Hey, incoming students! We know transitioning to independent living at college is a big leap, and you’re going to get plenty of information during Welcome Week. But we’re here to talk student to student. While a successful life at Lawrence can’t be boiled down to a simple set of rules, we’ve learned a few important things in our first two years here. We hope it’s helpful as you navigate your new surroundings.
Communicate openly with your roommate. And do it from the start.
Isabella: As they say, you don’t have to be best friends, but you have to at least be able to talk to each other about boundaries, and you need to show them respect. In my first year, my roommate and I never really spoke to each other about anything. The result was that I avoided being in my room, and that was not a good feeling.
Awa: I agree 100 percent, communication with your roommate is key. No matter what, at some point you have to go back to your room. You wouldn’t want your room to be a space that you don’t feel comfortable in. I got really lucky and had great relationships with both roommates that I’ve had. I think the reason my roommates and I worked well together is because we were not afraid to talk to each other.
Isabella: Wow, that’s ideal. Simply talking to each other right off the bat can prevent any discomfort as the year goes on. Everybody is nervous about their roommate. That’s normal. You have to be open, up front and honest in order to have the best possible roommate experience.
Curious about Andrew Commons and the food offerings? In this video, Awa Badiane ’21 takes you on a mini-tour of the dining hall in the Warch Campus Center:
Keep up with your assignments. That’s now, not later.
Awa: I remember this one time at 3 a.m., while opening a second Monster, I thought to myself, “Why do professors assign assignments so early if they know we’re going to just wait until the last minute?” Then I realized there are students who don’t wait until the last minute. This is not how assignments are supposed to be done. And it was like a portal to another realm opened for me and I realized I’m doing this all wrong. I still procrastinate, but not to the extent that energy drinks have to be involved.
Isabella: You’re so right. It’s great that you realized that and you’re aware of your procrastinating, because a lot of people realize it too late. My experience is different. Since coming to Lawrence I’ve become pretty vigilant about starting assignments early and getting them done. But I’ve seen those good habits get out of control and make me really high-strung. I got so obsessive about making sure I got assignments done early that I’d panic if I took an afternoon to myself where I wasn’t working on anything. Basically, yes, please be proactive with your assignments, but work in the balance between academics and your personal life. I’m still trying to find it.
Can we agree we all need to be healthy?
Isabella: If you have two 100-page readings and a paper due and you feel like you’re going to explode, drop everything you’re doing and talk to someone about it. A friend, a family member, maybe a professor. Try not to let stress break you down. There are always resources for you. You just need to reach out.
Awa: Going to talk to a professor if you’re feeling overwhelmed was the best advice I have ever received. Professors are not evil; they understand we are trying and sometimes we bite off a little more than we can chew. When this happens, just talking to your professor about what you are going through helps a lot. Chances are they’ll understand.
Isabella: Definitely. Teachers are so accessible in college. And Campus Life has all sorts of resources to help. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Go to your classes. All of them. Well, most of them. Really.
Awa: I remember the first time I skipped a class. It was a really nice day spring term my first year. It was Friday and it was probably one of the first days during spring term where it was REALLY spring. I threw on a dress, curled my hair, and I even wore sunglasses. I got ready expecting to go to class, but the second I stepped outside, that glorious spring sun hit me and I didn’t want to go to class. I convinced myself that I didn’t have to go to class because it was just too nice out and I deserved to spend that time outside. So, rather than going to class I went to the café, got a buffalo chicken wrap, and sat outside to eat it. I am not going to lie. Despite feeling a little guilty, I really enjoyed my “ditched day outside.” That was until I went to class on Monday. It turns out, my professor also thought it was too nice to be inside a classroom and she decided to have class outside that day, and they learned about 40 new vocab words that the whole class then knew, except for me. I was lost in class and I ended being lost for that entire week. I had to spend the next weekend learning the vocab words they learned on that Friday and trying to piece together what was taught during the week. I never deliberately skipped another class after that day; it’s not worth it.
Isabella: It’s true that sometimes you don’t know what the next class will bring, so you shouldn’t miss it. And skipping classes can quickly become a bad habit, that’s for sure. Once I skipped one of my winter term classes, it was hard not to do it every day. I wish I was like you and could control my urge to skip. Here’s the other thing I’ll say. Every professor has their own attendance policy, and I’ve had a lot of them who offer a few free absences to use in the term. If that’s the case, I believe in using some of those for those spring days at the end of the year when you’re needing a break. Just saying. Mental health is important. But be smart about it.
Go to those office hours. They can be useful.
