Freshman Year: Five Things I Wish I Knew
Starting next week, you’ll probably see Onward State taken over by senior columns from our outgoing writers and editors. As the site’s resident freshman, it’s tough to look back on one year, let alone four. But as my freshman year comes to a close, I can proudly say I made it through, mostly unharmed.
While Penn State does a pretty good job with facilitating the transition into campus life, they don’t tell you everything. And a few things they don’t tell you would have been really, really useful to know in late August. Some of them would have helped more than others, so I took the five most important things I wish I had known coming in as a freshman.
Don’t rely on CATA buses. Ever.
Taking a loop or link is the obvious alternative to walking across campus with 15 minutes to spare before classes, especially on cold, rainy or otherwise horrible, normal State College days. But there seems to be this law that operates on-campus and downtown, that the less time you have to get to class, the longer the bus takes to get to your stop. The bus loops are talked up on campus tours and orientation, but it ended up being mostly a hassle. The same thing holds true for times you need to get downtown, and when you need to get back from downtown. Bonus points if you try to take the V bus to the Mega Bus stop, which will almost always either end in you sprinting to catch the bus, or missing it altogether.
Cheap food isn’t the best food.
The first time I ever walked around downtown, I think I may have literally drooled seeing the prices of some of the wonderful food items around State College. The first time I tried Canyon Pizza I didn’t understand why people ever got food that cost more than a dollar. If you live in East, you’re lucky enough to have even cheaper pizza from the Big Onion, coming in at just 89 cents a slice with a meal plan. It’s heavenly for the first few weeks, until you realize you are eating what seems equivalent to cardboard with hot melted yellow stuff on it. Every now and then (specifically Friday and Saturday nights) indulging isn’t bad, but please, do yourself a favor and spend money on real food.
You actually have to go to classes and do the work to do well.
People always talk about how awesome college is and how much independence you have and all the cool things you get to do, but nobody ever really talks about classes, except that you don’t really have to go because nobody takes attendance to make sure you’re there. This is wrong. Very, very wrong. Sure, nobody makes you go to class so you can skip, but chances are, you value your sanity, and don’t want to get to a test realizing you don’t even know your professor’s name and endure the panic attack that is sure to follow. Nobody likes going to class, but in the long-run, it’s only an hour and fifteen minutes at most, and it saves you from a lot of stress.
Like the people on your floor.
Even if the people on your floor are horrible, puppy-kicking, Ohio State-loving (okay, maybe not that far), devil people, and you hate them, pretend to like them. At least get along with them. Because these people are now in your life for the next year, and it’s much easier to walk through your dorm saying hi to people than getting death glares. This applies even more to your RA and your roommate. A good relationship with your RA can get you out of almost anything, which comes in handy after a night of making stupid freshman decisions. And your roommate lives with you so he/she knows pretty much everything about you and your living situation. Also, they can do things to you while you sleep and that’s terrifying.
Make friends with upperclassmen.
There’s always a party somewhere at Penn State. But as a freshman, unless you’re getting into a frat, there’s probably a very small chance that you can find a party that will let some confused-looking 18-year-old at their door inside. Upperclassmen also serve other purposes, like telling you which teachers to avoid, making sure you don’t do stupid things (usually), or if you’re even lucky, holding a class for you. They can also give you all the advice that I probably missed, so really, they’re the best resource you can have.