Ten things I wish I had known as a freshman:
1. Always back up your files. Always, always, always. Keep an electronic copy of every assignment you do for class on your computer’s hard drive and in some other location, too. The same thing goes for other important files that happen to be electronic, like receipts and your tuition account statements. Don’t put absolute faith in the Home folder because sometimes the network goes down. A flash drive is better. What will happen if you don’t do this? Allow me to illustrate:
2. The first time you visit the Arb, do it during the daytime. And not on Halloween. Suppose, hypothetically, that you are a young Shout blogger in the year 2006. You go out looking for the Druids’ Samhain celebration for a story, don’t find it, get lost, and your flashlight starts to die. No better way to terrify yourself.
When trying something new, acquaint yourself with the territory if you can. Better yet, buy a map from the bookstore.
3. People with Ph.D’s are people. This surprised me when I first arrived here. Many of the classes I have taken here at Carleton, the professor has been the author of the textbook we used in class. They literally wrote the book on the subject. And yet professors here will very often invite you to call them by their first names. They have spouses and children, lapses in memory, and sometimes they catch colds. Which brings me to a corollary:
4. Professors can’t shoot laser beams out of their eyes. It’s okay to talk to them.
5. The first floor of Hulings connects to the basement of Olin. The basement of Olin connects to what is technically the basement of Mudd but looks like the first floor. The first floor of Olin connects to the first floor of Mudd (but it looks like the second floor) and doesn’t connect to Hulings at all. I know. Also accept the fact that you will still get hopelessly lost here well into your sophomore year.
6. Try new things. Now’s your big chance.
7. Protect your extremities. One time in January I decided to go out jogging right after washing my hair. The jog went all right, but on returning home I discovered that my hair had frozen solid. My left ear went toink, toink, when I poked it, which flesh is not supposed to do. I didn’t lose the ear – I don’t look like a Barbary pirate now – but it swelled up and all the skin peeled off. Be especially careful with your fingers, because you will need them to type. Mittens are better than gloves.
8. Know the dining hall hours. Know the open hours of other important resources on campus, like the library, bookstore, and registrar’s office. What will happen if you don’t? I hardly need to tell you:
9. Understand how registration works. Pick the classes you would like to take, then have some alternatives in mind. Keep track of how the spots are filling up as each day of registration week goes by. If it looks like it’s going to be close, the best way to register is as follows:
Use the “search for sections” option to add classes to your preferred list. Then log onto a computer with a reliable Internet connection a few minutes before your priority time and navigate to the page you need. Don’t refresh the page. When the computer’s clock says your time slot is open, give it a few seconds (in case the network’s clock is slow), then click the button.
By the way, professors are often willing to let people in off the waitlist even if it makes their class bigger than they’d planned. It helps to e-mail them about it and ask nicely. Definitely come to class the first day to show that you’re interested.
10. Self-pity doesn’t help anybody. There will be plenty of times when college life will feel overwhelming. You’re away from home for the first time, you’re with a whole new group of people, classes are hard, and suddenly you’re supposed to decide what you want to do with your life. If you’re feeling down, talk to someone! The college is full of people who want to help you have a good experience here. Get involved in your floor life or a club you believe in. No matter what others may try to tell you, human contact is the most important part of life. Yes, really, it’s more important than homework.