College

The Ultimate College Q&A for Freshman!

By far the biggest questions I ever get from readers are about college, whether they are about to start their freshman year (lucky you!) or are headed towards the finish line of senior year. I only had older brothers are siblings, and I so wish that I’d had an older girl who could answer everything for me…even the difficult or awkward questions…and that I knew I could trust to be honest with me!

So here it is. The TRULY honest, all-encompassing guide to all things college, with a list of all of the questions I receive from readers like you! These questions cover everything from general college Q&A, freshman year fears, Greek Life, debunking myths and confirming truths, what to wear…you name it, I’ve answered it below!

Sometimes, even if you do have an older friend or family member to look up to and seek advice from, you might feel like they’re not giving you the whole story, or you may not want to ask them everything. That’s why I wanted to answer the tougher questions, or the ones that might feel more awkward to ask. No topics were off-limits here!

If you still have questions you don’t see on this please, please don’t hesitate to comment below and I’ll add them in, OR you can email me at prepessentials@gmail.com!

*This is a longer post, so I’ve sorted it by category. Look for the header images to know what category you’re in, and feel free to skip over anything that might not apply to you!*

General Questions – Classes, Books & What (Not) to Bring:

1. What is the best place to get affordable textbooks, either to rent or buy?

Your campus book store is always a fine place to search, but you can save hundreds upon hundreds of dollars by renting as many textbooks as possible, and Amazon Textbook Rental was by far the best place to search! I also recommend waiting until after the first class to get your book. More than half the time, my professor would spend the first class telling us that we would never once open the book on the syllabus…and you’re out a lot of money!

2. I want to get to know my professors, but I feel like just showing up to office hours and introducing myself is awkward. Do you have any suggestions on how to get to know them better?

It can definitely be intimidating to show up to a professor’s office hours…but it is also something that every upperclassman says they wish they had done sooner in their college career. If you don’t feel comfortable wandering in for the sole purpose of saying hello, wait until the first assignment or project, and bring in a couple of questions to ask. They host office hours for a reason, and there were multiple times in college that I had an on-the-border grade that a professor bumped up because they had seen how much work I’d put in by coming in for extra help!

3. Do I need to bring some nice & formal dresses to school, or is that impractical?

This depends on your definition of “formal”…I can’t think of any situation or reason why you would need a gown or prom dress at college – leave those at home! However, occasionally you may be invited to a date party or formal with a Fraternity or other organization, and having 1-2 of those nicer dresses on hand can be useful. Or you can hold off and wait for one of those events to arrive, and have your parents mail it (or shop for a new one!)

4. Do I need one set of sheets, or two?

Definitely two! One could be dirty, in the laundry, etc. No matter the reason, two is absolutely a good idea. Especially because frankly your bed will be the location of many of your meals…trust me!

5. I’ve heard that you should bring a weekender bag in case you go on a weekend trip somewhere with friends. Do I really need this, and for what?!

Absolutely bring a weekend-size travel bag (you can shop a few of my favorites here, here and here…and a few more below!) College is filled with spontaneous weekend trips, whether it’s to go home for a weekend if you live nearby, to a friend’s nearby lake house or family home, a fraternity formal or sorority weekend getaway/retreat…you never know what may pop up, and I used mine constantly throughout school. *Bonus – you can fill the bag as extra storage when you aren’t using it!*

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6. What clothes are must-haves, and which are best left at home?
As a notorious over-packer, this is a tougher question for me. I’ve listed out my favorite preppy essentials for college, but these are definitely not all “must-haves”. It all depends on the weather and region your school is located in, but my general advice is that it’s typically best to bring a few of your lighter fall items, and leave your full-out winter clothes to grab later when you’re home on a break or have your parents send up. Leave the formal dresses, costumes, and expensive or sentimental jewelry at home.


7. Everyone says “don’t bring t-shirts” because you’ll receive so many during the first few weeks of school, especially if you join Greek Life. 
If you’re planning on joining Greek Life, you really and truly will receive more t-shirts than any human could ever possibly wear. If you’re at a school like Miami University or Indiana University, you won’t receive these until you go through recruitment in the spring, so with the exception of any “school spirit” clothes you buy yourself, you won’t get very many given to you. Bring 3-5 favorites, but there is absolutely no need to fill an entire drawer with them.

