Freshman year is a whirlwind. Everyone tells you college will be the best four years of your life, so you find yourself with high expectations and enthusiasm going into freshman year. You’ll find college to consist of a good amount of trial and error, which is what makes it as crazy and memorable as everyone says it is. You will learn a lot in your first two semesters, but here are 20 things no one tells you about freshman year at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign:
1. You won’t use half of the things your parents bought you for your dorm
Unless you have an older sibling who has been through the process of buying dorm stuff before you, odds are you’re going to go crazy at Home Goods and buy literally everything. A couple things I have never ever used that my parents bought me include, but are not limited to: an iron, real plates, a tool box, and a Brita water filter. Obviously, everyone is different and you might find some of the things above to be useful, but for the most part, save yourself the trouble and pack light. You will accumulate enough stuff throughout the year!
2. Sweatshirts and sweatpants will become the norm
Even if you were one of those people who dressed up every day in high school and wore real clothes, you’ll most likely find yourself conforming to the majority of the student body and dressing comfortably every day. It’s more common to see people rocking Illinois t shirts and leggings or sweat pants than jeans and tops.
3. It’s a good idea to buy a professional suit.
It doesn’t matter what your major is, there are always networking and career opportunities to partake in at Illinois. Throughout the year, there are quite a couple career fairs that require business casual clothing, as well as professional fraternities, such as business and pre-med, that require a business casual dress code. It’s never too early to start adulting, and you’ll thank yourself later if you come into freshman year prepared for whatever opportunities Illinois throws at you.
4. Your resume is very important, even this early in the game.
Illinois offers free resume editing services at the Career Center on Wright Street. I would highly recommend bringing a rough draft of your resume to the staff there and having them mark it up and give you suggestions. You pay for the many services Illinois has to offer, so it is very beneficial to take advantage of them. A solid resume will help you stand out for future jobs and internships.
5. Apply quickly if you think you will want a part time job on campus!
If you’re like me, you spend a large chunk of your money on food and don’t have an income to support such a frivolous lifestyle. It is so nice, if your schedule allows, to find a part time job to start getting an income. There are plenty of opportunities to find flexible, chill jobs, especially on Green Street. If you think you may be interested in something, it is important that you beat the rush and fill out applications. Having a job is a big responsibility, and takes up a large chunk of your time, so it is important to weigh the pros and cons. If you find yourself with extra time, getting a job can be a great idea as a resume builder, as well as a way to keep yourself busy, but make sure to allow school to continue being top priority and don’t overwork yourself.
6. The dining hall food is not on point.
You’ve probably heard that everyone gets sick of the dining hall food after a couple of weeks and that is absolutely true. You will find yourself constantly hungry and wishing the dining hall food had a bit more flavor. I tend to stick to grilled chicken and salad, which rarely disappoints, but there are a lot of dishes that are underwhelming. My personal favorites are the mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, chocolate chip cookies, and French toast sticks. It depends on which dining hall you find yourself at, but being in the six-pack meant I ate my meals at Ike, which was overall slightly below average. The good news is that going home and eating home cooked meals will be a treat!
7. You NEED the 10/45 meal plan.
I am one of the few people who has the 12 meals/15 credits meal plan and it is definitely not worth paying less money. First off, you won’t be eating 12 meals in the dining hall. It is not easy to find time to eat at the specific times the dining hall is open, and you’ll most likely use credits more frequently. People with the 10/45 plan always have extra, so if you want to finesse some from your friends you can eat from theirs, but it would be a good move to just put up the extra money and not go to bed hungry.
8. The Caffeinator is amazing.
Located in the six-pack in the upstairs of Ike, there is a café where you can spend the credits you get every week. Every single thing there is delicious. The chocolate chip muffins are insane, and probably single-handedly contributed to my late-night-eating habits. Also, they make fresh smoothies, which low key vary in quality depending on who is making them, but they are still delicious. It is open on the weekdays from morning until night, which makes it the perfect place for some coffee before your early class, or for a late-night snack after a long day at the library.
9. Printing is not free, but it is easily accessible
Frustratingly, Illinois does not include printing costs in our tuition payments. It is relatively cheap, but it is still annoying to have to pay every time you have to print something, which is why it makes sense to invest in your own printer. Certain classes require a lot of printing, so save yourself the money and just buy a cheap one for your room. If you have to print through the school, most dorms and libraries have wireless printing, which is super convenient.
10. The restaurant scene is not great, but there are a few student favorites.
When you get sick of the dining hall food (refer to #6 above), you’ll be going out to eat. Green Street is the place to go for most of the food options in Chambana. A few of my favorites include boring chains like Noodles, Panera, and Panda, but also Champaign classics for late-night food, like Burrito King, Merry Ann’s, and Papa D’s.
