hey (soon-to-be) freshman, here’s a guest post by Anne Crossman, a Stanford-educated author with some tips about how to, uh, get the best out of orientation (and then some!) –darius
So, you’ve got your dorm assignment for the year…your summer reading well underway (!)…and you’ve most likely been hitting the Back to School sales pretty hard in the hopes of making your new home at Stanford a bit, well, homier. Ah yes, I remember the nauseous excitement well.
It was just a few years ago that I, too, had packed every crevice of my parents’ white minivan with what I thought I couldn’t live without for the year, pulling up to Stern Hall at 7:30am as my Twainie RA’s were getting set to unroll the red, uh, foil gift wrap. It took me by complete surprise when they welcomed me by name as if they had been waiting for me for the last four years; any qualms I had about moving away from home vanished.
I’ve been reliving my undergrad years in the process of writing a book you probably got as a graduation gift from some thoughtful relative—Getting the Best Out of College. (I co-wrote it with a Dean and prof from Duke University, so even if you think I’m totally out to lunch you should still check it out since there are tips inside I would have paid big money to know prior to paying big money to study at The Farm.)
Anyway, in thinking back to orientation and the first few weeks of dorm life, I’ve come up with twelve “why didn’t someone tell me that earlier” tips to pass along—after all, within a matter of weeks we will be fellow alums. Don’t worry, you can thank me later.
Insight #1: Make a list of everything you want to pack for college—then, take only 60% of that. No, I’m not some packing sadist. In fact, if pressured, I would be forced to admit that I packed crates of soymilk into my dorm room along with my personal library and more clothes than anyone needs in balmy Palo Alto. Sorry, Ontima. Take it from me, less junk in your room makes it easier to keep it clean—short of a toothbrush, sheets, a suitcase of clothes , and a couple posters, there’s not much else you’ll need that you can’t pick up at the student store.
Tidbit #2: Don’t do what I did by arriving half an hour before move-in starts. (What can I say, I was a little eager and my dad was worried about parking…) If your RAs are anything like mine were, they have been up all night prepping your dorm with all sorts of cheery surprises, and you arriving early would not be one of them. It’s to everyone’s benefit (including yours) to arrive on time.
Popular #3: Make it a goal to know the name of everyone in your dorm by the end of the first week. There was one student named Shelly who actually wore a nametag (and an infectious smile) everyday for the first week, asking lots of questions about folks to get to know them better. (If nametags aren’t your gig, you could always fire up your popcorn maker around midnight and sit in the hall until the hordes arrive.) She figured once the school year got going it would be tough to meet new dormmates. She was right. And, years later, I still remember her name.
Moral #4: Get to know your RFs well—they know the system and can give pointers on everything from where to find the best brownies at 2am to which campus “personal development” programs you won’t want to miss.
A-ha #5: As soon as you get your course schedule, chart out your ideal week with blocks of time set aside for work and play, and stick to it as best as you can for the rest of the term. (Bonus hint: you’re better off studying in the morning while campus is quiet rather than evening/night, since the dorm will be a hive of activity you won’t want to miss.)
Brought to You by the #6: Strive for five, six or, heck, twelve servings of fresh fruits and veggies a day. Mom’s not here, and with the commons oh so convenient and the company oh so inviting, you’ll find yourself downing way more sweet rolls than you planned. So keep the kale handy.
Hallmark Moment #7: Send your family a care package that includes a photo tour of your new life on campus. Guaranteed, your move away from home is more bitter than sweet for them, so do what you can to send them some love.
Busy #8: Attend as many orientation activities as possible—your RAs aren’t exaggerating when they say your first week on campus provides you more time to explore and play at Stanford than you’ll ever have again.
Bull’s Eye #9: Take a tour of the library. Don’t worry, you live on a campus full of nerds so no one will laugh (and if they do, they’re overcompensating). The Stanford University Library resources are vast. So, figure out what and who are there to help you prior to day one of classes (when you discover you have three research papers due in the next two months and panic sets in).
Tasty #10: Make friends in other dorms and see if you can swap points to visit during mealtime. After a month or so, the offerings at your own commons will start to get…predictable, so why not do some exploring?
No-duh #11: Pick up a copy of Getting the Best Out of College . Oh, come on…you didn’t really expect me to miss out on a plug, did ya? Seriously, though. If Duke liked it enough to give it to their entire incoming class, and Harvard passed it out to all their proctors, and George Washington U gave it to their counseling program, and LeMoyne College made it part of their required curriculum…there might just be something to it…
Rockin #12: Have some fun. Really. You’ve worked hard to get here; congrats, and enjoy the ride.
Anne Crossman is a co-author of Getting the Best Out of College: A Professor, a Dean, and a Student Tell You How to Maximize Your Experience, published by Ten Speed Press in 2008. After teaching English in public high schools and military barracks for five years, she is taking time off from her day job to publish a poetry memoir on Alzheimer’s (Trying to Remember) and a humorous educational series addressing life as a high school student. Anne studied at both Stanford and Duke Universities, earning a BA in English and a Certificate of Education, and currently lives with her husband and sons in Seattle, WA. For more information about the book or to contact Anne directly, visit http://www.annecrossman.com/