1. I know that some Greek Life parties are themed, and have been told that I should bring “costume-type outfits” for those. Do I really need to bring that, and how often do these parties actually happen?
Themed parties are a blast, and (depending on the school) fairly common, but it won’t be every single party.Usually themed parties are during official, planned socials between 2-4 Greek Chapters, and they can be literally anything. This means that there is no way to prepare for, or pack for them in advance. Leave them at home. You will have a blast heading to local Thrift Shops or Wal-Marts to craft up an outfit, or borrow from friends to pull something together. Extra costumes will just take up valuable storage space. Some of my favorite Pinterest boards for theme-party outfit ideas are here, here, here, and here!

2. Where can I find some cute and affordable shoes to wear out to Fraternities, bars and parties without fear of ruining them?

First things first – you will ruin so many shoes at parties, Frats, and bars (if that’s your scene). I couldn’t possibly count how many shoes I lost to the party-world in college, so you definitely don’t want to invest in expensive shoes that you’d be sad to let go of. My favorite places for affordable and cute shoes are definitely Target (they have this amazing pair of wedges that I replaced year after year), H&M, occasionally Nordstrom Rack, and Tobi.

3. I’ve heard rumors that Fraternities will turn girls away from parties if they aren’t “pretty enough” or aren’t in a “top tier” sorority…is this true, and is it something I should worry about?

This is a bit of a loaded question, and one with a lot of myth, so I’m going to answer it in two parts…I won’t pretend either that most myths aren’t born from some level of truth. I never once experienced, or heard of this happening to girls in my time at college. As far as I’ve ever known, fraternities don’t typically “turn away girls”. If there is an “open party” at a fraternity, the general consensus seems to be ‘the more the merrier’ when it comes to women attending. You have every right to be there as anyone else!

As far as being turned away from a party based on what sorority you’re in…this is again something I never experienced, because with open parties, fraternities tended to be fairly inclusive with women. The only time I recall a chapter being exclusive about attendance is when there is an official “social”, “pair” or “mixer” – every campus has a different word for it. These are parties financed with chapter funds, and for members of those organizations only. I will admit, there are some chapters that tend to only hang out with the same chapters over and over, and if there is a hierarchy, there may be some truth to the idea that “top tier” chapters stick together. This varies so much at every school, and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with “social rank”. It’s just the facts of society. Be proud of whatever organization you choose, and never let something like a rude guy (or girl) make you question or doubt yourself, your chapter, or your self-worth!

4. My college doesn’t have Greek Life Recruitment until second semester. What is the best way to make new friends in the meantime?

This was a huge fear, and frankly a huge problem, for me as I started freshman year. I was in the honors dorm, and worried that I wouldn’t find a lot of people I could relate to. There are hundreds of ways to make friends in college, and all the way through my final weeks of senior year I was befriending people who had nothing to do with my Greek affiliation or even Greek Life at all. Classes are a great way to start – something as simple as commiserating with the person next to you during a particularly boring lecture, or putting yourself out there by joining a fall Intramural league or low time-commitment club.

My biggest regret is not reaching out to more girls in my dorm. I was close with my roommate, and entered college with a sophomore boyfriend, so it was all too easy for me to ignore a lot of my dorm-mates, and I missed out on countless friendships. You will run into these girls in the bathroom, common rooms, and walking out to classes that start at the same time. Something as simple as, “What building are you walking to” or “Where are you from?”. No one else has friends yet, either!

5. I’m worried about balancing my classes, Greek life, and a social calendar…how do I manage everything at once, and what if I can’t make it to certain chapter events or parties?

Your sorority is there to work with you as a student, not against you…It shouldn’t be something that is interfering with your grades or stressing you out. Chapters depend on you to maintain your GPA and contribute to the chapter as a student, first and foremost. Balance and time management is definitely key, and takes practice, but if you find yourself struggling, you shouldn’t be afraid to sit out on a party or social event to catch up on homework or even a few hours of sleep.

