So you’re a freshman, coming into college for the first time. Everyone keeps slinging advice your way — things like “Study hard!” and “Don’t do drugs.” If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably already realized that that particular advice is all but useless and have started blocking it out. However, you might be interested in knowing what to expect from your time here, in general terms.
First off, if you’re trans, you may be expecting to get misgendered and deadnamed a whole lot. If so, I have good news and bad news. The good news is you’re right. Congratulations. The bad news is also that you’re right. In classes, usually you can ask to be called by your prefered name and usually that request goes through, though sometimes you won’t have the energy to deal with the inevitable questions that come with it. Pronouns get more dicey.
For the LGBT in general, there is a group called FUSE on campus. They meet at 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. They’re helpful and fun for about a year, and then you get bored and stop showing up.
For everyone, I recommend picking up All College Choir if you can. It’s technically a class, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but it’s free and open to everyone. The teacher is amazing and the class is a great way to wind down and relax for a minute in the mayhem of the quarter system.
Speaking of the quarter system, terms go by really fast here. You have 10 weeks to learn a full class’s worth of information and then prove it in the final exams. With a full set of classes and multiple midterms per class, you can expect that some terms will have at least one midterm exam per week from Week 3 to Week 9. It’s brutal, but you get used to it and the midterm-fest does die down a bit in years two and three.
Moving onward into actual academia, it will probably seem like a lot of people expect you to know what you want to do, both academically and professionally. Some people will ask directly what you want to do when you get out of college. You don’t have to make anything up. You can just say you don’t know because that’s four or five years away and a lot can and will change.
Your major is not binding. I started as a general engineering major here, hopped into mechanical engineering as a default during my freshman year, switched to electrical engineering at the beginning of my pre-junior year, and now I’m switching again to computer engineering. It’s no big deal. Seriously, don’t worry about it.
There’s a pretty good chance that you’ll fail a class or two at some point. Most people do. Maybe you got depressed or anxious, got a cute significant other, lost a cute significant other, started playing Warframe or all of the above. It’s not the end of the world; you just take the class again next time and learn from your mistakes. You might worry that the teacher will think less of you the second time. Relax — the teacher probably won’t even remember you.
You have probably been promised incredible opportunities to learn about practical application of your studies through the co-op system. Diving into your first co-op, you might feel wildly unqualified because you are, in fact, wildly unqualified. That’s okay. No one expects a freshman to have a master’s degree in thermodynamics. You’ll learn how to do the job on the job. You probably won’t learn a lot about whatever you’re studying, but you will learn a lot about life skills like filing taxes, getting to and from a full-time job on time every day for six months, and balancing work with fun, food, hygiene and sleep.
Finally, bear in mind that it’ll all be okay. Drexel has been the site of my highest highs and lowest lows so far, but ultimately there’s a way through any problem and no matter what happens, you can come out the other side okay.
Seriously though: do your homework and don’t start smoking.