11. You’ll make a lot of mistakes and do some things you’ll regret
Odds are you have heard the crazy college stories from other people, and that’s because college is your first time with complete freedom. It’s your first time being truly on your own, so expect to find yourself in situations where you don’t end up doing the right thing. Whether it’s coming home from Red Lion at 3am, or partying too hard at a frat house, it’s part of college, don’t beat yourself up about it, it’ll just make great stories to tell later in life.
12. Seriously, you can’t procrastinate as much as you did in high school
In high school, you could study the night before a test and still get an A, but Illinois does not play around. College classes extend a lot more flexibility to you, but if you wait to do everything in the last two days until it’s due you will hate yourself. Apart from a few known “easy” gen-eds, college classes are on a whole new level. Don’t underestimate the procrastination’s power to kill your will to live. Be smart, and stay ahead.
13. Your GPA is actually important, especially if you’re trying to transfer
If you are trying to transfer colleges or majors it is extremely important that you have a solid GPA. Most college transfer requirements recommend upwards of a 3.5 GPA to be seriously considered. One bad semester won’t kill you, but a high GPA is recommended for some of the more competitive programs, like business and engineering.
14. You won’t really need to leave campus
Being an out-of-state student, the location of campus kind of scared me, not gonna lie. When I pictured being in central Illinois, all I could think of was a desolate, Children of the Corn type of atmosphere. Luckily, campus itself is beautiful and everything you could possibly want is within a five-mile radius of you, and the geographical location is pretty irrevelant. If you do leave campus, Chicago is only a short train ride up, so you get the best of both worlds.
15. Decent concerts actually come to the Champaign, and buy your tickets fast!
One of the highlights of my first year at U of I was the concert scene. The basketball arena, otherwise known as the State Farm Center, hosts a lot of really good acts. My favorite band, The 1975, came through in October and it was super fun and convenient, as the stadium is only a five minute walk from the six-pack. If you’re not into alternative music, plenty of country acts come through as well, including Dierks Bentley, Grath Brooks, and Florida Georgia Line. Another impressive venue is the Canopy Club, which is located in Urbana. It’s a smaller night club venue that a lot of EDM acts come through, including Louis the Child, Cheat Codes, and Baynk. Even if you’re not super into dance music, it is a great time and you should make it a point to go to at least one concert!
16. You’ll miss your hometown, even if you thought it was soooo boring when you left
College is amazing, but going back home on the breaks will get you caught in the feels. Whether it’s driving, or your dog, or your grandparents, you’ll find yourself missing the little things. On the flip side, when you’re home you’ll miss college. If you’re like me, your mom will still try to give you a curfew and you’ll miss the nights when you’re out eating pizza at 3am and no one is telling you not to.
17. You’ll feel nostalgic when you see campus tours going on when you’re walking to class, even though less than a year ago you were in their shoes
When you see the familiar orange bags and high school seniors walking in between their parents, you’ll think back to your first tour and remember when that was you awkwardly trying to hide the orange bag and acting like you knew where you were going.
18. It’s up to you to adopt a healthy lifestyle
No one is there to stop you from rolling up to 57 and ordering a cheeseburger and fries, so it is entirely up to you to develop good eating habits and work out regularly. There are plenty of ways to stay in shape and beat the freshman 15, including utilizing the stunning exercise facilities, CRCE and the ARC. A great way to stay fit is to sign up for a race in the Illinois Marathon, which is an annual event at the end of April. Anyone can participate, with races anywhere from a 5k to a full marathon. Having a commitment will keep you going to the gym, and help you keep the weight off.
19. There’s a sorority/fraternity for every type of person
Leave the fraternity and sorority stereotypes at the door. Greek life is huge at Illinois, and there are dozens of options for anyone interested in joining one. There are social, professional, and cultural sororities and fraternities, so you will be guaranteed to find your niche. The university is home to over 40,000 kids, and being a part of an organization such as these will help you to find a friend group as well as help you to get involved in a really fulfilling way. It’s not all parties, contrary to how they are often portrayed in movies and tv shows. Joining a fraternity or sorority can easily be one of the best decisions you make in college.
20. You’ll learn a whole lot about yourself
College is all about making mistakes and figuring things out on your own, but that’s what makes it so fun. By far, the most amazing part of college for me has been how much I have learned about myself. It is a big responsibility to be on your own for the first time, but it is so fulfilling to be a able to step back and be proud of the life you make for yourself in Champaign-Urbana. Your first year goes fast, and before you know it you’ll be taking finals and admiring how far you’ve come. It’s stressful, messy, and crazy, but it’s a one-of-a-kind journey and I’m so excited for class of 2021!