First semester was a happy blur of successes and failures. With less than a week before the start of second semester, I wanted to reflect on what I’ve learned through my first semester experiences and share what I wish high-school-senior-me had known. A freshman’s advice to freshmen.
- Don’t skip OnIowa festivities.
The first week of move-in for freshmen is dedicated to OnIowa festivities, which is jam-packed with essential information, meeting your peers, and freebies. Intimate small group icebreakers and Madness on Madison crowds can be intimidating, but skipping the experiences is far worse than a little awkwardness. Aside from the obvious free food, fun, and promotional materials (Hawkeye apparel galore), the semester-long reassurance of a friendly passing nod from your Target Takeover bus-mate is priceless.
- Don’t take 8 am classes (Or anything earlier!).
Sometimes, 7 am or 8 am classes are unavoidable. Select major courses and specific programs may demand a rigorous course load and disturbingly full schedule. For the rest, early lectures and discussions are an option that I’d recommend to only the brightest-eyed and bushiest-tailed of early risers. In high school, waking up at five or six every morning feels manageable. And then post-graduation summer sleep-in schedule takes over… and when the semester begins, any sense of previous sleep routine is lost. I had been warned by older friends to take later classes, but I told myself it would be fine to have a few eight am classes. I wasn’t honest with myself, and because of it I missed more lectures than I care to admit. Luckily, I was able to watch missed lectures online. However, similarly-positioned sleepy students in less forgiving courses suffered the consequences via lower grades or dropped credits. Bottom line: Be realistic. Honestly evaluate your sleep habits and your self-discipline. If you won’t force yourself to go to your 8 am while your roomie sleeps happily till noon, take a later class. You are the only one who has to live with the schedule you build at orientation.
- Don’t spring for the highest meal plan.
As a freshman living on campus, you’ll need to choose a meal plan. Essentially there are three options:
- Black- Unlimited market place meals, 75 flex meals, 8 guest meals, $1800/semester
- Gold- 145 market place meals, 75 flex meals, 8 guest meals, $1627.50/semester
- Hawkeye- 75 flex meals, $720/semester
The Hawkeye meal plan is only available to students living in a residence hall with a supplied kitchen (Mayflower). So for the majority of students, the choice falls to Black or Gold. Like many other freshmen, I sprang for the Black meal plan. I was concerned about running out of meals and figured the security of having unlimited access to the marketplaces was worth an additional $170. Mistake.
First semester, I rarely woke up in time for breakfast in the dining hall. Several days, I elected to eat ramen rather than leave my room for lunch. Pancheros and DP Dough occasionally replaced marketplace meals. And by the end of the term, I had nearly 60 flex meals, 4 guest meals, and countless swipes remaining. I discovered that the extra $170 I was allotting to the highest meal plan was wasteful. Fall semester was a great trial run, but to avoid needless spending choose the Gold meal plan.
I resolve to write more in 2018, for myself and for this blog. As always, I want to thank my readers and those who support me. I hope that by openly sharing my experiences, I can aid prospective students in making their best-informed decisions regarding their higher education journey.
Stay tuned for part two, involving communication, jobs, and goals.