Going smarter on starting a new semester

If you’re like most high school students, you are asked to complete many tasks all at once when starting to pursue college education. You are asked to do well on college entrance examination tests while maintaining good grades with all of your school work. On top of that you are asked to research and satisfy additional college acceptance requirements. Once a college accepts the student, the student’s responsibilities only increase. The college life brings with it more challenges and responsibilities. College life is filled with finance, work (or career), and education decisions. This is no easy task.

As students start their first or new semester, they often lack essential information to help them get familiar with the challenge. Have you had the experience of not finding a classroom on time? How about parking far away from your class? These and other things happen on the first a few days of a new semester but are often avoidable. Read on to learn what you need to know before starting a new semester and how to prepare yourself.

Getting familiar with the campus

Let’s start with the school campus because this is where you will first arrive before starting your first class. Don’t forget to view the campus map to find what is important to you on campus. Schools now days have virtual maps on their websites. So use these tools familiarize yourself on how to move around on campus.

A part of a university campus map
A part of a university campus map on a printed paper

If you arrive on campus without any planning, you can find a map on a main entrance to the campus.

A college campus map at a Baltimore community college
A college campus map at a Baltimore community college

Campus parking

After you have arrived on campus, the next important piece of information you need to know about is campus parking, if you drive. How do you decide where you park? First of all, park at a free parking space. Schools have parking lots designated for students, campus staff, visitors, and others. As a student, you want to park at student parking designated area.

A campus parking facility
A campus parking facility

To indicate you indeed are a student (not a visitor), you may be required display your student parking permit (this is normally provided to students free of charge). Obviously, when a parking enforcing officer sees a parked car without a student parking permit, the car will get a parking citation. So keep your parking permit visible when you have your car park on campus. Also, avoid parking in a handicapped zone or else it will be towed at your expense.

The second part of parking area decision is to park your car at an area that is close to your class (or classes). If it is important and parking is a major concern on your campus, try changing parking spaces when you get time. In other words, assuming you are staying for the whole day, when you arrive you may find a parking spot that is very far but around lunch time you may find a closer spot.

Regardless of where you park, your school may be offering free shuttle bus service. Basically, you access the bus to go between the parking lot and your class building. Using the shuttle service can be a quick way to get around on campus.

Making sense of your class schedule

Make sure you arrive at your school before your classes start. You can expect some level of chaos on the first day because many other students are also new to the campus. Make sure you understand your schedule:

  • Know the first day of classes
  • Know what days are your classes (know how days are indicated: does a T mean Thursday or Tuesday?)
  • Know the start and end time of your classes
  • Know the location. Know the building name or letter, and the room number (or lecture hall).
A university campus building sign
A university campus building sign

Having yourself familiarized with your school schedule better prepares you to find classes on time. If time permits, call the general campus help desk or research online to inquire about any particular class you are not sure to find in advance. Remember most schools have virtual maps on their websites so you can take a peak at the mapping tool at any time before the start of the day of the classes.

Look for the building signs as you exit the parking lot. To help you find building quickly and efficiently, watch for large signage display as you walk. The display could be to your left or right of the sidewalk. When you reach a particular building, the building should have large sign outside indicating its assigned name (such as Computer Science Building, Math Building, etc.) or letter (Building A, Building B, etc.). Large signs on side of a side walk often guide you direct you to outside of buildings.

Useful resources and services

For your academic success the campus has number of resources. If you see you will need help with a particular class, know in advance how to get help. See if tutoring is available for that particular class. If tutoring is not available to help you outside of the class, you can seek help from your instructor during his/her office hours. To take advantage of this make sure you don’t have any classes during your instructor’s office hours times. You can also use the library and internet to get help.

As you spend more time at school, you will realize you will need more services beyond learning. For example, you may want a vending machine to get a snack or cold drink between class breaks. To serve this need, there are vending machines in most campus buildings. You may want to ask a student if you don’t see one. Also, don’t forget the cafeteria; it could have number of restaurants to provide you diverse flavor.

A school cafeteria
A school cafeteria

Providing access to computer and internet on campus is the new norm. You can find students with their laptops connecting to campus wireless network systems in many buildings. For those who don’t have laptops, they have the option to use computer labs to connect to the internet services. In addition to the computer labs, libraries and other public areas may have computer workstations. To access the wireless network or to use the campus computer, all a student need is a user ID and password. The IT departments (also called help desks) handle computer related issues.

Whether you are at school or away, you are likely to go to the campus or school website frequently to get the latest information. Form the campus home page, you can find quick links to student services and resources such as academic calendar, staff contact information, student email accounts, social networks, information on any alerts, and so on.

Remember to keep your login information safe to prevent any unauthorized access to your accounts. Beside knowing the basics of computer safety, you also need to know how to physically be safe on campus. A college campus is not free of crimes. Information on campus robberies, thefts, and other crimes is often shared (i.e., via email) with students. Know how to contact the campus police during an emergency.

Posted on 1/19/2008
by Raj Singh