16 Things Every Freshman Should Know Part 1: The First 8

Freshmen make mistakes. Lots of them. But other people's experiences can help you avoid a few. 

Ask an upperclassman or college graduate what words they associate with “freshman” and we guarantee you that “clueless” shows up near the top of the list. It’s not the freshman’s fault. For the most part, going to college is a totally new experience. And having new experiences means making a whole bunch of new mistakes.

Fortunately, you’re not the first one to go to college. And while the college of today might look different from the college of the past (online classes, the Internet, and mobile devices, for example) the truth is, college today hasn’t changed as much as you’d think.

Worried about looking like a total N00b when you go to college?

Ask people who’ve been there before what they wish they would have known as freshmen—particularly the real deal, insider stuff that’s often only learned through experience.

This is the first installment in a two-part series featuring some of the best freshman advice we’ve heard. Here are the first eight nuggets of wisdom:

  1. Full-time tuition = all you can eat education buffet. If you’re paying as a “full-timer,” you can take as many classes as you want. Yes, there’s a limit based on your time, ability, and desire to have some sort of social life. But remember: You’re never going to have this kind of opportunity again in your life. Unless of course you’re independently wealthy or retired.
  2. Living in the dorms is a rip-off (but if you don’t do it at least once, you’ll wish you had). It’s true: nothing truly equals the dorm experience like the dorm experience. The stories. The hijinks. The lessons. But in many cases, it doesn’t make good financial sense. Here’s the reality: You’ll be paying $10,000 over 9 months to share a room with someone; that works out to $1,111 per month in rent and food. Assuming you have one roommate, that means that the two of you are basically renting a studio apartment (and feeding yourselves) for $2,222/month. If you can’t live at home or don’t want to, you might save money by finding a place of your own off campus.
  3. Make it a point to learn all the important dates in the “Academic Calendar.” All colleges maintain an academic calendar which lists important dates that can impact you as a student. First day of class. Last day of class. Add dates. Drop dates. Exam week. The date your professors have to turn in your grades. Knowing these dates can help you avoid common mistakes like dropping a class too late (and ending up with the dreaded “W” on your transcript) or even help you negotiate an extension with your professors.
  4. Make your schedule match your lifestyle (as much as you can). Unlike high school, you don’t have to go to class every day in college (unless you have a class…duh!). Depending on the flexibility of your major and the structure of your general education (gen ed) requirements, you may find that many of the classes you need are offered at a variety of different times and days of the week. Night person? Look for classes in the afternoon and evening. Need to work? Try to schedule all your classes in either two or three day blocks (Tuesday/Thursday or Monday/Wednesday/Friday generally). Need more flexibility? Look for online classes which don’t meet at any particular time.
  5. It rarely matters which edition of a textbook you buy (as long as it’s not ancient). Some may argue with us, but we suspect that they’re just shills being paid by textbook companies. We’ll let you in on a little secret: professors don’t pay for books. As a result, they don’t know what they cost. Textbook companies give them a free version of the book with the expectation that they’ll add it to their reading list—and that you’ll pay for it. Unless a professor is a real tool and absolutely insists on a specific version of a textbook, you can probably get away with scoring an older edition off of eBay or Craigslist. We wouldn’t recommend anything older than two or three years though.
  6. Buying books for any class where you’re reading stuff more than 75 years old is a waste of money. Again, unless your professor insists on a particular edition of a book, the truth is you can find almost any “classic”  somewhere for free (or almost free). For example, if you need a book for a literature, history, or philosophy class and the author’s long dead, you can probably download it for free from sites like Project Gutenberg.
  7. Librarians are dying to help you. We’re absolutely NOT kidding about this. With a few exceptions, librarians are librarians because they like information, and they like helping people find it. Why drive yourself crazy fruitlessly Googling or scouring library databases for something when there’s a human being who will gladly help you locate what you’re looking for?
  8. In fact, there are lots of other people dying to help you. Here’s one of the most important tips you’ll ever read about college: It’s in the school’s best interest that you succeed. Just about every measure that’s used to rank colleges is based on student success. And those who lead colleges LOVE raising the rankings of their school. Sure, you’ll encounter rude/lazy/uncaring people here and there. In general, though, you’ll do a lot better if you realize that everyone who gets a paycheck at a college is incentivized to make you successful.

Read Part Two

College Advice College Life Doing Well in School

Should I Join a Theatre Group in College?

Take it from a former college theatre geek, your school stage will most likely be the best and last stage you'll ever be on. 

After graduation, it’s all community theater and church ensembles, and who has the time for that? Nobody, that's who. 

Going to the farmers market is one of those things that just feels good.

They're quaint and novel, full of happy people buying hand-grown food, and sometimes, they even have a guy playing an accordian over by the pickle stand. It doesn't get better than that, my friends. 

On-Campus Farmers Markets

The lost art of growing vegitables and selling them directly to the community isn't lost yet at these awesome college, where students and professors alike are able to walk less than the length of the campus to a fresh and fantastic farmers markets.

Disc Golf is Everwhere on a College Campus

What do a statue of a university founder, a liberal arts building and an on-campus coffee shop have in common? They can all be disc golf targets.

That’s right, practically every college campus can and should be used as a disc golf course. It’s done at St. Mary’s University, where students get to throw over streams and historic graveyards. And it’s done at the University of Oregon, where students shoot through skinny, sprawling oak trees.

Why Chess is Such a Great Game

Chess may be one of the most important games in humanity.

It has taken geniuses and robots to master, has lasted through centuries of sporting, permeated across the globe and found its way onto almost every college campus in the country. Yet despite its prodigious back story, it is still one of the most democratic games, funneling down to just two individuals and their wits. 

Who is Wes Anderson?

Wes Anderson is half-average guy half-magician. His fashion, visual style, films and characters are all relatable, genuine, cool and absurdly different. He’s been making amazing cult films since the late 80’s, attracting fans of all ages and backgrounds. But at one point he was nothing more than a dude sitting in the back of a college play-write class, looking to make friends and talk movies. 

Having something you wrote with your name attached to it on a website that you didn’t create is resume gold. I'm not talking about your personal blog (which can still be very impressive), I'm talking about guest blogging. 

Guest blogging shows initiative, skill, and business cunning. And although it seems like everyone’s doing it, trust me, it’ll still make you stand out.

The best thing about SpoonUniversity is that its writers understand students. 

College students go to class. College students study in libraries. College students go on $3 hot dog runs at 2 a.m. What they don’t do—is cook. At least not as much as they could.

SpoonUniversity is fixing that.

Having trouble making friends in college?

Worry not - you're not alone! Making friends at any stage of life is a challenge, especially if you're somewhat shy, introverted, or -- we're just going to come out and say it -- "picky". 

Some think it should be easy to make friends in college since there are so many people around, but that's not true. If anything, the amount of options and directions students are pulled in can make it harder to find someone you can really get along with. 

Alright, if our calculations are correct then between move-in day and graduation day you could meet a Prince, a future American President, a surfer musician, a quarterback, or a genius.

You could also meet some other non-famous cutie hanging out around campus, but that wouldn't be as exciting. 

Competitive people can’t help being competitive just like lazy people can’t help being lazy. It’s simply in the blood. But for obvious (and unfortunate) culturally American reasons, teachers, parents and honest friends will berate you for being lazy, but wont for being overly competitive. That’s because competitive people tend to excel: top percentile grades, multiple extracurricular activities and popularized class rank are among some of the achievements of those who win at school.

Should You Listen to Your Parents College Advice?

For the most part, yes. When it comes to picking a degree or figuring out the finances then your parents can be a huge help.

But there are other things about they don't know a whole lot about, and that's because college has changed so much since they went. 

The basics are the same—find a subject you like and excel at it, enjoy your social life but don’t get carried away, try to get a degree in four years—but some of what they tell you will only get your hopes up or stress you out. Here's what's changed. 

College is Full of Surprises

There are a lot of cliches about college. Even friends, family, and former students can give you false information.

Every school (and people's perceptions of them) are different. And sometimes people just flat out embellish (you know those people). 

They say that Life doesn’t come with an instruction manual, but they're wrong, it’s called Google.

Everything you need to know to be able to write a good research paper, bring relatable current news to your classroom, back up your arguments and lead a rewarding life you can be found through Google.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information out there that will clutter your search results and force you to miss the good stuff. We don't want you to miss the good stuff. 

The End of Winter Break...

The start of the second semester is a strange time to be a student. For the past several weeks, your lifestyle has been the complete antithesis to educational development—you’ve probably finished a shameful number of Netflix shows, spent some quality time with hometown friends, and haven’t been waking up before 10 or reading from a textbook.

Now, you'll soon be going back to campus where you'll be asked to do the total opposite.

If you don’t start a club in college, chances are you never will. That’s just the truth. I mean it’s the perfect place. It’s full of active, fun-seeking, mostly adventurous students—enough to flock around most obscure/unique/weird interests you may have.

If you’re down with all this and want to continue or start an epic tradition, then listen up, because there are still some things that can go way wrong.

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