Gab’s Declassified College Survival Guide

As most of you probably know, I just completed my first year of college at UNC Chapel Hill. There are only two things I want to say about it: 1. Holy crap. 2. Where is August? I started my freshman year in an extremely odd way. I graduated from high school, and then 24 hours later I was expected to start college classes in a new state and with people I had never even met.

The only thing I knew about college was what I had read off posts on blogs similar to this one, Pinterest posts, and great “novel/cinema-esque” stories from my upperclassmen friends. If you’re a member of the Class of 2015, CONGRATULATIONS! If you are continuing on to college, get ready for the ride of your life! One of my fellow college veterans? See how much of the following list should be published in a College 101 for First Years advice manual.

Back to my future freshies: Some things you’re simply going to have to learn on your own and they are probably going to be unique to your individual college or university, but, with simple preparation, there are some situations that you can very easily avoid with the proper knowledge. So get your popcorn, notepad, and fuzzy blanket, and prepare for a revelation into the world that is #collegelife. P.S. I’ve included shortened, but still highly valuable “Gab’s Tip for ______” if you don’t have time to read the entire post at once.

1. Your dormitory situation will not be easy, nor preferable (sometimes?).

First, let me just clarify why it’s not all torturous and living on campus with a bunch of your classmates is the best(and worst) time of your life. Someone to order wings and pizza with at 2 AM; movie nights on a random Wednesday night when you should probably be doing homework; best friends that cure your sickness with cookies and hugs; and an RA that guides you through the glorious history of your new university: these are all things that you get when you live in the dorm your first year. Now, Why you’ll hate it: The sad truth of the matter is someone(or many someones) is bound to push you way past your limits, and you’ll probably crack. – You probably have never shared a room or bathroom before–like ever.

Priorities are different especially during high stress times of the school year aka Finals and Midterms. Don’t expect your suite mates to clean the shower and dust the counter tops 2 times a week because it’s not gonna happen. -Lots of people hate confrontation. In this situation, you have got to face issues head on about your living areas. Roommate contracts are beautiful in helping solve problems before they even arise. Make sure you take these seriously at the beginning of the year so that you know exactly what to expect from your roommate.

  • Gab’s Tip for Dorms and Roommates:
    C-O-M-M-U-N-I-C-A-T-E. Communicate. I’m guilty of being sub-par at this fundamental ideal. Establish a cleaning schedule the first week and talk about having strangers in the dorm during midterm week. Okay with sharing your food? You might be the only one, so make sure you won’t come home to a roommate meltdown when you finish off her Half Baked Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in the freezer. I know that ice cream is “came-from-the-heavens-amazing”, but it’s still super uncool. Charlotte and I followed these rules to a T and we had a harmonious roommate relationship.

2. Dining halls are so repetitive, I knew that the “every other Friday” lunch was my favorite meal of the week. Yeah.

I messed up big time with meal plans; it was just a massive fail. When I bought my meal plan in early June, I thought I knew exactly how my eating situation would go in college and it looked a little something like this: I’d fix my own breakfast in the dorm, while I would have two dining hall meals for lunch and dinner every weekday. Since I had this nice, cookie-cutter meal schedule all laid out, I figured it only made sense to get a 10-meal-a-week plan that UNC offered because two meals for every week day was exactly 10 meals. Lucky for all of #UNC19, you won’t be trapped by the reigns of weekly meal plans because CDS probably realized how lame they were. Here’s my problem with weekly meal plans and why buying a meal plan before you start college is so difficult:

First, college is hectic and while you have a schedule of classes, your social/extracurricular life will very rarely ever be structured and I hope that some of your plans are simply spontaneous. Aside from my weekly Relay meetings and mandatory Zumba classes, most of my time was spread between studying and homework, Netflix, and hanging with my friends. These activities are most definitely gonna change my cookie-cutter meal routine to the point where there is no point in having a schedule anymore.

There is no way to gauge how many meals you’re going to use in a given week; sometimes, I wouldn’t use 5 meals for an entire week and since the weekly plan does not allow meals to roll over to the next week, that’s $50 dollars right down the drain. Second, the meals that the dining hall serves are tolerable for the first month at max. After that, not only do you have the schedule memorized: like I said, the every other Friday lunch is my favorite. You probably won’t want to eat every meal in the dining hall and honestly, neither does anyone else. The main reason you’re going to go to the dining hall is to socialize and get to know your new friends. It’s a good way to break the ice. “Wanna go to lunch at Rams?” is probably my most used/received text message from my first year.

  • Gab’s Tip for Dining Halls and Meal Plans: Go for block plans, especially if you’re going to UNC Chapel Hill and add Flex, lots of it. Flex pays for all the Carolina Dining Options such as Chick-fil-a, Subway, Wendy’s, Starbucks, and a lot more. Also for my non-UNC readers, luckily-ish for you, some of your colleges make incoming first years purchase unlimited swipes into their all inclusive buffet-style cafeteria options. Aside from being mostly unnecessary, you won’t even have to go through the stress of choosing a meal plan option.

3. Memorize and walk through your class schedule before the first day, you’ll avoid walking into the wrong classroom at the wrong time with the wrong binder.

