New to the U? Survival tips for the uninitiated

Chris Schafer

Welcome back to the rat race, everybody. Here we go again. It is a yearly custom each fall that we, columnists at the Minnesota Daily, pass on our sanguine knowledge and experiences to the new students here at the University. I have listed below some of my advice for University life and how, sometimes by following them but usually by not following them, you can make the transition into college life a little easier.

ï Commuting. You can’t do anything at the University if you can’t get here, right? And parking at the University can be next to impossible. This campus has a tremendous commuter population and parking is first-come, first-served unless you get a pass. Be advised that first-come,

first-served means that the lots will be full by 9 a.m. and will stay that way until 1 p.m. That means if you want a spot, you should probably register for an 8 a.m. class. I know what you’re thinking: Is it really worth it? When my alarm goes off at 6:30 a.m., I sure don’t think it is.

What, then, is the well-rested student to do? The University offers a couple of services to help ease commuter congestion. Trust me folks, it’s a lot better now than it was when I first started attending classes here. Many students make their lives easier by living in homes or apartments near campus and making use of bikes or rollerblades to make the commute. This puts you near campus, offers a chance for some exercise and saves on the price of parking, which seems to escalate every week.

If that doesn’t work for you, I suggest making the most of the University’s own busing program. These buses, which only to University employees and students can use, run from the suburbs to the University, without any transfers. The rides allow you the time to cram for that test, read a book or take a quick nap. After all, you can’t possibly miss your stop. It’s a tremendous program I used happily for more than two years.

If the bus isn’t really your boat and you would rather drive, I suggest buddying up. The University has a few carpool lots, which never fill up and are roughly half the price of regular parking spots. It’s worth your money and time to take advantage of them

ï Construction. You’ll notice quickly that construction abounds on this campus. Sadly, construction never really ends. It disappears during the winter, due to snow cover, and seems to relocate in the summer. Find a second path to your classes, in case orange cones crowd your primary route.

ï Canceling a class. It is incredibly important to attend the first day of each class you signed up for. If you don’t, your seat can be given to a student who wants to take the class and you will be dropped from the class roster. That being said, if you are ever in a situation where you want to drop a class, don’t skip the class and count on the University to drop it for you. I’ve tried it. It doesn’t always work. I never officially dropped the class and ended up with a bill for a class I never took. The only thing worse than paying for your credits is paying for no credits.

ï Get some headphones. You’ll find the University is much like its own little city. We have our own police force, newspaper, a president instead of a mayor and our own little street merchants. During your time as a student, you will be handed pamphlets advertising several functions that support various causes. The transient activists will ask you to save the forests or help stop animal testing. Wearing a pair of headphones will keep you from a lot of these leaflet messengers and help your pockets stay pleasantly empty. Headphones are also helpful if you encounter some well-dressed gentlemen, when you are nowhere near the business school, who only want to ask you a question. Trust me, you don’t have the time.

ï Don’t write off selling your books. There is a trickle effect when it comes to the campus textbook market; While you pay a lot for your books, you receive only a little when you sell them back. This perverse ratio is enough to make many students refuse to sell their books back, hoarding them instead out of spite. But while you don’t have much to gain by selling your books back, what do you have to lose? Are you really going to read that astronomy book again? Did you ever read it in the first place? If the answer is no, sell it back. Take whatever money you can get and clear up the clutter.

Besides, sometimes the books surprise you. During my time here, I have learned thick, hardcover books usually don’t sell back for very much but tiny, paperback journalism books have a wonderful return value. Go figure.

ï Get mandatory language requirements done early. Many new students will be in the College of Liberal Arts in some capacity and witness its mandatory language program, which includes four semesters of language classes and a proficiency test. Unpopular as it may be, it is a cornerstone of a liberal arts degree here. Thus, my advice is to get it out of the way as quickly as possible. Don’t let it run until your final semester because it can make for some serious headaches.

ï Take lots of credits. There are plenty of benefits to taking 14 or more credits each semester; most importantly, the price per credit decreases with a heavy course load. If you want to graduate in four years, I highly recommend taking 14 or more credits each semester. You only need to have 13 credits at the University to qualify as a full-time student, and it is always nice to only go to one class a day or to have no school on Fridays. Unfortunately, all of that slacking catches up with you when you’re a sixth year senior and writing an advice column for incoming freshmen.

I hope this has been helpful and wish the best of luck to all new students at the University.

Chris Schafer’s column appears alternate Wednesdays. He welcomes columns at [email protected]