It’s no secret that going away to college is probably one of the hardest things you’ll ever do. Saying goodbye to friends and family can be super difficult, but it is also one of the best things you could ever do for yourself, especially if you’re going to Grand Valley State University! Becoming a Laker will open up so many possibilities and experiences for you, so embrace the change. Freshmen year gives you the chance to meet some amazing new friends and branch out with your newfound freedom. These are the things no one tells you about your freshman year at Grand Valley State University and some helpful hints about how to make the best of it so that the transition can be as smooth as possible for you!
1. Transitions can really help you meet new people, learn about the university more, etc. so make sure you go!!
Since freshmen move in about a week before any other students, the university uses that time to put on a seriously awesome orientation program. There are tons of fun activities that add up to some pretty long, busy days, but honestly attending them is the best decision you’ll make. Meet some new friends, get tips from upperclassmen leaders about starting out college right, and get motivated for the amazing four years to come!
2. Homesickness will hit you even after the first few months, and there are plenty of resources on campus to help you cope!
Being away from home, whether you are a few minutes or a few states away, can be hard. Everyone knows that homesickness is a part of college, but for some it can be much harder to deal with than they imagined. There is no shame in this! GVSU provides a lot of resources to help overcome this, including counseling, which can really make all the difference and allow you to enjoy your freshmen year without missing home too much!
3. Campus Life Night is like window shopping for clubs, so it’s a must for all freshmen who want to get involved with a student organization- there’s over 450!
It’s one of the biggest student organization events on campus, and it takes place at the beginning of the year so you can get involved right away! 450 might sound super overwhelming, but if you have an idea of what you want to join ahead of time, it’ll make it much easier to navigate. There’s something for everyone! Plus, there’s tons of free stuff being given out so why not go?!
4. When buying textbooks, don’t go for the Laker Store right away, make sure to check out Chegg before making a purchase!
By now it’s common knowledge that college textbooks are one of the most dreaded expenses outside of paying tuition. And being a university bookstore, our Laker Store doesn’t make it any cheaper for us. But don’t empty your bank account yet! Chegg is a website that allows you to rent books for the semester then ship them back at a price that’s usually hundreds less than what you would pay for new books. Plus, in every package they send free goodies for college students (seeing a theme here? Free stuff is going to be your best friend). So save yourself some money by renting your books and spend the hundreds you save somewhere else- maybe on that cute dorm room décor?
5. Free tutoring is available in almost every subject, so if you find yourself struggling, definitely take advantage of it!
If those textbooks just aren’t helping enough and you’re regretting that chemistry class you thought would be a piece of cake, don’t drop! GVSU offers students free tutoring sessions once per week for an hour to help you pass that course. Plus, hours are super flexible so you can work it around your own schedule. Or maybe if you just have a couple questions about a chapter that doesn’t require weekly tutoring, there are many walk in tutoring centers for all different subjects! Just sign in, take a seat, and wait for one of the awesome tutors to help you figure out that ridiculous math equation.
6. Attend some co-curriculars that are out of the ordinary for you, they can actually be really interesting and a lot of fun while you earn credit for a class.
A lot of classes here at GVSU require that students attend programs put on by student organizations, guest speakers, etc. for credit in class. While some of them can be a bit boring, there are lots that are actually a lot of fun and can broaden your horizons more than you thought! So find one that seems interesting, even if it might be a bit out of the box for you, grab a friend from class, and have fun while earning credit!
7. The library is super crowded most weeknights and weekends, so find another quiet place to study around campus, there are plenty of prime spots!
Since there are about 26,000 students that attend GVSU, no matter how big the library is, chances are it’s going to be hard to find a seat. Especially on the weekends and weeknights when people are cramming for exams or finishing that homework that’s due in an hour (everyone does this at some point). So go out and try to find a good spot outside of the library that works for you! From Einstein’s cozy fireplace to the outside tables behind the traditional style dorms that line the Ravines, there are plenty of perfect places to crack open that book and take some notes in peace.
8. Try to get into as many dorms as you can the first few weeks to introduce yourself to as many people as possible- it really helps you get to know the campus as well as the people.
It’s much easier than you think! Honestly, all you have to do is catch the door behind someone going into their dorm and you’re in. This is a great thing to do in the first few weeks after moving in because everyone is still meeting each other. Also, most people have their doors open so you can just walk through the halls and peek in to introduce yourself!
9. Believe it or not, your RA is not here to ruin the fun, they’re here to make your transition easier, so really get to know them!
Resident assistants get a really bad rep as upperclassmen who just sit around and wait for an opportunity to bust freshmen for anything. The truth is, your RA is really just there to make sure everyone is safe and enjoying themselves during their freshmen year! They’re certainly not out to get you, just follow their rules and you’ll get along great! If you get the chance, try and get to know your RA, because they can really give great advice and become a good friend!
10. The football games are something everyone should go to at least once, and make sure you arrive early for free stuff!
Since our football team is really good, the games can get crazy packed, especially in the student section. To get a good spot, go to the games early, and while you’re there grab some free stuff! A lot of the off campus apartment complexes advertise at games by promising things such as free tee shirts or blankets to the first 1,000 students that arrive. Not only will you get a prime spot to watch the game, but also a cool tee shirt to wear and support the team!
