your professor know that you’re serious about being in class. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll be more engaged if you sit closer to the front.
7. After fall quarter, registering for classes is basically The Hunger Games.
Since freshmen are blocked into their schedules fall quarter, it is easy to forget that you actually have to register for classes Winter Quarter. Although you might think you’ll get a place in every class you want each quarter, you’ll soon realize that isn’t the case. Make sure that you have alternative plans for when you don’t get the class(es) you wanted.
8. Find a study space that works for you.
An environment conducive to studying is crucial to your success at Poly, but keep in mind that different environments work for different people. Some students can work well collaboratively, while some students thrive better studying alone. Regardless of whatever works for you, the library is a great way to start! The higher the floor, the quieter it is; so if you prefer to study with others, the second floor is a great place to be as opposed to the fourth or fifth floor where it is a lot quieter and suited for individual studying.
9. Poly Plague is real.
Before you come to campus make sure you’re equipped with whatever works for you. Whether it’s Emergen-C, Mucinex, Nyquil, or anything else, be prepared to ward off sickness. Once one person gets sick we all get sick.
10. Don’t be afraid to drop a class your first quarter.
All students first quarter are blocked into a variety of units depending on their major, but don’t be afraid to drop a GE class that you aren’t interested in or confident that you won’t succeed in. There is always time to fulfill that GE requirement and you can even take a different class next quarter.
11. Take a manageable amount of credits.
College coursework is very different than high school. It is definitely more rigorous especially on quarter system, so try not to overwhelm yourself by taking too many units. Although you think you might be able to pile on the units, midterms and finals will have you stressed out of your mind once you get there. It is better to take less units and do well in those classes as opposed to taking too many units and doing poorly.
12. Take advantage of the Rec Center.
Even if you aren’t a gym-goer, the Rec Center offers a variety of activities and classes that will be a great outlet for stress or even if you just want to take a break. On warm days, make sure to stop by the pool or even do your homework there in between classes.
13. What are sports?
Sports aren’t huge at Cal Poly and probably won’t ever be. However, intramural sports are a great way to get involved and meet new people. If you come to school expecting to tailgate at football games, it’ll probably come to you as a surprise when you realize that most students only go to games during orientation week. However, Cal Poly v. UCSB games are pretty popular. When it comes to those games, get your tickets early and Buck The Gauchos!
14. Use a planner.
Whether you’re using an actual planner or using your Calendar app, make sure you have a way of staying organized! Managing your time will get increasingly difficult as your responsibilities pile up, so make sure you stay on top of things with an organizer of some sort. Downloading Google Calendar is a great way to start, but use whatever works for you!
15. Command strips will be your best friend.
Buy these in bulk because you’ll probably be using them for everything. Seriously.
16. Student discounts should be taken advantage of.
Most students don’t realize the benefits that they can receive from companies like Amazon, Apple, and even Spotify. Amazon offers Amazon Student, which is basically Amazon Prime but you get 6 months free and you’ll only pay 50% of a regular Prime membership after the 6-month grace period. Apple Music and Spotify also offer 50% off their services if you sign up with your Cal Poly email. Take advantage of your student discounts!
17. Do your dorm shopping before you come to campus.
It is way better to come to campus with a fully-loaded car than to go to the Target off campus and realize that they have nothing left. Move-in week is horrendous at Target so do your shopping before moving in!
18. Campus is very spread out.
Depending on your schedule during your freshman year at Cal Poly SLO, make sure you have an adequate amount of time to get to your classes. Some classes can be very spread out and inclines are impossible to avoid at Cal Poly.
19. It’s not warm year-round.
If someone tells you that it’s 70 degrees year-round, they are probably lying. While the weather is beautiful in the spring and summer, it gets significantly colder in late fall and all throughout winter. At night, the weather can break the 40s and it also rains pretty frequently winter quarter. If your classes are far away, make sure you have an umbrella or a rain jacket at the least.
20. Know your resources (it comes with your tuition!!).
There is a variety of resources that are available to every single student on campus. Take advantage of the library, advising centers, and drop-in tutoring.