What to Expect Freshman Year

So it’s your first year of college, huh? You’ve come to the right place.

This time last year I was in the same boat as you. I knew what dorm I’d be living in, what my class schedule looked like, and who my roommate would be. (Hadn’t met her yet, but we’d talked quite a bit over Facebook.) We were both excited, but also a little nervous. We had hopes for the year, hopes for friendships and new experiences, but there were also a few things we were unsure of.

I knew quite a few people going into college; my roommate only knew me.  I don’t think either of us had any idea of the amazing relationships God had in store.

I wondered what classes would be like, who I would meet, and what community ACTUALLY looked like at Northwestern. Growing up in Orange City, I had formed for myself an idea of what life at NWC was like. But let me tell you, there’s a big difference between observing something and actually experiencing it.

If this fall will be your first semester on campus, get excited!

College very well may be one of the best experiences of your life. Remember that college is what you make of it. Choose to make the best of the opportunities you find. Invest in those around you. Spend time in God’s Word. And remember─it’s okay to be a little nervous. College is a big transition.

If you’re wondering what to expect at Northwestern, I’m here to help you out. I can’t say your experience will be the same as mine, or that we’ll see eye to eye on everything, but I can give you a little glimpse into my perspective.

Here are a few questions you might have, and the answers I’ve found this past year:

What’s it like to have a roommate?

Honestly─it depends on the roommate. Your room is no longer just your room─it’s also their room. You’re sharing a living space with this person, so put in the effort to make it work. Don’t ignore them. Take the time to get to know them. Understand that you might not share the same interests. Your roommate may come to be your best friend, or they might not─either is fine. When it comes to having a roommate, consider the characteristics you want in a roommate and emulate those yourself. Show respect and remember that in any relationship, communication is key. Talk early about expectations and what’s okay. Set boundaries and respect those boundaries.

Having a roommate can be one of the best experiences of your life. Don’t make assumptions early on, and keep an open mind to what the year might hold.

Check out my personal blog for more tips on Getting To Know Your College Roommate.

How much homework will I have?

Again, it all depends. It depends on your class load and your chosen major. It’s a safe bet to say that most nights will be filled with homework. Some days will be filled with homework. Even some weekends will be filled with homework. But know that not every week is the same. You might have two tests one week and work non-stop, or you might have a week where you’ve got a smaller-than-normal load. Don’t stress too much the first few weeks of school. I promise, sooner or later you’ll get into the swing of things and realize that everything’s going to be okay.

If you’re anything like me, your first day of classes will be very OVERWHELMING. In college, most professors hand out the semester’s syllabus on the first day of class. This means you’ll know when tests will be given and when homework will be due for the whole semester. Opposed to high school, you’ll have access to everything, and seeing it all laid out before you might be pretty intimidating. Take a deep breath and take things as they come. Look ahead so you know what’s coming, but don’t let the bulk of it all stress you out.

Can I study AND have a job?

Yes! Last year I worked at the library circulation desk, called for admissions, wrote for the Beacon, and was a student assistant. If you’re able to manage your time, you can very easily study and find time to work. Side note: You’re going to want the money.

What does a typical day of school look like?

Most classes are every other day. If you have a class on Monday, you’ll also have it on Wednesday and Friday. These classes are typically an hour long. If you have a class on Tuesday, you’ll also meet on Thursday. These classes are typically an hour and a half long.

In high school classes ran from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. In college, however, you might not have class until 11:50 a.m., or your whole day of classes might be done by 11:50. A typical day might have around two or three classes. If you’re doing the math, you’ll realize that you’re left with a lot of extra time. Chances are there’ll be semesters where you have hours between classes to go and do what you like. (Hate to break it to ya, but it’s probably going to be homework related.) You might go to the library to study, your dorm room to sleep, or the caf to eat. Or you might just go and hang out with friends. That’s the cool thing about living on campus─you’re living with friends 24/7.

You might go the the RSC (fitness center) to work out or play ping pong with friends, you might just hang out in your dorm room, or you might play volleyball outside on the campus green.

Chapel is required?

Chapel is held consistently on Tuesdays for one hour and on Fridays for 30 minutes. This past year the college went through some changes regarding the number of chapel credits required and the number of times it would be held throughout the week.

Yes, you’re required to get 28 Christian formation credits per semester, but that’s out of 62 possible credits from chapel alone. Throughout the semester you’ll find other opportunities and events that count towards those credits. So no, you don’t have to go to chapel every time it’s held. There will be times you might just want to study for a test instead. But when you are in chapel─listen to the speaker, don’t sleep. Sing the songs, don’t text your friends. Chapel is a place to come together as a campus community to lift our praises to the Lord. Please don’t disrespect it for those who want to worship.

This year we’ll also have a new Director of Christian Formation and a new Director of Worship. From what I hear of these guys, this is gonna be a pretty great year.

Where do I even start making friends?

Chances are, you’ve had many of the same friends since elementary school. And chances are, they’re not following you to college. Some of you will come to campus knowing absolutely no one. I’m here to tell you that Northwestern is full of some pretty great people, and there’s not a doubt in my mind that you'll find someone to connect with.

Be open to conversation. Be willing to put yourself out there and say hi to someone. The first thing I told one of my best friends was that I liked her hair. By the time orientation weekend was over, I knew I had made a lifelong friend. Go to different events and meet different people. Invest in the lives of those on your wing. Be present and be yourself. You don’t have to put up a front in college.

Okay, the big question. What is community at NWC really like?

Northwestern is one big, encouraging community─and that’s really cool, but beyond that there are smaller communities within NWC that together make up the heart and soul of the campus. I found community on my wing and in my group of friends. These are the people I spend the most time with. These are the ones who pray with me and for me, who eat meals with me. These are the ones who simply walk life with me. Others might find community on their sports team or in their academic department. Some might find community in their RUSH group or in the band. What’s special is that because each community is interconnected, you will feel at home in any of them. And you can be a part of any of them. Together they make up the campus community of Northwestern.

So there you have it, my friends! A little taste of what’s ahead this coming year. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get back onto campus. As cliche as it sounds, it’s the community─and the people within that community. I can’t wait for you to experience it yourself.