Most of everyone on campus can probably give you a horror story of how they were in the wrong room at the wrong time for the wrong class, but you can avoid having your own by following these three easy steps.

  1. Have a smartphone? Invest in an app like Class Timetable that allows you to enter your schedule and also allows you to enter Homework assignments for each class. The reviews boast of it’s easy overall usability. This will, at least, help you memorize the location and time of all of your classes.
  2. Map! Yeah, You might have forgotten that maps still exist and are very useful when trying to navigate your new campus. Attending Chapel Hill in the fall and need a quality map? Take a look at this one. There is even a QR code that allows you to open the mobile version on your phone AKA my life saver last August.
  3. Get an upperclassmen friend, or even a stranger, to show you around. Yeah, we’ve been there and done that. We can tell you the fastest way to get to North Campus, and which buses to take when it’s raining, it’s 7:40 am, and there is a CHEM 101 exam (aka the ‘you’ll never catch the U’ day). We don’t bite, and you can probably find us on twitter under the hashtags #UNC16,17,18 etc.
  • Gab’s Tip for Class Schedules and Not Getting Lost: Find a schedule or calendar app that works best for you. It will seriously save you. Find a digital map that’s also easy for you to read in case of an absolute emergency: you won’t be lost for long and everyone will think that you’re simply updating your best friend from home about your first days at college. DO NOT CARRY THE PAPER VERSION THEY GIVE OUT AT MOVE IN WHILE TRYING TO FIND YOUR WAY. You will be marked as a freshman.

4. Make the most of your weekends. Have fun and relax, party if you want, but also don’t start thinking about your homework on Sunday at 7 p.m. 

This isn’t high school. Weekends are going to be bustling with events and parties. I’m all for having a good time and there are plenty of weekends for having all the fun you want. And your parents aren’t there to police you: You are free to do what you want. However, there is a large caveat to this one fact of college. With freedom, comes responsibility. Basically, be smart. Always go out with friends and make sure you have a party buddy that will agree to leave when you leave.

DO NOT go anywhere at night by yourself. Go out with a charged phone battery and invest in a safety app. I use one called, Circle of 6, which allows you to easily access 6 of your contacts.  You can share your location, call, and/or message the 6 contacts straight from the app. I highly recommend this and it could come in handy if you’re ever in a sketchy situation. This isn’t high school. You’re going to have a lot of work to do over the weekend. You won’t be able to finish it all if you start it at 8 p.m. on Sunday night. I realized this my second weekend when classes started to pick up. I work on all my assignments over the course of the weekend rather than all in one chunk. Not only will I not have to stare at organic chemistry, Calc III, and physics all in one day, but  I also won’t have to sit at a desk for 8 hours straight.

  • Gab’s Tip for Weekends: Balancing Homework and Parties: Everything is good in moderation. Feel free to explore night life and social hubs on the weekends. That’s an important cornerstone of college. However, you are at college for your education and therefore that should be a top priority. I spread out my work over the entire weekend which definitely helps me finish everything in a reasonable amount of time. FIND A GOOD STUDY SPACE. And cute study supplies won’t hurt either. Also, when you’re going out; stay safe! Download an app and make your entire friend group download it, too. You never know what sticky situations someone might get into and it’s better to stay connected and safe if something unfortunate does happen.

5. Pack up everything that you need for college a couple of days in advance. Put it all together, and then halve it.

As someone who managed to fit an incredible amount of stuff in her dorm room, I know how much it sucks to move it all back out in May. Well, FYI, it sucks royally. The funniest thing about packing up your dorm room is that you have so many reasons in your head why you don’t want to pack. 1. You’ll have to accept the year has come to an end. *tears* 2. You brought so much crap, you forgot about the 4 storage boxes at the back of your bed. *tears* 3. You have to study for finals. *tears* I can cut right to the tip on this one because I don’t even have to explain further how important it is to under pack (because in reality, I don’t think anyone really knows what the happy medium is).

  • Gab’s Tip for Packing for College: I just experienced how hard it is to pack up your dorm room during finals and how much harder it is when you have too much stuff. All of the heartbreak and sweat can be avoided if you “Pack smarter, not more stuff.” So, this year when I pack up my dorm supplies, I will put everything together and then halve(more like 3/4 it) because chances are there are some things I threw in there that I don’t even really need. As an incoming freshman, you  have ample opportunity to go to Walmart/Target if you forgot a pillow case or an extension cord, so don’t fret if you sacrifice something that you actually needed. You can either have your parents mail it to you, or go about 5 miles to the nearest super center and pick it up.

P.S. I plan on doing an entire post on packing for dorms. So look out for that this summer!

  • Kenny Wright

    Ashleigh and I just reviewed your blog, and absolutely loved it! Keep up the great work!

    -Mayor Wright-

  • I really loved all of these tips! I am considering applying to UNC and I was wondering if you could make a post about the best and worst things are about the school and just things you wouldn’t find out from a campus tour and what life is like! Thanks!

    • I’m so glad you found this helpful! That’s a really good idea for a post, thank you! xo G