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High school is in your rear-view mirror—good riddance—and it only took you a solid four years to master its halls. But a new school in a new place means you’re back to square one. Great.
Lucky for you, you’re not the first person who has been in this spot. Why not skip a few steps and “pass go” by learning from the experience of your predecessors? Through trial and error, here are thirteen pieces of advice that upperclassman at James Madison University wish they knew as Freshmen.
1. Don’t let your punches go to waste. We get it; sometimes you just can’t stomach any more cafeteria food and need some Which Which in your life. But skipping a punch is like throwing $7 in the trash—your parents would not be proud. So, if you’re just not feeling it, punch for a Gatorade or a snack on the go.
2. Download the iMadison JMU app. Developed in 2016 by a couple of JMU alumni, this handy application includes everything from a map of the JMU campus, dining and parking locations, sporting event schedules, and even the school newspaper. Best of all, it’s FREE.
3. Make sure you pack an umbrella and some good galoshes. If you’ve attended JMU for any length of time, you know that it rains. Hard. You could wait for the floods to subside, or you could tackle it like a boss and get to class on time in some stylish rain gear. Your choice.
4. Go to your professors’ office hours. We understand that authority can be intimidating, but professors are people too; they get sad when they’re stood up. Lucky for you, professors usually have a trove of good advice, some useful homework tips, and if you develop enough of a relationship, they may even write you some letters of recommendation. It’s a win-win for everyone.
5. The JMU train can, and will, make you late to class if you don’t prepare for it. Make sure to leave yourself some extra minutes to get to class or work; you never know when you’ll have to sit around and wait for a pesky train clear your path. Hint: it’s often.
6. Learn the campus acronyms; “ECL,” “TDU,” “UREC,” and “SSC” to name a few. They’re not gibberish; they’re some pretty important places you’ll most likely come into contact with at some point during your time at JMU. If you want to be up to date with all of the campus happenings, and understand the rest of the student body, you’ll need to learn what these mean.
7. Go to the UREC Facility. It’s hard to make healthy choices when you’re surrounded by pizza and beer. Lucky for you, the UREC is located on campus and is free to use for students, faculty, and staff. Even just twenty minutes a few times a week will keep you on track both physically and mentally. And trust us, you’ll wish you had taken advantage of the free time when you’re forced to start paying for a gym membership.
8. Try your best to avoid Devon Lane when the sun goes down. There tends to be a spike in crime near the area after hours, so if you can find an alternate route, you should take it. And if you can’t, make sure to bring a buddy with you for courage. Strength in numbers, right?
9. Hang around The Commons if you like free stuff. T-shirts, pizza, you name it. You’ll never have to buy another cheap pair of sunglasses ever again if you frequent The Commons.
10. Join a club. Even further, keep joining new ones until you find one that sticks. Getting involved in student organizations is a good way to carve out your niche and make friends who are interested in the same things you are. They can also look pretty bomb on a resume.
11. Never walk outside with a red solo cup. Not unless you’re interested in meeting the members of your local law enforcement.
12. Just because they sell it at the University bookstore doesn’t mean it’s for the best price. Nothing can drain your bank account like shopping for textbooks—who knew learning could be so expensive? Though the bookstore is often convenient, it’s rarely your only option. There are more than enough local and online resources, some even offering rentals, so give yourself enough time before classes start to explore your options.
13. Attend your Frog Week events. The temptation to skip the designated week of preplanned activities can be strong, but that would be a mistake. There will be awkward ice breakers—two truths and a lie, anyone?—and it can feel a lot like summer camp, but FROG Week is incredibly informative and a whole lot of fun.