Large campus offers pros and cons

Perhaps the best way to approach your new school is as though you have moved to a new city. With three campuses, countless buildings and its own police department, the University functions as a city within Twin Cities.
For an incoming student, the size of our school can be overwhelming, beginning with registration, which requires careful planning to prevent conflicts in time, physical location and meeting the complex liberal education requirements.
While the registration process seems difficult, understand that much of this stems from the sheer number of classes and departments here at the University, and not from lack of effort from the registration staff.
Rather, the system has become much, much easier than it was years ago. According to horror stories from days gone by, students had to check printed sheets for class availability. Standing in a long registration line, the class would often fill by the time the student got to the front, and he or she would have to start over.
Now, by contrast, almost any student service imaginable is available on the University’s Internet site. These include registration, class selection, University directories and calendars of events. With such a comprehensive site, it is rarely necessary to physically travel to an office, making waiting lines rare.
Once you have begun classes, you will notice that the teachers in many classes don’t care if you’re there or not. Go ahead, drink a bottle of Jack Daniels and sleep all day. See if they care.
Students react differently to this lack of attention. For some, it is exactly what they’ve been dreaming of all through high school — grades based primarily on tests. For others, it is dangerous, as they can fail to attend class, fall behind and ignore homework.
Thus, the lack of personal attention can be a relief from authority or a recipe for failure, depending on what kind of student you are.
Although the teachers vary in their attendance and participation requirements, there is always the opportunity for personal help, should you need it. Every teacher holds office hours, of which few students take advantage. Those that do often credit these hours of personal help with their good grades.
One side note: Several classes do have attendance requirements, and they are very serious about them. If the teacher says three absences guarantees a fail grade, believe her.
Another benefit to the size of the school is its real-world atmosphere and surroundings. For many students, the idea of attending a small, high-school-like campus turns their stomachs. For this breed, the size of the University offers the chance to slowly move into a more adult lifestyle.
With that, however, comes more responsibility. Rather than facing a powerless campus supervisor when you break the rules, you could find yourself facing a University Police officer writing a very real-world ticket.
And there are other downsides to the size of the campus. If you choose to drive from class to class, be prepared to face five or more dollars a day in parking. If you are less lazy, and willing to take the bus or walk from class to class, be prepared for frostbite and rubber legs.
But these logistical dilemmas with the campus are nothing compared to the isolation and loneliness that awaits many students here. The University can be a very difficult place to meet people.
One might think that classes would be an easy place to find new friends. Not so. Rarely do people become friends through class, although it does happen. Rather, people in classes seem to clam up and keep to themselves. It is very frustrating to slowly shuffle into a quiet classroom, wait for the teacher, listen to the lecture, and file back out.
That’s not to say it is impossible to broach a conversation, especially in smaller classes with discussions and a gregarious teacher. But it is quite difficult in many of the large, lecture-style classes that will comprise your first year here.
Instead of expecting to meet friends in class, students must find activities and groups on campus where they can meet people with similar interests. With hundreds of student groups, sports clubs and undergraduate career-oriented groups, the University has no shortage of places to meet like-minded people. All it requires is a little searching and the desire to join in.
The people you meet in these groups will often share more similar interests than a random classmate in a gateway introductory class that everyone takes.
Indeed, the University has its share of beaurocracy and problems due to its size, but the flip side is the rewarding feeling of being part of a large, active school with many activities and opportunities.
Explore your new environment. Tame it, shape it and don’t let it overwhelm you. Become an active citizen in the city called the University of Minnesota.
Brian Close is the Daily’s opinions editor. He welcomes comments to [email protected]