Welcome! Somehow, by the glory of God or the glory of the universe, you’ve made it baby! You’ve made it! Now to make sure you don’t become a Northwestern flop and instead become a Northwestern success, I’ve got 15 tips and tricks to kill it at Northwestern. If you take this advice wholeheartedly, you will cruise through your freshman year.
1. Don’t BS the housing process.
Do your research! I mean seriously...do your research on dorm options or you will regret it. Personally, when the housing contract came my way the summer before freshman year, I put “no preferences.” Take my advice and please don’t do that. No residential hall or residential college is exactly alike. There are dorms that are social and dorms that aren’t. There are dorms that are suites and dorms that are all doubles. There’s health hazard dorms and spanking new dorms. There’s north campus dorms and south campus dorms. Do your research on each dorm and find the one that best fits YOU! No one dorm is perfect, but you can figure out which dorm best suits you.
2. Get ready for your first taste of college FOMO...BEFORE college even begins.
Get ready for FOMO kids. Get ready for SEVERE FOMO. Northwestern’s freshman orientation doesn’t start until mid-September and if you don’t know this now, you will quickly learn that that's extremely late. I mean really late. All of your friends will be packing up their lives for college during the middle to end of August and you will have to sit somberly alone for about a month, scrolling through your friends’ college photo albums on Facebook, hearing crazy party stories from your amigos and amigas. Basically, you will be singing Bobby Vinton’s “Mr. Lonely” for a good three weeks.
3. Inhale as much of Wildcat Welcome as you possibly can.
A large part of earning your Wildcat badge is making it through Wildcat Welcome week, which is somehow both heaven and hell on Earth. Aside from move-in day, Wildcat Welcome is go, go, go, and barely any stop and rest. Your alarm will be set for 8 a.m. for the entirety of that week and your head will hit the pillow by midnight the earliest. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s going to be rough and I guarantee you will hear “I’m so tired,” or my favorite, “I’ve never wanted to sleep more than I do now” probably a 100 times throughout that week. BUT Wildcat Welcome week is magical! I made some of my college friends through those awkward orientation mixers, so don’t pass up on any of the events, optional or not.
4. BEWARE of location and workload when choosing your classes.
I’m going to tell you guys a little secret. A cautionary tale so to speak, but before I begin, I want you to picture a freshman. A stupid one. That’s me. For some reason, I decided that it was a smart idea to take both an English class (a Shakespeare class at that) and a Gender Studies class in the same quarter. If I could insert the emoji of the girl slapping her forehead in stupidity, I really would have. But for some reason, I thought that taking an English course where we read one Shakespeare play a week and a Intro to Sexuality class, which assigned 50 pages per class, was a smart idea. My PA even warned me against it, but my naive brain thought “it won’t be that bad!” It was THAT bad! I had a mental breakdown two days into the quarter, wound up swapping Intro to Shakespeare for Biology of Plants and I’d never been happier in my life. So the moral of the story: if a PA tells you that a certain course load isn’t a good idea, they’re not lying to you! Also, beware of location! Before setting your schedule in stone, check the time allotted and distance between classes right after one another. Because unfortunately, you can't teleport.
5. If you’re even considering dropping a class, just do it!
Going off the last tip, don’t be afraid to drop a class. I can’t even count of my fingers how many times upperclassmen told me this in my first week here and for awhile I thought “OK! I GET IT! ENOUGH!” It’s true though, and a crucial thing to know before going into college. Dropping a class is so taboo and sounds terrible, but in all actuality, it happens more than you think. It’s pretty much guaranteed that you and everyone you know will drop AT LEAST one class throughout your college career and that’s OK. If a class is causing you more mental harm than anything else, it’s not worth it.
6. Embrace the quarter system in a hug of gratitude.
You know how I said Wildcat Welcome is heaven and hell on Earth? Well, the quarter system is simply heaven. Blissful heaven at that. Let me break it down for you. Colleges either go by a semester system (which is the majority), meaning a school year is divided in two halves, or the quarter system, which divides the academic year into three quarters. With Northwestern’s beautiful quarter system classes last a short and sweet 10 weeks, rather than the semester’s 15, allowing you to take significantly more classes than someone on the semester system. On top of that, you don’t have to fret about how dropping a class will screw up the rest of your college career. You get to revamp your schedule every 10 weeks. Simply put, the quarter system is pure gold. Pure freakin’ gold.
