Advice for incoming freshmen

Sean W. Cooper, Staff Writer

A year ago, I was exactly where you are standing right now: a UNCW freshman eager to give my college career a great start.  I confess that there were times where I felt like I was too good to be at a school that only residents of North Carolina have heard of, but a year later, I’ve come to realize that UNCW is nothing less than the perfect school for me, and I wouldn’t dare trade my experiences here for anything in the world.  I can only hope that the more than 2,200 new students among you will look back on your freshman year with the same gaze of immense satisfaction.  Part of freshman year is testing the waters and feeling your way around, and part of it is also having common sense, which is easier said than done.  Here are some tips and tricks, from me to you, to ensure that you have the time of your life during your freshman year.

Get to know the people around you.  I’ll say this loud and clear: staying cooped up in your dorm room all day when you’re not in classes is not the way to go.  You’ll soon find that college isn’t inherently exciting or unexciting; it’s literally what you make of it.  Whenever you have down time, use it to get to know your RA or hang out in the common area with some of your neighbors.

Get involved.  Getting involved in on-campus activities is a great way to meet people and to make new friends with people who share your interests.  The Involvement Carnival is on Wednesday, August 23 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the area near Leutze Hall, Fisher Student Center, and the amphitheater.  You’ll find that we have a lot of interesting clubs here at UNCW, and you’ll probably sign up for a few more than you can juggle—but that’s okay!  You’ll soon be able to whittle your choices down to a select two or three clubs that interest you the most.  Also, to the writers among you, I highly recommend joining The Seahawk.  You will not regret it.

Use your meal plan wisely.  The Freshman Fifteen is not a myth; however, you don’t have to fall victim to it.  Wag is a great place to eat, Teal Meals are the best thing ever when you want to eat at Hawk’s Nest and there are tons of great places to eat off campus, as well.  I highly recommend Islands and Flaming Amy’s if you are into Mexican food.  But it is important to know your limits on eating and don’t overindulge on food.  Also, take this opportunity to eat healthier food like salads and cut down on sodas.

Stay in touch with your folks.  Your family wants to hear from you, be they aunts, uncles, and cousins, or brothers, sisters, parents, and grandparents.  Keeping in contact with them can make all the difference in your college experience because they love you and care about you.  Family can also be a great support system whenever life throws curve balls at you (and believe me, it will).

Explore the campus.  Again, you have absolutely no excuse to stay cooped up in your room all the time playing 2K and binge-watching Shameless.  (Although every now and then doing so might be a fantastic idea.)  If you’re into nature, there is a great deal of it around the perimeter of the campus.  Also know that Randall Library is your friend especially during finals week.  There are several study rooms you can reserve with whiteboards to help you study and the second floor has a policy of 100% silence.  If you’re an avid learner, the library houses more than a million books and several cool databases through which you can do some just-for-fun researching.

Be conscious of what classes you take.  Some classes you take will be a breeze (UNI 101, in particular), but for any other class the professor you have can and will make or break your experience.  Feel free to use Rate My Professor to help you decide which classes to take.  Don’t take classes just for the easy A; for classes that you know you will enjoy giving yourself a challenge may be totally worthwhile.  Also, speaking of challenges, you might consider applying to the Honors College if you haven’t done so already.

Go to sporting events.  You don’t have to be a big sports junkie to enjoy going to sporting events at UNCW.  Hell, you might not even know the rules of a basketball game but you’ll still enjoy going out to one in your teal armor to show your school spirit.  Of course, if you do happen to be a fan of sports you already know that UNCW has a pretty “baller” basketball team, which is all the more reason for you to get some friends together and go.

Don’t skip class.  This isn’t high school; this is the real deal.  If you miss three days of class, that could be an entire chapter of notes that go missing.  A lot of teachers will even start docking points from your final grade after you miss more than two classes.  Think of it this way: if you’re an in-state student, you throw out $10 of your tuition money for every 50-minute class that you miss; for out-of-state students, that figure is $41.  It doesn’t sound like a lot but it truly adds up.  In the words of one of my favorite comedians, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.”

 Be safe and responsible.  If you’re into partying, fantastic; you definitely picked the right school.  But nothing kills a night of fun more than waking up the following morning wondering what the hell happened.  College is a time to let loose but not too loose.  Just a little bit of caution and wise decision-making will keep you physically, mentally, and emotionally safe and will keep you from putting your academic career in jeopardy. In a nutshell, don’t do anything you wouldn’t normally do.

Finally, have fun!  You are in the prime of your life.  Ten years from now, when you look back on college, you will look at it as either something you wish you could revisit or something that you’re glad you don’t have to deal with anymore.  If you branch out and try new things, I can guarantee that your reaction will be the former.