Awa: The first time I went to office hours was not by choice. My Freshman Studies professor made it a requirement. In order to turn in our first essay, we had to go to his office hours and discuss our essays with him. I was so scared at first. The idea of sitting in an office and having my first college professor critique my work was the scariest thing I could think of. In the time leading up to the one-on-one, I think I re-read that essay at least 80 times. But when I got there, I forgot I was nervous. My professor talked to me about my essay for about 10 minutes. He told me I was going in the right direction and he helped me organize my thoughts so that my essay had a better flow. We had an hour blocked off for it, so we spent the rest of the time just talking. He was asking me about my adjustment to Appleton from New York and he was telling me how he had spent some time in New York. I created a bond with my professor that made me more comfortable in his classroom, and when I had questions about my work, I wasn’t afraid to talk to him.
Isabella: Yeah, being comfortable with your professors is super important. Office hours is definitely a great place to build those relationships. I’ve honestly only been to office hours a couple of times in those mandatory one-on-one meetings. But they were similar situations to yours, I think, where I sort of realized that professors are real people who want to get to know you and help you succeed. It’s one of my goals going forward to make more use of office hours.
A little food in your room goes a long way.
Isabella: You should always have a little food in your room for when you’re short on time and can’t get to the café or the commons. Especially at the end of a term when things are hectic.
Awa: My first year, my dad bought me a 96-pack of Nature Valley granola bars. At first I thought it was ridiculous. What am I going to do with 96 granola bars? But by the end of the term, I ended up finishing them all. Whether it was because I woke up late and missed breakfast or if I was staying up late and got hungry, having some good snacks in my room came in handy.
Isabella: Having bulk snacks like that in your room is the way to go, I think. Especially stuff that’s easy to take to class with you, like a granola bar. I would say, make sure it’s not super unhealthy stuff, otherwise you might get stuck in a rut of eating junk food in your room instead of a real meal in the commons.
Resources like the writing center and career center can be helpful right from the start.
Isabella: They’re there for you all the time, at any stage of the process, not just when you’re struggling at the last minute. I was glad it was mandatory for my Freshman Studies class to go to the writing center in the Center for Academic Success for our papers. I had never received that kind of assistance before, and it made me open to going again on my own time.
Awa: Don’t think that because you are a first-year it is too early to go to the career center, known as the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement. They have lots of resources available for all years. Plus, it is important to have someone in the career center who knows you. When opportunities you have expressed interest in come along, you will be one of the first to know.
Isabella: That’s something I recently realized. I’ve met with the same person in the career center twice; once at the start of my first year and once this summer before my junior year. When I met with them recently, they remembered what kind of music I liked back then and how I brought my stereo system up to school with me. That small personal detail made me a lot more comfortable with coming back if I ever needed anything, because I know they just want to get to know you and guide you on the path that’s right for you. Give them the opportunity to do that.
The Con is pretty cool. Attend some plays, musicals, concerts.
Isabella: You should definitely go to some Conservatory performances, even if you’re not involved in the production. It’s a great way to spend an evening, alone or with friends, and it feels good to support your peers. I’ve really enjoyed the ones I’ve been to. For me, going to a performance in the Con has always felt like taking a little break from the term for a night.
Awa: The performances on campus are actually really good, and they are free! I went to my first show on campus because it was a requirement for class, but I loved the first show so much that I kept going back.
Athletic events also are a fun part of campus life.
Awa: If theater or music productions are not your thing, games and matches are just as fun. Football and soccer games at the Banta Bowl, basketball and volleyball games at Alexander Gym, baseball and softball games at Whiting Field all can be a blast, not to mention hockey, track and the other sports. And it’s all free.
Isabella: That’s true. I’m not a big sports fan, but one of my goals during the next two years is to do more of that. It’s really the same idea as supporting the Con productions. You’re having a great time while also supporting the talents and efforts of other students.
Get off campus once in a while. It’ll feel good.
Isabella: In the fall and spring, I like to take walks to get groceries or personal items. Or going to some of the coffee places to do assignments instead of my room or the library. It’s refreshing.
Awa: I try to get off campus at least once every two weeks. I don’t know how to drive yet because I’m from New York, so it helps having things to do off campus that are walkable. Appleton has a lot of things to do downtown that are just a few blocks away from campus. There also is a shuttle on campus that can take you to things that are not walking distance.
Isabella: That’s true, you do not have to have a car here. Even though you’ll feel like you’re in a bubble, Lawrence’s location promotes integration with the surrounding community. And Lawrence gives you resources like the shuttle to make that possible when it gets too cold to walk or you’re going somewhere that’s too far to walk.