Required Reading
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Elisabeth McLaughlin / Columbia Daily Spectator

Phew. The chaotic days of NSOP have come to a close and it’s now time for classes to begin. You’ve got your copy of the Iliad in one hand and your class schedule in the other as you wander around campus in search of your classrooms. It may seem like just yesterday that you graduated from high school, but now it’s time for a new chapter of your life to begin. Here are some dos and don’ts of the first week of classes to get you started off on the right foot.

Do go to class(es)

This one might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s crucial that you go to all of your classes during the first week of school. The first two weeks of school are called the “shopping period,” which means that you can try out different classes and see how you like them. However, you do have to go to the first class to reserve your space in it. You’ll also get a feeling for the size and overall vibe of the class as well as the professor and content of the syllabus. That way, you still have time until the last Add/Drop day (which is September 13 this fall) to switch sections or change your classes. Going to class is the only way to find out if you will enjoy the teaching style of the professor or if the subject of the course is different from your expectations.

Don’t buy all of your textbooks in advance

Most professors will give you plenty of time to get the textbooks before assignments are due. The textbooks truly differ between different sections (even of the same class) so it’s smart to wait until you get the syllabus and know exactly which textbook and edition to get; there’s nothing worse than having a set of books you don’t need. Once the school year gets rolling, you’ll see hundreds of Facebook posts in groups like Columbia University Marketplace and Buy | Sell | Trade at Barnard (which you should join, if you haven’t already) from upperclassmen selling used textbooks at more affordable prices than at the Columbia University Bookstore. Plus, if you need a book in less than a week’s notice, you can usually find it in one of Columbia’s libraries or at Book Culture on 112th between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. For Columbia College students, the “Iliad” is ~truly~ the only thing you need right away and you get a free copy during NSOP!

Do shop around for classes

Have you been eyeing that Intro to Java or Principles of Economics class, just to see what they’re like? No matter how far outside your comfort zone a class may seem, don’t be afraid to give it a shot. During shopping period, which is the first 10 days of classes each semester, you are free to make changes to your schedule. This means that you can attend classes that you may not want to commit to for the first two weeks of the semester. If you’re debating on which section to take of a particular class, it’s best to try all the options, if possible. The world is your oyster, and college is about trying new things—so go ahead, take all of the classes that spark your interest! Just make sure to drop any courses that you don’t want to take as soon as you make that decision, both to give others a chance at getting off the waitlist, and to ensure you don’t end up with a class on your transcript that you didn’t actually want to take in the first place.

Don’t stay up late the night before

It’s inevitable that you will be anxious during the first week of classes—but don’t do anything that will risk amplifying those feelings. Sleep deprivation could do that, so make sure you go to bed at a reasonable time in order to wake up with enough time to get ready in the morning and head to class. Trust me, there are many long nights ahead in your college career, but you can maintain a healthy sleep cycle during the first week of classes, and you should. This way, you’ll also have plenty of energy to stay attentive in class, get excited about your new college schedule, and won’t risk missing the details of your first-ever homework assignment at Columbia!

Do retreat to your room when you need it

Settling into a new environment and socializing 24/7 can be daunting, especially if Columbia is different from where you grew up. It can take a while to acclimate to living in a big city like New York and meeting new people every hour can definitely be exhausting. While you may fear missing out on cool opportunities, don’t ever let that pressure take over your life. Self-care is very important—especially when navigating new places, new friends, and a whole new school—so be sure to take time for yourself to recharge if you ever need it.

Don’t always retreat to your room when you’re overwhelmed

From changes in your lifestyle to acclimating to the New York City environment, there is lots of adjusting during your first semester of college. While it’s important to take time for yourself, it’s also good to remind yourself that your peers are probably feeling the same way—many others are struggling to acclimate right alongside you. When you’re stressed, it can be easy to lock yourself up in your room with your favorite blanket and Netflix, but sometimes what you need most is a good chat with friends. So get out there, invite a few friends on an excursion around the city, and make the most of your first few weeks before assignments start piling up.

Do get help when you need it

You can feel lost during your initial weeks at Columbia and Barnard, especially when it comes to finding a support system. Remember to always reach out to adults and peers around you academically and mentally. Attending office hours can be a great way to get to know your professors and for them to get to know you. The Writing Center and your academic adviser are also good academic resources.

As for more personal and residential issues, let your resident adviser know if you have any concerns and don’t be hesitant to utilize mental health resources on- and off-campus. It can be intimidating, but you can always grab a friend to keep you company.

Don’t be afraid to try new things

As cliché as this advice sounds, college is your opportunity to try new things. Your first year is especially the perfect time since you won’t be overwhelmed with work. Step out of your comfort zone and try some clubs that piqued your interest at the activities fair. Check out club requirements and see if they accept people with little to no experience. Just be careful—club deadlines tend to approach quickly, so follow your class Facebook page closely and sign up for club emails so you don’t miss the deadlines to submit applications!

Do download PawPrint on your laptop

PawPrint is Columbia’s printing system. Columbia College students get a semesterly quota, and students at the School of Engineering and Applied Science Barnard receive a weekly one, both of which will allow you to print hundreds (or thousands) of pages. You might be wondering: How exactly does this work?

It’s easy! Just log into PawPrint with your UNI and upload your documents. This will allow you to go to any printer on campus and print. However, an even better idea is to download PawPrint onto your laptop. This way, you can print directly to PawPrint, saving you some extra time during your busy days. It’s not a bad idea to familiarize yourself with PawPrint before you have to start printing massive packets for classes like FroSci and UWriting.

Don’t expect everything to go perfectly

We all begin our first year with a ~picture-perfect~ idea of college. Sorry to break it to you, but it probably won’t go exactly as you planned. It’s likely you’ll gain the “Freshman 15” from the greasy goodness at JJ’s and sleep through an 8:40 class (at least once). If something goes wrong, try to not take it too seriously and laugh it off instead. The best you can do is try to learn from your mistakes. Class of 2023, you’re all in this together and you’re all going to do great.

Staff writer Ria Honda can be contacted at Follow Spectator on Twitter @ColumbiaSpec.

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