College Success & Survival @ UNI

How to Prepare for the First Week of Classes by alcliz
July 27, 2010, 2:06 pm
Filed under: Freshmen | Tags: ,

From a Former Freshman

By now you’ve been through orientation and you’re wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into. Don’t worry, all the time you’ve put in so far will be well worth it. The next step in your adventure is figuring out what you need to do in order to be prepared for the first week of classes. The following is a list of important items to have for your first day of classes:

  • Textbooks
  • School supplies (notebooks, folders, pens, etc.)
  • A map of campus
  • And a lot of Rest!

You’re probably thinking that this list is common sense. You would be surprised at how many students forget these general items.

On that note, I would like to emphasize that it is very important to be prepared for class on the first day. Contrary to popular belief, most professors begin teaching on the first day. This isn’t high school; the first day won’t be filled with meaningless classes that only discuss rules and procedures.

In addition to the above mentioned, you may want to have some useful electronics with you (provided that you are fortunate enough to own said items). One of the most useful investments I made last year was my voice recorder. However, these should be used with caution. This item should NOT be used as a replacement to your class notes. There are several things to consider before using a voice recorder in class:

  • Will your professor allow voice recorders in his/her classroom? (It is very important to ask each professor before using it!)
  • Will you have enough time to review the recording? (Remember, it took anywhere from 50-90 minutes to record it. It will take that much time to listen to it again.)
  • Remember: a voice recorder cannot record a PowerPoint or any other visual shown in class.

I have found that it is best to use a voice recorder in a class that is primarily lecture. Sometimes it is hard to catch all the important points of a lecture, so you can use a voice recorder to fill in the lecture notes that you took in class.

Another area of concern may be textbook buying. For some of you, it may be easier to buy all of your books from the bookstore. However, there are other options available. Websites, such as,, and, can provide a cheaper alternative for some of your textbooks. There are two things to consider when buying textbooks online:

  1. You have to consider the time it takes to ship the book. This means that, if you plan to buy online, you must plan ahead and do it early. Make sure that the book will be in your possession by the time classes begin.
  2. There is the possibility that your professor mixed up the required and optional textbooks on the list given to the bookstore. If you buy your books online, you cannot return the unneeded textbook and replace it with the right one. (This is not very common, but it did happen to me last year.)

As always, you should use the Internet with caution. Use good judgment, and check out websites before using them.

On top of all that, remember to have fun and enjoy the first day. It won’t be as scary as you think.


From an Upper Classman

All right, you’ve got your schedule, survived orientation, and somehow managed to start packing up everything you think you’re going to need for that first week. Relax. The worst part is over. When it comes to preparing for your first week of classes, there are just a few things to keep in mind:

Textbooks: Our Former Freshman made some good points about buying books above. Remember, though: when buying online, be diligent about making sure you’re ordering the right book (This includes ordering the right edition; many professors will not allow you to use an older edition of a textbook.). The best way to make sure you have the right edition is to search online using the book’s ISBN number. The ISBN is a ten or twelve digit number that is unique to each book. If you search for your books by their ISBN, you’ll always be sure to get the right edition!

What to bring: While you’ll probably remember the basics, there are a few things to make sure you include in your packing. If you’re living in the dorms, be sure to bring a fan. It stays pretty warm for the first few weeks of classes, and unless you’re in Bartlett, your dorm room won’t be air conditioned. On the opposite end of the spectrum, pack some sweatshirts or light jackets in your first load as well! Fall always sneaks up on us earlier than we expect, and UNI is a notoriously windy campus.

Once you’re on campus, there are a few things you can do before your first day of class to make sure everything goes smoothly. If you’re worried about finding all of your classrooms, go for a walk around campus and re-visit where the buildings are. Mapping out exactly where you need to go before your first day will help you make it to class on time and avoid the “panicked freshman” look. It might also help if you make plans in advance to eat lunch or dinner with a friend, roommate, or classmate: build your support network right away! Having some familiarity both with campus and your peers will make that first week go so much more smoothly.

After your first day: Congratulate yourself on a smooth transition! Then go home, grab your planner (you remembered to pack one, of course), and fill in all of your major test and assignment due dates from your syllabi into the planner right away. If you consolidate all of your test, paper, and assignment dates in one place, you’ll hopefully never have to experience the panic of realizing you have a major test ten minutes before your class begins.

Last but not least: Remember to come in and visit the Academic Learning Center! Whether you’re looking for help with a difficult course, or just a quiet, relaxed place to study with resources on hand, get to know the ALC staff and services, and you’ll always have an academic advocate. Best of luck with your first week of courses, and don’t forget to have a great time!


From a Professor

There is a lot of good advice provided here for you from our former freshman and upper classman. I agree with all that they say. As a professor, I can’t stress enough the importance of the syllabus. If you can get a copy of it for each class before classes begin, you will be ahead of the game. You can do this by emailing the professors of your class. This will also create a positive first impression; you will be seen as a serious student. Once you have the syllabus:

  • Read it closely and mark notes on it.
  • Keep it in the front of a three ring binder or folder.
  • Review and consult it frequently! It is the road map to your class, and your professor has spent hours preparing it.
  • During the first class, after the class, or during the professor’s office hours, ask lots of questions about anything that is unclear on the syllabus. Get questions clarified as soon as possible.
  • As the professor goes through the syllabus and explains it, write helpful notes to yourself on the syllabus.

You should also make an effort to meet and get to know your professors; stay after class, and introduce yourself. Ask questions about anything that might not have been clear.

Before you arrive on campus, spend some time looking through the resources you collected at orientation. Review the UNI website, and get a sense of how to access resources and organizations you might want to join.

In addition to the supplies already mentioned above, invest in an umbrella (a compact one) and carry it everywhere. It frequently rains on campus and inevitably on the first day of classes. You do not want to walk across campus and arrive at class dripping wet. I assure you; college students on campus carry and use umbrellas!


From a Parent

Don’t panic. It WILL be ok. It is easy for parents and students to become overwhelmed. Some things have changed since Mom or Dad went to college, and if neither had that experience, it is easy to feel like a “fish out of water.” As a parent, there are two things I suggest. First, don’t be afraid to ask questions. If the first person you asked has not been able to make the solution clear, ask someone else. That person may have a style of presenting information or more knowledge of the subject and it will makes more sense to you. Secondly, keep in mind that almost any mistake made can be corrected. Don’t let fear of making an error prevent you from taking advantage of wonderful, new opportunities.


Leave a Comment so far
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: