Welcome to the big, bad world of almost-adulthood.
College can feel like an awkward transition period sometimes. You’re not a kid anymore, but you don’t quite have the freedom of an adult — during freshman year especially. But fear not, my friends: I have a bunch of advice for your first year to help you make the most of not only your academic, but your social experience at UNC.
1. Will everyone know you’re a clueless freshman if you’re walking around on the first day of class with a map? Yeah. Will anyone really care? No. Use your map. Map out your classes beforehand. Maps are power. And if you’re really worried about looking dumb, Google Maps is lovely, as well.
2. All-nighters are a thing. Accept them; they’re a part of your life now. Just try to drink coffee and not Red Bull.
3. You always study better in a library than in your room. It’s science. Don’t ask why; I don’t know. I’m a journalism major.
4. Wearing headphones and listening to music while walking to class really makes a world of difference. Listen to your favorite upbeat songs while walking to your 8 a.m. It’ll make life a little better.
5. Med Deli. Bottom of Lenoir. Changed my life. Enough said.
6. The whole “freshman 15” thing doesn’t necessarily happen. But, if you want to stay healthy (y’all, seriously, don’t stress out about gaining weight), Lenoir and Rams have a ton of healthy options. Avoid the burger/fast food line and get creative with the salad bar. The vegan line has a bunch of cool and surprisingly delicious food. Try it sometime. But remember to treat yourself with a dining hall cookie every once in awhile because they’re absolutely fabulous.
7. Always thank the dining hall workers. Always be nice to them. They’re super friendly.
8. LOCK YOUR DORM ROOM DOORS!!! This might sound so obvious, but you don’t know how many times people left their doors unlocked my freshman year and had drunk people wander into their rooms at 3 a.m.
9. Do the stuff your RA plans. You don’t look lame for going, I promise. They put time and effort into planning stuff, and it usually involves free food, so why would you not go?
10. Keep your computer organized. Document folders exist. Organize by class; it just makes things a little easier.
12. Academic advisers are amazing. My freshman year, I had no clue what general education credits were, and I had no clue what I needed to take for my major. For my entire first and second semesters, I was just wingin’ it. Learn from my mistakes. During the first week of classes, go to an adviser just to talk about what you need to take. And if you don’t know what you want to major in yet, that’s totally fine; go to an adviser to talk about your gen ed options. It really really helps.
13. Take lots of pictures, and don’t worry about getting made fun of for taking lots of pictures.
14. Bored? Explore Chapel Hill and Carrboro! They’re both super cute towns, with tons of different places to go and shop and eat. It’s about what lies beyond Franklin Street, young grasshoppers.
15. Don’t be too cynical. There are going to be things on campus you don’t agree with. There are going to be people you don’t click with. There are going to be organizations you don’t like the philosophy of. Take everything with a grain of salt. Use your voice, but use it productively. Being realistic is okay, but cynicism is tiring.
16. Learn how to use the Chapel Hill Transit. Buses are your friend, and they make everything easier. Take the P2P at night. I WISH I’d have known how to work the public transit my freshman year. You know how many extra miles I walked? In the cold and the rain?
17. 8 a.m. classes aren’t that bad. They get you up, and you get more things done. AND you’re up in time for breakfast at Rams. I recommend the omelettes and veggie sausage.
18. Want cheap dorm decor? Find a bunch of your favorite pictures (or aesthetic pictures from Tumblr, in my case) and print them off at Walmart. Get a cork board or string up some clothespins, or just tape them in a giant collage, and voila! Cheap dorm decor. You don’t need that $40 poster from Urban Outfitters, I promise. Also, don’t waste the money on monogramming your curtains. We know they’re yours.
19. Speaking of curtains, if you want them, use a shower rod as a curtain hanger, since you can’t nail things to dorm walls.
20. STUDY ABROAD. Not now, obviously, but maybe your junior year. Just do it before you graduate.
21. UNC offers so much cool stuff. Stay up to date with CUAB. They give out free food ALL THE TIME.
22. There’s something for everyone. Literally. I promise you, if you’re interested in it, there’s a club or organization for it. If you’re not into commitment, there’s plenty of events that these groups put on that you can go to. You’ll never have a boring Friday night. My favorites are the Union’s movies and the Campus Y’s poetry slams.
23. Take care of yourself.
24. To get super serious for a minute, please please please be careful. Binge drinking is an epidemic on college campuses. I know that Zac Efron movie looked cool, and I know Animal House is hilarious, but it’s so easy to get into dangerous situations when you’re under the influence. A couple of examples from UNC: the kid who killed three people in a drunk driving accident, or the kid who died falling off of concrete plant machinery. College is your first taste of being on your own, but like the wise Ben Parker (aka Spiderman’s uncle) taught me, “Great power comes with great responsibility.” I know, I know, I sound like your boring high school principal. But for real, kids, BE CAREFUL. PLEASE. It hurts my heart so much when I hear about young people getting in dangerous alcohol-related incidents.
25. Last, but of course, not least: Give things time. No one feels at home in a new place after a month. Some people make friends easier than others, but don’t feel pressured to do things totally and completely out of your comfort zone just to meet new people. Beginning of my freshman year, I wanted to go home every weekend. I was waxing poetic on the internet after a month in college about everything I missed, but in reality, I just missed familiarity.
It took me a year to really find my place at Carolina. But in the time between high school graduation and sophomore year, I grew up a lot, and sometimes it takes being a bit lonely to gain some self-actualization. You will miss people, and you will miss places, but do not let it ruin your present. Now, I adore Carolina, and I can’t imagine being somewhere else. I can’t imagine still being home, because Chapel Hill is my home now. So don’t get discouraged if you don’t find your place, or make a ton of friends, in your first semester. Give it time, keep looking forward, you’ll find your people, and you’ll find your place, and you won’t want to trade going to Carolina for anything else in the world.
Paige Connelly was a contributor to collegetownnc.com, where this article originally ran.