Campus Practice Run | 7 Tips for Starting School

School starts tomorrow. A few months ago I was crazy excited. A few weeks ago I was just looking forward to it. A few days ago I was so-so. And today? I wouldn’t mind having another week or so of summer.

I did a dry run today to make sure I knew where all my classes were, how long it’d take me to get there, etc. It was a good thing, too because I learned a lot!

1. Bring an extra pair of clothes. 

It was absolutely pouring when I left the house this morning. We had a flash flood warning alert. So I wore boots, pants, a long sleeve shirt, and a rain coat. When I arrived on campus, the rain slowed to a mere drizzle and the humidity was high. The raincoat could be easily shed but that was it. I would have given anything to change into some cooler clothes, or at least change shoes. (Luckily, included in the free swag I received was a t-shirt!) Don’t forget about gym clothes. Commuter students don’t have the luxury of running to their dorm room for a quick change. Our cars become our new rooms.

2. Allow extra time.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t on a schedule for this dry run or I would have been toast. It took me half an hour of circling like a shark to finally find a parking spot – and I wasn’t alone! Then I had to wait in a 10 minute line for a parking permit. All the computers were occupied and my printing services weren’t working. When I got up to check the printer, the lab computer was snatched in seconds. Even with a map in hand, I got turned around enough times to make me start to believe I was directionally challenged. At one point I even pulled out my GPS and set it to walking just to make sure I was heading in the right direction. I walked a grand total of 5.3 miles around campus today. Do a practice run before or allow yourself plenty of time. Especially in the first couple of weeks. Purchasing a required parking permit does not guarantee you a spot. It guarantees you the right to look for a spot. Campus is busier than ever and open parking spots become prime real estate.

3. Talk to people and make friends.

Whenever I move or start somewhere new, I can’t imagine ever having friends as good as the ones I’m leaving behind. Sometimes it’s hard meeting new people and making new friends. The majority of my day was spent by myself and that wasn’t fun. I found myself wishing I had just one person to go through this with. Some rooms were overflowing with people and that’s when I felt the loneliest. It was one of those “don’t know anyone or where to sit/eat lunch in the bathroom stall (my car)” kind of days. But in reality, most people were in the same boat as I was. I bet everyone else who was just as shy was just as willing to make friends as I was. Included in some of my free swag was a voucher for a free plant from this Christian organization. When I went to redeem it, I met a very nice Christian lady who loves Mumford & Sons!! She was staff so I won’t be seeing her in classes but I’m sure there are many others out there like her.

4. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing.

I brought my backpack along to haul my stuff around but I saw few people with them so I debated whether or not to wear mine. I didn’t want to be the odd one wearing a book bag when we had no use for books yet. Shortly after a few trips to my car, I decided those reasons were stupid and grabbed my backpack. I felt so much better. My hands were free, I had everything I needed, and I felt like a college student again. My bookbag is kind of like my security blanket. I found myself throughout the day caring way to much about what people thought.

5. Find a go-to spot on campus. 

Since I live off campus, I don’t have a room to go back to between classes. I can’t really just sit in my car for hours at a time waiting for my next class to start (trust me, I got some weird looks). Thankfully, my campus has a commuters lounge. It comes equipped with a mini fridge, microwave, tea, coffee, lockers, and even couches for sleeping! It quickly became my safe house. After the orientations, expos, and fairs, it was a place where I could retreat to collect my thoughts and unwind.

6. Plan ahead.

Planning ahead saves you time and money. Pack a lunch. Between the free popcorn, cotton candy, light refreshments and Jimmy John’s samples, I think I got in a decent meal in the 10 hours I was on campus. But they won’t always have free food and I can’t make a habit of replacing a round meal with junk food. On days I have early mornings, I’m going to put a meal in the crock pot the night before on low so it’s ready to go when I wake up.

7. Take advantage of the “free” services on campus.
As we were reminded multiple times today, the “free” services on campus aren’t really free. You know that outrageous bill named fees on your financial account? Yeah, that’s where they get the money for all these things. My school is charging EACH student $600in fees alone per semester (which I’m pretty sure that’s mild for most universities). It’s non-negotiable so TAKE ADVANTAGE. Counseling services, club & organization participation, tutoring and writing help, checking out multimedia equipment, etc., are all provided through the fees we pay.

Starting a new school can be scary and intimidating. But that will pass. After a few weeks in, you’ll start to get the hang of things. By the end of the day, I had a pretty good idea of where things were on campus and wasn’t turned around (as much). You will meet people in your classes and find common ground (you are taking the same class after all). I believe getting involved on campus is one of the major keys to success.

Eating my popcorn lunch in exile territory.
Eating my popcorn lunch in solitary.
She told me to take a few plants!
She told me to take a few plants!
Never turn down free food. Especially if it's Jimmy John's.
How can I say no to free Jimmy John’s.
Transfer Orientation
Transfer Orientation
Staying organized.
Staying organized.
Free license plate swag.
Free license plate swag.
10 hours later, I am ready to go home.
10 hours later, I am ready to go home.


  1. I had the exact same revelation about the backpack! Commuting is an experience of its own. This entry made me feel so much solidarity, and I am so happy that you wrote it out in steps, I know I will need to refer to this, as it’s my second week of school and I still feel like I am not ready to be on campus again. Thanks, Natalie! – Alexandra


  2. I love your stories!
    -Perfect that had a dry shirt to put on, I bet you were ecstatic when you realized that.
    -“It guarantees you the right to look for a spot” <— this is funny but oh so sad.
    You are so social, you'll have lots of friends soon. Love hearing about your experience!


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