7. Take a few rando courses just for FUN.
With that last tip being said, don’t forget to add random classes to your schedule. The quarter system allows for less rigidity and more opportunity, so take that film class or that history of dance course. Don’t be shy! Take classes that are related to your major, but also take classes that intrigue you, whether or not they relate to your major. Because that’s truly the beauty of the quarter system.
8. Yes! You should, in fact, bring a bike!
Not bringing a bike to campus is one of my few regrets from freshman year (so far, at least). So, if you’re considering bringing your bike, your skateboard or your manual or powered scooter (if you’re considering bringing a scooter, really think about if you want to be THAT person), stop considering and just bring it! Your bike and/or your skateboard or scooter will without a doubt come in handy. Think about it, from one end of campus to the other is a 30 minute walk, but on a vehicle, that walking time could be cut in half.
9. Learn the Northwestern slang.
The Henry Crowne Pavilion, the campus’ main fitness center, is called Henry Crown. Blomquist Recreation Center, another gym on campus, is called Blom. Yeah...that’s it.
10. Norbucks is your best freakin' friend.
Just kidding! That wasn’t all the slang! Norbucks A.K.A the Starbucks lounge area in Norris University Center is gonna become your right hand man. There’s a Starbucks that’s open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. located inside. Norbucks plays some banging music and there’s beautiful seating for meetings, individual working, etc. Basically, Norbucks is the studying holy grail.
11. CVS is your second best friend.
I’m going to do an advertisement for CVS for a quick second, and I promise I’m not sponsored! Downtown Evanston’s CVS will without a doubt be your go-to. Whether you’re looking to pick up a pint of ice cream to drown your sorrows or some groceries on the cheap, CVS has got you covered. End CVS advertisement. But seriously, CVS will be your go-to, especially since the only other convenience/grocery store near Northwestern is Whole Foods. And let’s be real, with our miniscule means of living, Whole Foods is not always an option!
12. I’m sorry to break it to you but you will not have the time to go downtown.
Going into freshman year, freshies always have the romantic expectation that they’ll go to Chicago all the time, since Chicago’s a short 20 minute train ride away. But I’m going to shatter your hopes early. It won’t happen. It just won’t happen. With a packed class schedule, there’s no time during the week. The weekend gives a little hope, but with football games and the homework stacked on your desk, it always fails to happen! But I don’t know, maybe you’ll beat the odds and go to Chicago every weekend...I doubt it...
13. Download Safe Ride and Safewalk.
Safe Ride is a car service exclusive to Northwestern that operates from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. daily, so that you don’t have to walk back to your dorm in the pitch black. If you’re looking to hit up some parties off campus, download the app. If you’re leaving a late dinner with some friends and are quite far from your dorm, download the app. If you lost track of the time at your friend’s off-campus apartment and need to get back, download the app. Basically just download the app, because your safety is important. On top of that, Safewalk should be your phone essential. Safewalk allows you create an alert that will notify a family or friend of your choosing if you don’t get to your destination in an allotted amount time. This app comes in handy just to feel a little more safe and secure when I do have to walk back to my dorm at night.
14. Realize that Purple Pride Fridays aren’t much of a thing.
I know I’m going to shatter some hearts with this one, but sadly Purple Pride Fridays aren’t really a thing. I mean they’re a thing, but they’re not a THING. If I had to guess the percentage of people that actually wear purple or Northwestern gear on Friday, I would guess 10% of the student body...sorry.
15. Don’t let fear overwhelm you.
Fear is normal. Fear is natural. But don’t let your shyness or the fact that you would have to go to the event alone or WHATEVER stop you from being involved. Dip your toes in the water. Join clubs. Go to sporting events. Do whatever your heart tells you to, but “don’t let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.”
Well, that’s all of them! I hope you took away some useful Northwestern tips and tricks, and don’t ever forget that you were born to be a Wildcat!
Lead Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons