Ask the Alumni: Advice for Incoming Freshmen from the Older and Wiser
Starting college and living in residence halls for the first time can be a huge adjustment,
so we asked some of our alumni for advice for incoming freshmen on making the transition.
Here's what they have to say.
1. Was there anything you brought with you to the residence hall that you didn't end
up needing and wished you'd left at home?
"Yes, about three-quarters of my clothes. It's almost miraculous that drawers and
hangers fit in those tiny spaces, much less clothes as well. Not to be hyperbolic
or anything, but if you bring more than will fit inside a single, small suitcase,
you will be buried in stuff and your roommate will hate you." - Calah Alexander, BA
2. Was there stuff you hadn't brought but did need?
"It's easy to forget those small items you don't realize you'll need until you have
your own place. The following come to mind: an iron, an ironing board and a massive
box of detergent, or, if you prefer, a bottle of 'Wrinkle Be Gone' and one of Febreeze
if that's more your style." - Christopher Friedl, BA '03
"I didn't think about cleaning supplies ahead of time. Living in a dorm doesn't require
a lot of cleaning supplies, but a bottle of Clorox wipes often comes in handy." -
Kelsey Clary, BS '14
"No. It's like going on vacation -- you need tickets, ID and credit cards. Forgot
your shampoo? Buy it when you need it, rather than packing it all up before you get
there." - Kevin Heller, BA '02
3. Was there anything about residence hall/college life that you weren't quite prepared
for or that was a surprise?
"There is a certain dearth of privacy about dorm life that is different and more difficult
than home life, since you're sharing all your space, all the time, with strangers.
Once you get to know each other, it's more like being at home." - Calah Alexander,
"The time shift. I was somewhat surprised by everyone staying up and waking up at
odd hours. While I didn't anticipate having friends pop their heads in at 1:00 a.m.
just wondering what I was up to, I've got to say I enjoyed it." - Christopher Friedl,
"The important thing is to get to know your classmates and RAs so you'll have people
to turn to if you have a problem. RAs are particularly good to talk to since they're
specifically trained to put residents in contact with whatever campus resource can
best help in any particular situation." - Kelsey Clary, BS '14
4. What do you think was the biggest challenge of the transition?
"Striking out on my own -- going alone to a play or TGIT, eating alone, wandering
campus alone -- was really intimidating for me. It took me almost two months to start
venturing forth, but when I did I made friends immediately, friends I still have today."
- Calah Alexander, BA '07
5. What was your favorite thing about this new chapter of your life?
"Discussing the nature of reality, truth and morality until the wee hours of the morning."
- Kevin Heller, BA '02
"Everything was new and exciting. New fascinating people, new experiences, new ideas,
new possibilities. However, out of everything I think I appreciated most the caliber
of the people I met and grew to call friends." - Christopher Friedl, BA '03
"Getting to figure out who I was, what kind of friends I wanted, what kind of extracurricular
activities I was into, even what kind of coffee I liked. College was less a new chapter
and more a whole new blank book, and I got to fill it up on my own. Sometimes I wanted
to go back and tear pages out, but I wouldn't change anything about it now for the
world." - Calah Alexander, BA '07
6. Do you have any roommate advice?
"My potluck roommate from freshman year is my best friend to this day. Our roommate
problems were minor, but we learned that it's important to address any issue immediately
and openly. If something your roommate does or doesn't do bothers you, bring it up
privately and honestly right away, so you can reach a compromise." - Kelsey Clary,
"You may think that you're going to get a ton of work done in your room, but you won't,
because there will be so many interruptions from people swinging by. Actually, this
is good training for your work life after college -- get used to constant interruptions."
- Kevin Heller, BA '02
"Be honest, and be respectful. If you're not jiving and you want to switch, don't
skirt around the issue. It's really hard living with constant tension, even if it's
just low-level. And chances are he or she will feel the same way. Do realize, however,
that no matter who you room with, there will always be disagreements and irritations.
You have to be willing to let things go and change your ways, or you'll be miserable.
This is good practice for marriage, incidentally." - Calah Alexander, BA '07
7. Any other words of wisdom?
"Four years is a deceptively short amount of time." - Kelsey Clary, BS '14
"Don't ignore the Core! UD has the most awesome curriculum in the world. This isn't
high school. High school was like learning how to read music and play scales. UD will
teach you to play Brahm's Second Concerto. This is your ticket to being a fully integrated
human being, a truly free person in the best sense of the word." - Calah Alexander,