You’ve submitted the application, you’ve been on the tour, you’ve roamed the campus, and now you feel ready as ever to begin your first year at the incredible James Madison University! But before you pack your bags, consider these 20 pieces of advice in order to make the most of your freshman year at James Madison University.
1. Get a mattress pad.
No one wants to sleep on a twin bed, but don’t let the size inhibit a good night’s sleep. Invest in a mattress pad and you will sleep like a queen — as long as you don’t roll over too much. Or, forgo this simple pleasure and get used to sleeping atop a loosely stuffed pile of plume.
2. Don’t rock a lanyard (unless you want everyone to know you’re a freshman).
Every time you leave your dorm, you need to make sure you have your room key and your JMU Access Card (JACard). The biggest issue freshman face is finding a place to put these items where they won’t get lost. Unfortunately, the most practical solution is a lanyard. But, know that if you choose to rock that lanyard, absolutely everyone will know your status on this campus. Some popular alternatives include card holders that stick to your phone and wearing your key on a hair tie around your wrist.
3. You don’t ALWAYS need the textbooks.
Don’t get me wrong, textbooks are important and are often integral to your success in class. But let’s be honest, they are ridiculously expensive. Some professors may say you need the textbook, but integrate all the vital information into their lectures. It’s rare that a professor will blatantly tell you that the text is unnecessary. I recommend checking out ratemyprofessors.com to not only determine if a professor is a good fit for you, but to determine whether or not you need to invest a fortune in his or her textbook.
4. Put Bluestone, Hillside, or Skyline as your first choice for dorms — Air Conditioning is important.
There are advantages and disadvantages of every dorm. When deciding where to live, you have to think about location, suite vs. hall style, and so much more. But, one thing you need to keep in mind is AC. People try to justify living without AC by rationalizing that it’s only uncomfortable for a few weeks each semester. However, those few weeks are of vital importance. Do you really want to spend your first few weeks of college sweating through your clothes each night? Or, more importantly, do you want to spend finals week unable to sleep due to discomfort? Think about it.
5. The JMU Bus app is hit or miss.
The transportation service offered by JMU is truly great, but it’s not always reliable as we’d like. There’s an app I recommend downloading conveniently named, “The JMU Bus App.” This app is extremely helpful, listing all the different bus routes and the location of each stop. It also provides an approximate time when the bus you’re looking for will arrive at your stop. However, the busses are occasionally early and often late. If you have a tight window to get to class that relies on a bus, get to that stop early, or avoid the risk and walk it.
6. ICS = YES, but NIS = NO
In addition to navigating the confusing bus schedule, you need to know which buses will get you where you need to go. There are a ton of buses that will take you all over (and off) campus. But, if you’re confused, the Inner Campus Shuttle (ICS) is always a safe bet. ICS has stops at all the hotspots around campus and will get you there within a reasonable time. However, you will never be able to take an NIS bus, nor should you, because NIS stands for NOT IN SERVICE!
7. Invest in Vitamin C.
Living in a dorm is awesome. There are countless benefits related to good friends and fun times. However, the rate at which germs pass from person to person will have you feeling like you’re back in elementary school. Do yourself a favor and stuff yourself full of vitamin C and try your best not to get sick.
8. Hold open doors for people.
You will soon learn that the act of holding open doors for your fellow dukes is a custom here at JMU. This is just one of the many wonderful things about this school. It’s easy, it’s kind, and it’s a way to show your peers that you care. So, take a quick peek behind your shoulder when you open that door and flash a smile to spread JMU cheer!
9. Rush sucks, but Greek life is fun.
The formal recruitment process for joining a sorority is painful. It’s a week of stress that feels never-ending, but the result is worth the frustration a thousand times over. Trust the process and trust your intuition. Every student who goes through rush ends up where they’re supposed to be — it just takes a few days to get there.
10. Charge your phone before you go out.
This is important, not only for a good time, but for your safety and well-being too. Please, don’t be that girl who gets separated from the group and can’t be reached because her phone died. Do yourself and your friends a favor by charging your phone before you go out.
11. Mrs. Greens is INSIDE Chandler Hall.
If you’re looking for a healthy and delicious meal, look no further than Mrs. Greens. But if you’re walking around campus baffled by the location of this mysterious restaurant, you’re not alone. Weirdly enough, Mrs. Greens is located inside Chandler Hall in the lakeside dorm area. Now you know.
12. Don’t schedule early classes on Friday — you WILL regret it.
The so-called, “Thirsty Thursday’s” are big at JMU. In Harrisonburg, Thursday’s are basically considered part of the weekend. Trust me, if you go out on a Thursday night, you do not want to wake up for an 8 a.m. the next morning. Instead of failing a class for accidentally sleeping through every one of your Friday morning lectures, do yourself a favor and avoid scheduling anything before 12 p.m.
13. If you want an open place to study, avoid the library.
This seems counterintuitive, but it’s true. The libraries at JMU are always packed with students and it can be hard to find an open space to study. When Carrier and ECL are packed to the max, consider checking out the Student Success Center (SSC) or Madison Union. There are always a ton of little nooks and crannies where you can lay out your stuff and study in peace.
14. Arrive early for meetings at Madison Union — it’s a maze.
Madison Union is a great building with so much to offer, but it can get a little confusing. Madison Union includes two separate buildings that connect on the ground floor. If you need to be in Madison Union at a specific time, I recommend getting there early in case you need a little extra time to find the room.
15. Pack for ALL seasons.
If there’s one thing you can’t rely on here in Harrisonburg, it’s the weather. It can go from 60 degrees to 30 degrees in 24 hours. Get used to switching from a t-shirt to a winter coat in the same day. It’s better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. And if you’re confused about the weather, don’t worry, so are we.
16. A cannon goes off after JMU touchdowns — prepare yourself.
Each time our NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP WINNING football team scores a touchdown (which is often) a deafening cannon blast goes off. To avoid getting a heart attack your first JMU home game, keep this fact in mind and prepare yourself.
17. Forest is not an actual forest.
The party scene at JMU is awesome. There are tons of off-campus apartments in Harrisonburg and there’s always a party to go to. It takes a few months to pick up the off-campus housing lingo, so don’t worry if you’re confused at first. But before you embarrass yourself, just know that when your friends want to party at Forest, they aren’t talking about a literal forest.
18. It’s okay to skip leg day — your route to class has got you covered.
The JMU campus is gorgeous, but it’s also big. Your freshman year you will be stuck taking random general education courses that will likely place you all over campus. Prepare yourself for the buns of steel you’ll have gained by the end of your first semester. Get used to walking and avoid the death stairs of Godwin at all costs.
19. Get used to PC Dukes because it’s always open.
Whether you love it or you hate it, PC Dukes is always open. PC Dukes is like your high school boyfriend. You try out these new places and have a little fun. But when your new fling leaves you, or in this case closes early, PC Dukes will always be there for you. With the best hours on campus and decent food, PC Dukes will become your go-to spot.
20. Safe sex is the best sex.
You’re in college now and it’s okay to go out and have some fun. But, don’t let one night of carelessness ruin the next years of your life. Put yourself and your body first and choose to be safe. Plus, if you’re running low on cash, there are free condoms in the Health Center at SSC.
More than anything, remember to enjoy yourself. You’re only a freshman once, so enjoy every moment of it. You have the privilege of attending one of the best schools our country has to offer; take advantage of what’s out there. Remember, there’s always help if you need it. Study hard and have a good time!