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Student Life

October 3, 2017

21 Tips for making the most of your first year at UW

Hannah headshot

Check out the first in a series from student blogger Hannah, a UW junior studying Marketing and English who is also involved with the American Marketing Association and Her Campus UW. When not pitching, writing or editing UWSL blog posts, she’s probably making PowerPoint presentations for a case competition or ordering a vanilla latte on the Ave.


Hey there, Class of 2021! Congratulations on becoming the next generation of Huskies. You’ve written your admissions essays, finally got your acceptance letter, attended your A&O and celebrated the start of fall quarter with Freshman Convocation and Dawg Daze. However, despite that excitement, you might be feeling just a little bit of nerves or butterflies—totally normal. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. Everyone’s time at UW is different, but here are 21 tips and tricks to help you make the most of your first year at UW.

  1. Get to know your campus. No one wants to be “that freshman” wandering around with a map, so if you’re a little disoriented at first, just use the UW Campus Maps All the building names—and directions—are right at your fingertips (plus no one can tell you’re checking the route to Bagley, not the latest Insta stories). When not headed to class, take the time to explore UW using UW Scout: hunt for the best views, quietest study spots, or comfiest chairs. Check out the UW Farm, newly renovated Denny Hall, or the driving range by North Campus. Being comfortable and confident in your surroundings can go a long way towards feeling more comfortable and confident in college.
  2. Take advantage of your UPASS. One of the best things about being a Husky is our wonderful city—and the unlimited bus and light-rail rides we get to use to explore it. Whether you’ve been born and raised in Seattle or are from across the country (or from another country!) there’s so much to still discover and explore. Each neighborhood has its own unique atmosphere and hidden treasures, so go find them! Search your phone’s app store for One Bus Away and the Metro KC Trip Planner to help plan your trips and stay up to date on bus schedules.
  3. Speak up in class or quiz section. It’ll challenge you to engage more in the material and help you understand the concepts, which will be super helpful when you’re faced with your first midterm. It can be nervewracking to volunteer in front of the whole class or ask a clarifying question, but it can really set you apart to your professor or TA. If you’re feeling self-conscious, you can just raise your hand for answers you know are right to help boost your confidence and build up to speaking in class more often. Joining into discussions in classes like ENGL 111 are even easier—just share your thoughts! Whether participation is part of your grade or not, contributing can make a huge difference in your GPA.
  4. Form study groups. If you’re in a FIG, you already know a bunch of people taking some (or all) of your classes! If you’re not, strike up conversation with people around you in class and see if they’d be interested in studying together. Chances are, they will be.SMB_0928
  5. And sit in the front of the classroom to help you pay attention.
  6. Be yourself! Yes, this is the cheesiest advice ever, but it’s cliché for a reason: it’s true. Toning down your personality can actually make it harder to connect with people—so wear your favorite concert tee or mention you were a high school volleyball champ. You never know who might want to see a show or spike a few balls at the IMA with you.
  7. Build relationships with your professors. They’re here to help you learn, encourage you, and make sure you’re really understanding the class. If you’re in a 600-person lecture and talking to the prof is too intimidating, try getting to know your TA instead.
  8. Find a balance. There’s so much to do, but remember to take time for yourself. Try to get a good night’s sleep and schedule time for a little R&R, like taking a yoga class or picking up a novel you’ve been meaning to read. It’s okay to turn down an invite every now and then or skip an event.
  9. Use your unlimited Google Drive storage space! Not only will it help keep your hard drive from filling up, your files will be available anywhere, meaning you don’t need add your laptop to your overstuffed backpack just to print something at Ode. You’ll even be able to easily access them on your phone! If the worst happens and your computer crashes or battery needs to be replaced, you won’t lose any important files—or time. Just log in to your UW email account, then use the menu in the upper right hand corner to navigate to Google Drive. Learn more through UW IT Connect.
  10. Try to resolve conflict with your roommate instead of just “powering through it” and complaining to your friends in private. Roommate agreements exist for a reason, but if something pops up that’s been bugging you, speak up about it! Learning how to handle these kinds of situations now will help you deal with conflict later in life.
  11. Get to know your RA. They went through freshman year already so their perspective can be really valuable, and you should feel comfortable stopping by their room with questions or concerns! If you’re not living on campus, remember that your advisers and staff in the Commuter Commons are also great resources to turn to.
  12. Attend campus events. ASUW is constantly hosting events, UW’s 900+ student clubs and organizations bring in speakers and host other events weekly, and definitely keep an eye out for spring quarter’s TEDxUW conference for a serious dose of inspiration. If you live in the dorms, make sure you take advantage of all the events hosted by Housing & Food Services on campus, even if they’re not in your particular building. Try out movie nights in Alder Auditorium, DIY craft sessions for succulent terrariums or tassel banners, or cooking tutorials at Local Point.
  13. Cheer for the Huskies! While you have to buy Dawg Pack (or individual) tickets for Football and Men’s Basketball, you can attend ALL other sporting events for free, like Volleyball, Gymnastics, Tennis, Rowing, Soccer, Women’s Basketball… Going to a game, race, or meet together is a great way to hang out with people during the first few weeks of school or a fun escape from wind, rain, and studying come winter quarter.
  14. Ask for help. The Center for Learning and Undergraduate Enrichment (CLUE), your professors and TA’s, and the Odegaard Writing and Research Center exist to support you. For help more specific to your majors or classes, there’s also the Math Study Center, the Philosophy Writing Center…the list goes on and on. Do some research to make sure you’re aware of all the resources you have available.
  15. Have backup classes ready when you go to register and make sure you write down their SLNs beforehand in case you have to make a quick adjustment to your schedule. (SLNs, or “Student Line Numbers” are the 5 digit codes for each class on UW’s MyPlan or Time Schedule. Each lecture has a slightly different SLN, so be careful!)  Some classes are harder to get into than others, and having a plan B will save you so much stress if you don’t get into the lectures you want at 6 am on registration day.
  16. Take photos. Even if it’s just changing your Snapchat setting to save your story to camera roll automatically or taking a random pic of your friends at dinner, a picture is worth a thousand words.
  17. Write it down. Jot down memories and quotes in a blog, a journal, or even in the notes app on your phone. You’ll be grateful later that these moments are saved.
  18. Make healthy choices. It’s easy to default to grabbing Pagliacci’s or the alfredo pasta from Orin’s for dinner every night, but don’t forget to pick up a salad or smoothie every once in a while. Stop by the dorm gyms or IMA, or try jogging and biking on the beautiful Burke-Gilman trail. Make sure you’re drinking water, too! There are refilling stations for your water bottle all around campus.
  19. Don’t stress if you lose touch with some of your high school best friends. It’s totally normal. That said, try to make time for the relationships you want to hold on to, even if it’s just a quick “thinking of you!” text or sending a care package right before finals week. A little can go a long way.
  20. And don’t worry if you don’t find your college best friends right away either.
  21. Fail forward. This is a catchphrase at UW for a reason. No matter how well you prepare, how hard you try, or how carefully you follow the last 19 tips, you will most likely experience failure at some point here before you graduate. Don’t be afraid of mistakes! Learn from them, grow from them, and you will be better because of them. Learn strategies to move forward from failures in and out of the classroom, find helpful resources, and check out stories of others’ biggest face plants – including from some of UW’s most renowned faculty, staff and your fellow students – by visiting the UW Resilience Lab.

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Have a question, comment or an idea for a future blog? Email us at dawglife@uw.edu.