Utilizing the older girls in your chapter can be a huge help, because there is a good chance someone else has the same major as you and has great tips, or even past notes! Most chapters also have study tables where you can spend time with sisters and hit the books…or just grab some girls and make a study date together! If you ever feel like your chapter seriously won’t allow you to put a big test or quiz first, you need to address that with your Pledge Educator or someone older that you can talk to, like your Big Sister.

6. I’m really worried that I won’t get into a sorority, or won’t get into one that I wanted. What do I do if that happens?

Everyone feels this way about recruitment, and it’s a perfectly normal fear to have. Frankly, it happens. Plenty of times. Every school is different in terms of your likelihood to get a bid, and it isn’t guaranteed everywhere. Some southern schools have a massive recruitment, and there simple aren’t enough spots. Up until recently, Miami University guaranteed a bid, but now that’s not the case. There is no way to predict what will happen, but my best advice is to be your true self. Active members will be able to tell if you’re being fake, and that’s not going to help you at all. As always, avoid the off-limit topics like fraternities, boys, parties/drinking, money, politics…and never talk about other chapters, whether it’s good or bad!

Full reality – you might get cut from all of your favorite houses. You might even get cut from most chapters towards the end. You might get cut from none of them! The secret? It is okay. This happened to plenty of my friends, and I even got cut from my initial top two choices…and it turned out that I later learned I never would have fit in there or with that pledge class, and I (along with my friends) ended up where we were best suited. No one is going to force you to initiate, but if you’ve waited this long and gone through recruitment, have an open mind and give it a try. Stick it out for a while and see if there is something you’re missing! (Let’s be real, a handful of short and scripted conversations can only give you so much of a realistic glimpse into what a chapter is really like!).

7. My school doesn’t have sorority houses…am I missing out on the big sorority experience of living with all of my sisters?

I had to answer this one because it was one of my biggest concerns when I chose Miami. Instead of houses, we had sorority suites in one big quad on campus, with a designated space for each chapter. The sophomores would live in one long corridor together in the dorms, and could use the chapter room downstairs for hanging out, studying, cooking, or meetings.  I had always dreamed of that stereotypical “mansion with columns” that you see in movies and shows…and then reality hit me! I could not have afforded to live in a sorority house all four years. The chapter dues at my school were tiny compared to schools in the South that have to support those big mansions…and I still got to spend a ton of time with my sisters! Not to mention…there were less rules, less cleaning, and less chores. Score!

6. The hook-up culture on campus makes me nervous, and it seems like it’s pretty out of control all across the country, according to the media. Is it really like it seems, and is that the only thing guys are interested in – or can you find guys who are interested in relationships, too?

This one is such a variable and loaded question…and it is so hard to answer, so cut me some slack here! I can’t attest to how this has been in recent years compared to when our parents walked across campus. I will say that I don’t feel like I was surprised at all by the ways that relationships between guys and girls unfolded on campus. Stop watching/believing movies…they’re so absurd and they’re meant to shock you and provide dramatic entertainment. I think everyone on campus has their own approach to this, and if a relationship is what you’re looking for, you can definitely find that. (I met Dalton in college, after all!) Stick to your personal values and stay true to yourself, never do something you’re uncomfortable with, and spend your time with people you trust! Some guys/girls hookup casually as often as they eat a meal, some people go all four years and never hookup with more than 1-2 people (if any). To each their own, and if you meet someone who tries to push you into a situation you don’t want, LEAVE.

7. HELP – What do I wear during recruitment?!<

This definitely varies depending on your campus, and if you have recruitment in the Fall or Spring. Luckily most recruitments have finally caught up with the times, and will have Pinterest Boards and guides with outfit suggestions. You will also have a Greek Guide who can answer all of your fashion questions and give you a good tip of what you need to wear…she is an active Sorority member too, so she knows what she’s talking about! (Here is an example of Miami’s Recruitment Pinterest Board!)

PS – If you’re still unsure about whether or not to Rush – READ THIS!

