If you’re an incoming freshman descending on a small college or university in a few short months, there are a few things you’ll need to take with you to get through your first year smoothly: cute bedding for your dorm room, plenty of notebooks for classes, a sturdy pair of heels, and the following ten commandments.
1. Thou shalt hold thy tongue
Watch what you say. At a small school everyone talks, so even if you say something to one person it has the possibility of spreading like wildfire because someone can overhear it, leaving room for the potential of you looking like the bad guy. So no matter how drunk you get just be mindful that something that may have seemed harmless at the time could come back and haunt you. Even though small schools have a tendency to be gossip tornado zones where your most embarrassing moments and blunt comments can spread within a few minutes, it’s fairly easy to earn forgiveness. Just always be alert.
2. Thou shalt participate in some sort of activity
Now I know every school brochure and orientation event will mark this slogan into your young mind but this is something that is actually very helpful, especially when it comes to making the transition into a small school. No matter what organization you decide to pick, joining is an instant way to meet people. So whether you want to volunteer, rush a sorority, join a sports team, or even apply to be an Orientation Leader, I say do it! Even if you aren’t a freshman, sometimes it’s hard to branch out of the group of friends you made your first year. Joining a cause or group really prevents being attached to one social group and ensures never being bored sitting in your dorm room. Plus, being involved on campus looks great on your resume!
3. Thou shalt be prevented from staying out past dawn
Now this can vary from school to school but usually small schools don’t have ragers that last until five in the morning. Usually the local authorities ensure that the parties don’t go past midnight. This may seem like an exaggeration, but I have experienced arriving at a party no later than 11:30 and it being shut down. Always be prepared for an early night.
That being said, sometimes parties do last late, at best 2:30 or 3 in the morning. Also, don’t be alarmed if you feel as if you’ve been to the same party two nights in a row. Tends to happen a lot. However, you will start recognizing the same people and form a bond through it, as the drinkers on campus tend to become acquainted and soon unite together to support the cause. The party scene may not be as diverse as it would be at a State school but the sense of familiarity is something I appreciate, because it’s nice to go to a party where you pretty much know everyone.
4. Thou shalt live in thy library
I will say that it’s always popping in the library, especially during exams. So if you were ever wondering where the entire school population is, that would be the first place to check. The library is a social watering hole filled with classmates eager to ace their exams so they can keep their scholarships. I highly suggest befriending the library, as this helps with earning and maintaining a phenomenal GPA and buys some extra bonding time with your studious companions. Either way, there’s a heavy emphasis on the value of education when you go to a small school.
5. Thou shalt not hide from awkward encounters
Whether you get in a fight with a friend or hook up with someone at a party, I can guarantee you that you will have an awkward encounter. Make that five encounters in one day. So mentally prepare for running into someone you don’t want to see because it will happen. Even if you never see that person during your usual walking schedule, when something embarrassing occurs the night before you will see them no matter how unlikely it may seem. Always check your surroundings and keep your eyes open because if you’re unprepared the run in will hit you like a truck.
Focus solely on getting from one destination to another.
6. Thou shalt not be invisible in thy classroom
The number of students enrolled in classes can range from 10-200. The intro classes are the biggest, but as students declare majors the class sizes drastically shrink. This can be a good thing. It becomes easier for students to develop close relationships with professors (very useful for recommendations), create bonds with fellow classmates (study groups, homework help, etc.), and it can help you to get as much out of the course as possible.
7. Thou shalt not feast like royalty
Upon your arrival on campus, you will be living in the honeymoon phase of freshman year. Everything is so new and fresh, including the dining halls. If you’re lucky enough to attend a university that has a fantastic dining hall with gourmet selections, the finest produce, and a diverse menu created weekly then you have nothing to worry about.
For all others, the food on campus can become repeated and at times inedible. Seeing that the food has already been purchased, you must brave through the storm and eat all that is on the plate.
8. Thou shalt remain on campus
At big State schools, students have to take buses to travel across campus and usually the nightlife is off campus at various bars and clubs. Typically at small schools there may be one night designated for the bar, but everything is pretty much in walking distance.
As a freshman, you will be required to live on campus with the rest of your class and will swiftly get into the hang of things. The nightlife mainly occurs on campus, or is a walk off campus. This is why the local authorities have no trouble spotting the parties and shutting them down. Luckily, there is no need to pay for a cab to get to a party. Everything is a lot smaller and it’s comforting to have a sense of togetherness when you are starting college. There is also a smidge of pride when you see everyone walking to and from class and trudging to the dorms. After a long day of classes it’s a relief to take a quick walk to your room and pass out.
Familiarity and togetherness are unique traits that small schools have to offer.
9. Thy school may be anonymous to outsiders
Now I am sure whichever establishment you decide to invest in for your college degree is well known and established in the town of the campus’s location. But when you travel you will soon find that there is a large number of civilians who are unfamiliar with your school. If it’s not a big State school with a winning football or basketball team then you may experience this classic conversation beginning with these six words: “Where do you go to school?”
When asked this question, everything seems promising and you glow with pride after reciting the name of your brand new home. The person acquires a blank stare and after a few excruciating moments of silence a smile slowly creeps over their face, known as the pity smile. This bystander assumes that your school is some sort of community college in the middle of nowhere. Soon they ask the town it is located in, which you answer with less enthusiasm.
Just stand tall with your pride intact and use this moment as a story for the first mandatory hall meeting during orientation, and everyone will laugh and counter the moment with even more humiliating encounters.
10. Thou shalt respect the school personalized holy days
Every small campus has its own set of holidays, not including the days marked off on the official academic calendar. It’s almost guaranteed that your campus has some ridiculous event that no one outside of the school has ever heard of. The upperclassmen will not stop talking about this life changing event and when the tickets go on sale, they sell out just as fast as Ultra Early Bird passes.
It gets a little tricky to pinpoint exactly which event is your school’s “big thing.” Here are some clues: if the event was shut down early the previous year, if tickets sell out in a blink of an eye, and if you see multiple statuses in a row about purchasing or selling tickets then that’s when you know. This is it. Do not hesitate to get your hands on a ticket. When it’s your turn to experience the glorified holy day you may be sadly disappointed because the event may not live up to it’s reputation. Either way, take the risk.