Top Ten Tips for Incoming First-Years (From an Outgoing First-Year)

By Hasana Parker ’25

Ikea lamp
my fave lamp

(1) Get a nice lamp for your room.

Good lighting makes all the difference in your room! Warm lighting makes your bedroom feel homey and changes the look of your room completely. My roommate and I turned on the overhead lighting in our room like 5 times during the school year because we just absolutely loved the lamp I got off of Amazon.

(2) Bring medicine.

Bringing basic medicines, like painkillers, cough medicine, and throat lozenges is definitely a dorm necessity that is not talked about nearly as much as it should be. When you’re at home, you may take for granted having medicines around, but, once you get to college, fall sick without medicine around,and it’s really depressing.

(3) Don’t bring too much stuff; you will collect a lot.

Pack, knowing that you will inevitably have to pack your things up again at the end of the year during FINALS week at that.

3 students eating burgers
a fave memory

(4) Don’t feel pressured to talk to everyone during Orientation Week, but be open to it.

Orientation week can be a bit overwhelming, but many of the people you meet become your close friends over the next school year.

(5) You don’t have to know what you want to do, but you have to know what you want to do.

This is only a matter of my opinion and may only apply to those majoring in STEM who have a more narrow pathway (and even then it may not). It doesn’t matter which step you take, as long as it is one that moves you forward.

(6) Go to the mentor sessions, please.

No need for further explanation, just trust me on this one. (Mentor sessions are study sessions where students who have had the class help those who are currently taking the class.)

(7) Don’t feel discouraged by your first bad grade.

What is considered to be a bad grade differs from person to person, but don’t let it bring you down too much. Process all your feelings, reflect on how you can improve, and know that you are capable of growth and will do better next time.

dorm room with garlands and wall decorations(8) Decorate your room.

Your dorm room is like your safe haven on campus. Make it a space you want to come back to, feel safe in, and can de-stress in.

(9) Have good coping mechanisms.

Times get tough in college, whether that be socially or academically, and so it’s important that you have the proper coping mechanisms on hand to manage your emotions and pull yourself out of a tough spot. Some coping mechanisms could be exercise, journaling, talking to your friend about what you’re going through, or reaching out for help when you feel yourself slipping away. What helps you to cope could be the smallest of things, and finding what works best for you may take time.

(10) Set your priorities, but be prepared to reevaluate them every week, or even every day.

My biggest struggle my first year was managing my time effectively, which I attribute to not having my priorities in order. An example: when the 5C Ski & Snowboard Club was hosting their annual Beginner Daze event, in which people who have never had the opportunity to ski or snowboard get to learn, I was one of the people who was able to go—but the issue was that I had a CS midterm the following day. I had to decide whether to study some more for the midterm or learn to snowboard. I chose to snowboard, but, consequently, I didn’t end up doing too hot on the midterm. I don’t regret it at all (I did at the time) because I absolutely loved snowboarding and, in taking the risk, discovered a new passion. However, if you manage your time well enough, you won’t have to make decisions like this lol. Having priorities can help you have an easier time when you make important decisions like this.

students waving from ski chair lift
Ski Beach Day memory

(11) Take lots of pictures and videos.

Bonus tip! These can be a fun way to document the ways you change and for you to see firsthand how fast you grow as a person. Your first year of college is going to fly by, so having something to look back on, tangible pieces of your memories, is so valuable.