Roommate Questions – Who to Live With, How to Get Along, & What to Do if You Don’t Become Best Friends:

1. I decided to go with a random roommate through the school – what if we have nothing in common or don’t get along?

This is a big concern for people who have never met their roommate, and understandably so! The good news is, with Facebook and Instagram, you can luckily usually get a pretty good sense of what they will be like/what their interests are beforehand! This is also a great way to get in touch, introduce yourself, and start getting excited for the year! College is a learning experience for how to deal with people and personalities different than your own…and yes, there is a chance you really may not like them…at all. My best advice is to be as up-front and honest as possible – without being rude. If you are a light sleeper, let them know on day one! If one of you has an issue with certain activities in the room such as drinking, don’t be afraid to speak up or ask them about it. The space is 50% yours, 50% theirs, and everyone has equal rights to fairness and respect. Knowing where each other stands is the best way to avoid conflicts down the road.

2. I have little or no experience being around alcohol or people drinking…and I’m worried that my roommate or dorm friends might be really involved in that. How should I handle it?

Everyone has their own preference, and I won’t pretend for a second that drinking doesn’t exist in college…if it’s something you aren’t personally interested in, you will still be able to find people who aren’t either! There are so many other activities on campuses that don’t revolve around partying or bars, and the other people who attend those events tend to feel the same way you do, so don’t worry about finding people who choose not to partake! If you aren’t comfortable with your roommate drinking in the room, be honest and ask if they can find someone else’s room to do that. There’s no need to get them in trouble just because they have different interests, but there’s also no reason they should put you at risk if you’re honest. As long as you’re both fair, no one will get upset.

3. How do I know if a friend or roommate needs medical attention for alcohol abuse?

This wasn’t asked by a reader, but it’s too important to me not to mention. You would be amazed (or maybe you wouldn’t) at how many people genuinely have no idea what to do in this situation! No one wants to be the girl that gets her friend or roommate in trouble with school or the police, especially if your school has strict policies on this. I had my own experience with a friend who was in legitimate danger due to alcohol use, and we delayed getting her help for almost two hours because we didn’t want to get her in trouble…a very scary but true situation that I learned a lot from, and thankfully everyone was okay. If we hadn’t gotten her help, though, it could have had a much worse result. She ended up needed medical attention, and had a concussion on top of everything else…letting her “sleep it off” could have killed her. If a friend is unresponsive, vomiting, or displaying scary signs such as eyes rolling back in their head, you need to get an RA or get them to the nearest doctor or hospital. Yes – there is a chance they may get in trouble…but their life is more important. Thankfully, most campuses are adopting amnesty programs that are meant to keep everyone out of trouble, so if you or a friend seeks/needs medical attention, you will avoid being in trouble and simply get the help that is needed.

4. The Do’s and Don’ts of Sharing Clothes With Your Roommate:

If you’re lucky, you and your friends/roommates might be able and willing to share clothes, shoes and accessories. This was such a fun part of college for me because I never had sisters! After two years, I definitely learned my lesson about which friends will take care of my precious belongings, and how to take care of others’ as well. Never lend out something valuable, expensive or sentimental. No one will judge you for it, and it’s not worth the risk. If you borrow something, ask permission, and be sure to return it immediately after (no more than 24 hours!) Always double check their preference for caring for the item…some people are very particular about how something is washed. They might want you to wash before returning, or they might freak if you do that (I am the latter). Just ask before doing!

5. My roommate and I have completely different schedules. How do I handle getting ready while she is sleeping, or vice versa? I don’t want to be inconsiderate, but I also need to get ready efficiently for class!

If you have a super early morning class, try to be courteous and do the majority of your morning routine in the bathroom, or ask your roommate to do the same if she is an early riser. Sleep is sacred in college, and doing whatever you can to eliminate any unnecessary noise or disruptions for each other is definitely the right way to approach it. However, be sure to also be understanding that this is a shared space, and everyone will need to get ready at some point! This is where things like your own individual desk lamp, lighted makeup mirror, and a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones are key!

I really truly hope this guide was helpful, and again – if there are questions I missed, please feel free to email me at prepessentials@gmail.com or comment below and I will add them to this list as I see.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Maria C.
    August 23, 2017 at 4:09 pm

    I remember when I was in my first year in college and I was so scared of office hour (lol), but now I wish I should've done it sooner. These are great tips!
    -Maria
    She Blushes | The Right Way to use a Syllabus and Succeed in College

  • Reply
    Smith
    October 25, 2017 at 9:22 am

    I found it when I was looking for a different sort of information but I am very interested in the article, It is nice to read such kind of good posts I like your work keep it up!

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