Top Ten Things I Wish I Knew Before Coming To UNC
By: Jess Casimir and Nick Velasquez
(Want more personal advice? Fill out this google form to get paired with a current first generation student at UNC: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1lIlmwyqDKQLxVPPXZgunc2Yw_62UWHq-WiKoAaPKZNw/edit?ts=58da995b)
1. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Questions
When coming into Chapel Hill, or any college for that matter, it might feel like you are at a huge disadvantage. Sometimes it will feel as if everyone else knows exactly what they’re doing when you have no idea what’s going on. While you’re parents may have had all of the answers before, you’re soon going to realize that a majority of college is figuring out things on your own – and that’s okay! Asking peers, upperclassmen, alumni, or even professors is a great habit to get into. It is better to ask questions than to try to stumble your way through an issue. Often times, the friends who seem to have it all together might be in the same boat as you; in which case can you can figure it out together! Freshman year is crazy for everyone, regardless of if you are a first generation college student or not.
2. General Education Requirements Are Your Best Friends
General education requirements can seem so daunting when first entering college. I didn’t really know what gen-eds were. All I knew was that there were a bunch of classes I had to take before I graduated. Not only did it feel like an enormous mountain of work, but I had no idea what most of the acronyms meant or if I would even be able to find a class that satisfied it (ex: WB means a class that is about the World Before 1750). In the end, I realized that some classes could satisfy multiple gen-eds at a time. Not only that, but taking these classes from an array of subjects was an amazing experience. Being an undecided major made me feel so lost and unprepared. However, taking gen-ed classes gave me time to decide what I wanted to do. Not only that, but taking classes outside of my comfort zone put me in a world of self-discovery. I actually decided what I wanted to pursue as a Major after taking a sociology class to satisfy a general education requirement.
3. Get To Know Your Professors
Being in a sea of students can be a bit overwhelming at times – especially if you are in an intro class! Making yourself known to your professor is always a great first step. Take the time to go to office hours and introduce yourself. Don’t be afraid to meet with your professor if you’re having trouble grasping concepts in their class or feeling left behind – that’s what they’re here for! All of my professors here at UNC have been full of support and encouragement.
4. Academic Advising Is Your Home Away From Home
It is mandatory to go to Academic Advising twice during your time at UNC, once your freshman year and once your senior year. However, I recommend that you go much more often than that. Academic advisors are a great resource to talk to about opportunities on campus, study abroad, exploring majors and minors, figuring out class schedules, and personal growth or hindrances. It is important to know that there is someone at the university to talk one on one with about your academic success. All of the advisors at the center are amazing, but you can definitely meet with a few before you find the person who is just right for you!
5. Finding Your Study Nook Should Be A Top Priority
No one really tells you how much different college is going to be from high school. There is a false sense of autonomy your senior year of high school. You feel like you know what you’re doing, you know the best methods to study and get good grades, you know how to properly write essays, etc. That might not be true when you get to the university level. Different professors prefer their students write essays, structure lab reports, or study for tests in a way that is more tailored to their class environment. I would say that it would be a very beneficial thing to figure out how to best study in a college setting – living where you go to school is a big adjustment. Having your social life and your education in the same place is great at times, but it can also be difficult to crack down and get work done. I encourage you to search for the place that you best concentrate on campus and try to make it there a few times a week to stay on track. College can be overwhelming, so have a safe space where you can study, brainstorm, and create your best work!
6. Know where Campus Health is!
Sickness strikes when you least expect it—college is not an exception. You might not realize it but all the stress that comes from being on your own and taking classes in college suppresses your immune system. Coupled with the fact that most college students don’t have the best of habits (staying up late, skipping meals, lack of cleaning habits, and going out to name a few), you have to expect that you will get sick at one point. I bet that most of us haven’t dealt with a sickness without a parent or guardian to alleviate it. What everyone needs to know is that you have to take care of yourself in some way. Keep what I would describe as a first aid kit: fever reducers, herbal teas, cough drops, and some other essentials like Band-Aids and antiseptics (not specifically for when you get sick). When you get very sick, you have to know where campus health is as this is where you will want to be when it gets worse. Know that they offer more services than just a clinic; they can fill prescriptions and offer psychological help too.
7. Take Full Advantage of the options available at the dining halls
The dining halls are a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy a meal without having to go to a restaurant off campus. There are many options of food available for any kind of taste: pasta, salad, pizza, burgers, etc. The dining hall also offers the advantage of vegan and vegetarian options which may be a priority for some (look for the carrot symbols). There is also the advantage of take out boxes for when you have to study or don’t really want to spend time in the dining hall. They offer the same food at a different location.
8. Visit the Writing center or the Learning Center.
One of the most overlooked aspects of campus is the writing centers and learning centers. They are the saviors to when you are having trouble with a particular paper or when you really need to find a new way to study. As mentioned before, college is a different beast than high school and you may need to readjust some aspects of studying and essay writing. The learning center is a great place to learn new more effective methods of studying and keeping yourself organized. While the writing center can help you with your drafts and steer you in the right direction if you’re particularly unsure about writing a ten page paper.
9. Attend the Week of Welcome events
Coming from out of state, I can say that you should take any opportunity to make friends. You might meet your best friends at some of the events or at least people from your classes that will make class a little less awkward on the first day. Most of the events will also expose you to some aspect of campus that you will find enjoyable, especially fall fest. It is the perfect opportunity for you to find clubs and activities that you are interested in participating in. Most importantly, the events will expose you to the culture of Carolina (plus they also offer the added benefit of free stuff).
10. Walking is a good mode of transportation (but buses are so much better)
Campus is always a great place to walk through—whether that be because of the architecture or the greenery. But sometimes when it’s raining or you’re not in the mood to walk anywhere, the buses offer a similar view of campus (and with the possibility of having somewhere to sit). The only problem with the buses is that there are so many options. The slew of acronyms may be off putting, especially since there isn’t a dictionary for them. However, once you learn where you are going the buses won’t seem all that bad and can be a huge convenience.