Surviving your first year

Nicholas Nelson

Nick Sallen, Copy editor

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Congratulations on completing your first week of classes at UND. Before you throw away that syllabus, I’d like to take a moment to be your older brother and give you some sage advice on what do and what to stay away from during your first year. That seemingly useless sheet of paper is a great reminder of what readings are due, what to prep for ahead of class and most importantly, test days.

Independence is a double-edged sword. I’m assuming this is your first time living away from your parents, taking care of yourself and sharing a room with someone you barely know. This is all pretty exciting, but also a lot to handle. Admittedly, I learned a few lessons along the way, some of which were much harder than others. So allow me to share some of the knowledge I’ve gained concerning dorm life and the first year of university.

Going to class is essential. The information in your textbook is usually just a part of what’s covered on exams. Oftentimes, professors will have questions from lecture, and not all professors post their lecture notes online. Beyond just note taking and participation points, going to class is a great way to meet other students and form study groups. Talk to your professors after class or during their open office hours. They can help answer anything that you’re having trouble with. These interactions could provide a great future reference or letter of recommendation as you pursue your career goals.

Study habits will make or break a successful semester. A little bit of studying everyday is scientifically proven to result in better test scores than overnight cramming. Finding what study methods work best for you is important. I found out that I do well with regular studying in groups and repeating flashcard exercises to remember important terms or concepts the night before an exam.

Getting good grades is important, but there’s something to be said for maintaining a balanced school-social life. Go party and meet the people in your dorm. If you’re not bold enough to strike up a conversation with strangers, the activities put on by your RA’s are a great way to meet your peers. I met my best friends in college during my first two years in the dorms. But I partied more than I should’ve. With my newfound independence I made some poor life decisions which cost me some GPA points. It took me a while, but I think I’ve found a balance between school, work and play.

Sharing a room with another is an interesting experience where I think you’ll learn a lot about yourself, and your roommate. Open communication works a lot better than passive-aggressive post-it notes. So to start the year off right, I think it’s important to discuss what the ground rules and expectations are with your roommate. If there’s something that bothers you, it’s better to calmly explain to them what it is and be open to compromises. Nobody can read minds! In general though, do your laundry more often than you think, ask to borrow something beforehand, respect your roommates sleep schedule, and don’t hit snooze every five minutes for an hour.

Since college is expensive, it is important to maintain financial wellness. Take out federal loans before private loans, don’t get into credit card debt and take advantage of free food around campus. Before buying textbooks, get a feel for the the class and decide for yourself whether or not you need it. The last two years I have purchased three textbooks which totals out to $150. Renting and sharing textbooks with classmates can help cut costs. I rent or share almost all of my textbooks through UND’s bookstore, Amazon or Chegg.

UND routinely ranks as one of the healthiest campuses across the nation. So before putting on the infamous freshman 15, check out the Wellness Center and dining services “guiding stars”. The Wellness Center has a bunch of quality equipment and trainers which can help you achieve your fitness goals. There are many workout classes for students ranging from cooking healthy, to yoga, zumba, cycling and kickboxing. UND’s dining services also provides entree information online and in-person. Look for the guiding stars if you are on a diet, the more the merrier. Food is also labeled for those with specific dietary needs: gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, etc.

College is scary, exciting, fun and stressful all at the same time. Even on your darkest days it is important to know you can get through college and retain your sanity. If you’re having trouble, reach out to your friends, family, counselors and medical professionals. UND cares about your success as a student, and the trained staff here are excellent. Establish a set of good habits and keep your eye on the final goal, graduation.

Nick Sallen is the copy editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]

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