Hi! I’m one of your many friendly Virginia Tech journalists. As you can see from the byline, I work in the Lifestyles column, one of many sections of the Collegiate Times — your campus newspaper. Throughout your time at Virginia Tech (and after, if you truly are a loyal Hokie), you’ll see our work online and in print every week. We work hard to bring you local news, athletics updates, music and film reviews, notify you on upcoming events and more. We think you’ll find it to be a pretty handy resource — I know that as a freshman, I did.
I’ll be starting my sophomore year at Tech, and am here to impart some wisdom and advice as well as soothe some fears (and maybe accidentally spark some that you didn’t know you had). You will quickly realize that despite college being such a big life change, it doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. Virginia Tech is a big school with infinite combinations of opportunities to create your dream college life. Here are some tips to help you get there.
There are three things that I would have done differently about my freshman year. One of them was getting close with my future roommate over text during the summer and coming in with expectations of us being best friends. This works out for a lot of people! However, compatibility can be different online than it is in person. I had two roommates my freshman year as a result of a housing change a month in, and had very different relationships with each — I had my ups and downs with both, but they helped me learn about me and how I get along with different types of people.
Keeping the peace with your roommate is vitally important as it helps you to feel comfortable and in your new home away from home. Offer to bring them back a milkshake if you’re at Deets and about to come home, or check if they need anything from the grocery store if you’re going to Kroger. Address your issues instead of letting them build up (something I definitely was guilty of at times), and be considerate of their life and feelings. It’s the little things that make all of the difference. Maybe you don’t like that they put trash in the recycling bin, but you can still bring them breakfast and bop along to their music during your evening homework time together. Learn how to share and to be generous.
This is the second area that I made some big mistakes in as a freshman. This can be pretty important for building character, but time wasted can still sting when the college years fly by. Here’s what I would change.
Just like with your roommate, don’t go in expecting people on your floor to be your best friends. Even having friends on a different floor in your same building is more than a lot of people do. You will probably find a great group on your floor, but there’s more out there than your residence hall. Find your soul-friends — those deep, unbreakable bonds you’ll keep up and reminisce about long after college. Another thing would be to expect conflict — college friendships can get very middle-school really fast. If you have a ‘friend’ that puts you in uncomfortable situations, it’s OK to reconsider that friendship.
My best friendships that I made my freshman year were slow burners. Most of them are people I’m in the Marching Virginians with, and it took me a couple of months (or a semester even) to realize that I could love these individuals for the rest of my life. Some of them I only see once or twice a month and we rarely hang out, but we‘ve been present for a hard moment or two for each other and know it will always be a safe place to go. Friendship comes in many forms and you don’t have to see each other every day. No matter what the Instagram posts and Snapchat stories tell you, there is zero need to find your Tech family right away. They’ll be there when it’s time.
Speaking of the Marching Virginians — clubs and organizations are the best way to meet people from across the university. Tech has over a thousand student organizations for you to check out on gobblerconnect.vt.edu while you wait for GobblerFest on September 2nd. You can join as many or as few as you want, but I would highly recommend at least going to GobblerFest and signing up for a couple of things. Try a meeting once or twice and if it’s not your cup of tea, that’s okay. College is about trying new things as much as it is education.
Personally, I overdid it on organizations my freshman year, and I realized that at the end of the year. I joined three clubs, two pre-professional organizations, three media publications, the Marching Virginians, and a sorority. Here’s the thing -– for most student organizations, you don’t have to be at absolutely everything and can be just as involved as you want to be. Because of this pick-and-choose flexibility for my schedule, I’m only dropping one club and keeping everything else, so I can be even more involved in the others next year. There’s no shame in quitting if you don’t love something, but don’t let people say you’re doing too much, either.
There is an organization at Tech for absolutely everyone. There are sports on the intramural, club, and collegiate level, pre-professional societies and fraternities for a variety of disciplines such as chemistry, law, and wildlife conservation, special-interest clubs ranging from chocolate milk to Pokémon to fungus, cultural and religious organizations, performance organizations like dance teams and a cappella and comedy, and media organizations such as a student radio station, the newspaper, a literary and arts magazine, and more. There are also a number of classes that offer a strong feeling of community, such as any of the many musical ensembles on campus.
If at the end of the day, being a member of something isn’t your cup of tea, Virginia Tech hosts a number of events on and off campus each year. Being involved can be as simple as participating in the Big Event or going to an art exhibit in Squires. There is a place for everyone on campus, but it’s up to you to get out there and find it.
You might have a really easy first semester, or you might not. Midterms and finals might be scary and hard, or you might not even have them. You’re going to be surrounded by people studying different things and taking different classes. My first year consisted of introductory courses to my two majors, literature, wildlife conservation, sociolinguistics, GIS systems and ecological ethics. My best friend’s first year included courses in chemistry, biology, psychology, concert band and so on. By virtue of electives (restricted or free) and Pathways credits, your schedule has potential to be unique from people even in your major.
Your freshman year can set you up for success or failure in successive years early on. It is up to you (and sometimes your academic counselor) what ‘success’ and ‘failure’ mean to you, so figuring that out early on can be helpful. Maybe you have a target GPA or other goals that make you academically satisfied. You don’t have to have a 4.0 to be happy or a good student.
Carve out time to work, and figure out how you best work. Newman Library might be your best friend, or you might find that you can only focus in your dorm. Maybe some light background noise and snacks craft the perfect environment, or maybe you need complete silence. Find your rhythm and use it regularly. Don’t procrastinate. Find someone in all of your classes that you’re comfortable asking for help. Use your office hours; coming up with a routine of asking for help will aid in eventual exam preparation. Engage with your professors, and usually the class will have a larger impact on your academic journey. A bad grade is not the end of the world, but a negative class experience can turn you off of a whole subject. You chose those classes or at least your major, so put in the effort to enjoy them or at least learn something from them.
FYE – VT slang for First-year Experience
FYE isn’t just a class you take in your major. Every freshman year is unique. There are things almost every Hokie does, of course, but you will do them as you, and that will make all the difference.
Make new friends. Try new things. Use all of your spring dining plan (it doesn’t roll over). There’s more to life than Turner and West End. Get off of campus often, even just to go to Kroger. Get out of Blacksburg and explore the NRV and beyond — the surrounding area is out there for students to explore. Pay attention to your professors and do your homework. Make mistakes and learn how to clean them up. Enjoy everything Blacksburg has to offer.
The last piece of advice that I have for you is to get excited and start jumping!