If you’re reading this, I’m going to assume you are a new student looking for some advice, so welcome to Winona State University! When you first arrive on campus you will be met by many smiling faces, willing to help your transition to college life go smoothly. These people will include orientation leaders, club members, advisors, professors, Resident Assistants and the rest of the housing staff.
Three of my college years were spent heavily involved in Housing and Residence Life, and two of those years I was a Resident Assistant in WSU’s female hall, Sheehan. From being one of the first people incoming freshmen interact with and getting to guide and observe them through orientation week and their freshman year, I have learned a few pieces of advice and can provide guidance. So, here are some behind-the-scenes tips from a former Resident Assistant to help incoming freshman survive all that is part of transitioning to college:
1) Keep a positive attitude during this transition time! It will make a difference. Trust me, I know it can be a scary and overwhelming time. I know it is probably hot in your residence hall. I know moving in can be exhausting. But think of what a privilege it is to get to go to a university and the exciting changes and experiences that are ahead!
2) Don’t go into college with the expectation that your roommate is going to be your best friend. Although, I had a great experience with my roommate from my freshman year, as an RA I observed situations that weren’t similar to my own. So, all I’m saying is not to get your hopes up and accept whatever relationship you have with your roommate. As long as you can openly communicate and live with one another, that is all you need. You WILL meet other people outside of your room so don’t feel like your roommate is your only chance at making a lifelong friendship.
3) Speaking of making friendships, don’t limit yourself to where you may find them. During orientation week and the first few weeks on campus, it feels like you’re constantly meeting new people. I recall meeting new people in the bathroom while brushing my teeth, in line at the caf for food, and other random places. I met one of my closest friends during the first day of orientation; we bonded over our mutual love for the band The Script. So, always keep an open mind and be ready to meet new people and friends around every corner!
4) When meeting new people, share information about yourself that will make them remember you. This tip piggybacks off of the last. During this time of meeting people, everyone is so quick to ask or share majors, hometowns and where they are living on campus. Amidst all of that basic information, stand out by sharing some more unique facts about yourself! For example, my best friend from freshman year and I bonded over our love for the book The Host by Stephenie Meyer. Who knows, maybe by sharing your favorite band or book or movie with someone you will spark a connection and make a friend for life.
5) Get involved in things right away! Whether it is a club or organization on or off campus, it is easier to get involved in something NOW when there are going to be other new people also joining rather than convincing yourself to go halfway through the year. For example, if you are interested in becoming an Resident Assistant or being involved in Housing and Residence Life, becoming a member of your hall’s Hall Council is a great place to start! In addition to getting involved in out-of-class activities, get involved IN your classes! By that I mean DO NOT SKIP (you’re paying good money for the classes you’re in so why would you skip?), participate in class by raising your hand and being attentive, and take advantage of your professor’s office hours.
6) Lastly, don’t forget that your Resident Assistant is a regular student just like you, who just wants to get to know and help you. They aren’t there to judge you and they don’t like getting people “in trouble.” So, when you see your Resident Assistant around your hall or around campus, be just as polite/nice to them as they are to you, ask them about their life and how they are doing. Trust me, it will mean a lot to them! During my two years as a Resident Assistant I had countless one-sided conversations, that at times, felt more like a tiring game of 20 questions.