11. Making the change to living in a dorm with around 500 people can be tough, make sure you get some time to yourself to decompress.
You’ve gone from living in your cozy home with your own bedroom to living in a large, crowded dorm and sharing a bathroom with countless other people in a matter of a day. Take a deep breath, you’re going to adjust to this sooner than you think; I promise. Suddenly sharing space with so many others can be extremely overwhelming especially when you’ve just moved in and have had no time to make it feel like your own. Give it some time and it’ll start to feel like home before you know it! Try and take time to yourself at least a couple of times a week so that you can unwind.
12. Two words: Bundle up.
We all know that Michigan gets cold. And by cold, I mean that even walking from Fresh Food Company to Mackinaw will leave you feeling like you have frostbite. My best advice would be to invest in super warm parka that will keep you cozy on those subzero days your hair freezes into icicles. Another good thing to have? Buy some super warm boots such as Sorrels or Bean Boots to save yourself cold toes and from slipping on the slush.
13. Explore the arboretum and the Ravines all seasons- they’re beautiful place to set up a hammock in the summer as well as to hike in the winter.
One of the most beautiful places on campus by far, the Arboretum is the perfect place to get away from the stress school brings. Plenty of students love to hammock there in the warmer months as well as play Frisbee, football, etc. And it only gets prettier in the winter! So hike, hammock, or do whatever you’re into and explore the natural beauty of our campus!!
14. Bus schedules can be super confusing, make sure you know ahead of time exactly where you are going and what bus to take so you don’t get stuck on the wrong route.
It’s a total freshmen mistake that everyone makes: you’re downtown and trying to get home when you get on the 50 Eastbound, not Westbound, and you’re stuck on a much longer bus ride than you had anticipated. While the buses can be very helpful and convenient when you need to make a quick trip to Meijer, they can be very confusing at first. As long as you know as you have a good idea of which bus you need to take to get where you need to go, you should be fine!
15. The gym is usually the most crowded at night, so try to go in the early afternoon or morning to get the best machines and little to no waiting time for them.
Since nighttime is prime time for most students to go to the gym after a long day of classes, it can get pretty packed after 7 p.m. If you have a schedule that allows you a few longer breaks during the day or if you end class early in the afternoon, that is the perfect time to go workout. Most people will still be in class which guarantees most of the machines will be open! Or if you happen to be one of the few lucky college students that is an early bird, the gym opens up at 8:30 a.m. most days so you can get your workout in during the morning.
16. If you’re a coffee person, invest in a good travel mug that lets you refill at places around campus for only $1 instead of paying more for a fresh cup every morning.
Let’s be totally real here, most college students run on caffeine. If you’re one of them, one of the best things you will do for yourself is buy a travel mug to carry your coffee to class with you, and save money on refills around campus! Instead of paying a lot of money for a fresh cup from Starbucks every morning, most of the C Stores will let you fill up your own mug for only a $1. Also, swipe into Fresh to sit there for a couple of hours and take advantage of the unlimited free coffee!
17. Make sure you eat at the Connection at least once a week since they serve some of the best food on campus!
The food in the dining halls here is actually really good compared to other universities and we have so many options. However, no matter where you are the food is going to get a little old after eating there for two meals a day, seven days a week. The best place on campus to eat is The Connection in South Campus, about a ten-minute walk from most of the dorms. They rotate their menu constantly and use fresh ingredients from the on campus farm, so try and go once a week to treat yourself to a good meal that will make you almost forget about the food from home. Almost.
18. While a lot students go home on the weekend, make sure you stay for at least a few since weekends are where the memories start!
Grand Valley is home to mostly students from Michigan, so that means a lot of people leave on the weekends. While some time spent at home is a definite must, don’t make it a habit. Part of adjusting to college requires you to actually stay at college and not see the faces you miss so much every weekend. With everyone clearing out on a Friday, going home may seem tempting, but stay strong! The weekend is where you’ll make the most memories with your friends and unwind in your dorm. The more you stay, the more it starts to feel like home, it’s that simple!
19. Check out Grand Rapids on a weekend, it’s the perfect size city to explore plus it’s only 15 minutes from campus!
Being so close to a big city is a huge perk at Grand Valley. If you get tired of seeing the same old scenery, take the 50 (eastbound) to the city with your friends to see Grand Rapids! There are some truly amazing restaurants and there is always some sort of festival! From Artprize in September to the ice rink in Rosa Park Circle during winter, the city if full of fun things to do and explore. Also try and check out some of the unique coffee shops they have to get your study on when the library just won’t do.
20. Be open to every possibility that comes your way.
Whether it be a new club or friend you meet in class; these experiences are where you make the best memories of your freshmen year!
The best advice I can give is to enjoy yourself, and be a yes man! Take every chance you can to meet new people and have fun experiences. That’s what your freshmen year is all about! It may be a hard adjustment at first, but pretty soon you’ll be taking interesting classes, living with your friends, and calling this beautiful university home.