Advice for First-Years and Transfer Students

Compiled by The Nine Ways of Knowing Staff

Your first year in a new place can be hard… But, we’ve all been there. Here’s some advice to help you out, and to show that you’re not alone. Also, feel free to leave your own advice as comments.

Advice for First-Years

Don’t worry if you haven’t established a set group of friends from NSOP. NSOP was just the beginning, and now that you’ve started classes, you’ll be constantly surrounded by whole new sets of people to make friends with at Columbia and, if you’re out there, throughout the city. Also, don’t be afraid to hug Millie the Bear at Midnight Breakfast. It’s an experience that will change your life.

There will be times when the transition is hard, and that is completely okay. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You are not the first person to feel this way and you will not be the last. Talk to your parents, talk to a friend or go to the Furman Counseling Center. You don’t have to deal with it alone.

That being said, first semester can be a little lonely. If you came from a high school where you always had someone to hang out with, or you are close to your family, the transition to the independent life can be hard, and the load of work you get here doesn’t help, either. But it really just takes time to become close with people you meet here, and your Barnard family will slowly start to form on its own.

Be very careful about taking too many classes, or over-committing to extracurriculars. It’s good to stay busy, but you also need to safeguard that time you can use for yourself. Just relax and enjoy your new environment, whether alone or with new friends.

Be sociable in ways that you wouldn’t normally be. Even if you’re not an exceptionally sociable person, put yourself out there more than you would customarily, and you might get more out of it than you thought. I knew this one guy who went up to everyone during the first few weeks of school and introduced himself and struck up a conversation. A lot of people probably thought it was really awkward, but he knows so many people on campus now, and I think it really paid off. It may seem extreme or overeager at the time, but you get a lot back from it.

Get involved. Always say yes (unless it involves something illegal/potentially damaging). Know when to leave Butler. Don’t get addicted to caffeine, and if you do, cut it out of your life for a week. Leave campus, even if you’re by yourself and you don’t know where your going! You never know what you might find in Morningside Heights.

Although we would hate for you to leave, it does happen that sometimes you find yourself in a place that isn’t right for you. If transferring is something that you’re considering, take a look at our “Tips for Transferring” article.

Advice for Transfer Students
I know you want to get into the swing of things as quickly as possible, but don’t forget that this is a transition for you too. Don’t burn out because you over-involve yourself in everything under the sun in an attempt to make up for missing a year or two at Barnard. Remember that you have a community of transfers who share the same experiences as you. My first Barnard friends were other transfer students, which was a good way of connecting to the school’s student life. Even though you are not a first-year, knowing nothing or very little about life on campus can be a little daunting, and having someone by your side who is in the same situation as you is always great. Don’t forget, however, to broaden your social experiences—it can be comfortable to just stay within the transfer community, but try and take the risk, to get out there and meet new people.

Meet with your academic advisors early on, so that you know what classes you can transfer into your major and how much credit you can get for them. There might be special processes for certain classes—for example, studio-oriented performing arts classes don’t always transfer into Barnard for all the credit you originally took them for, so check to make sure you know what you’ve really earned towards your degree.

People are going to ask you until you graduate why you transferred from your old school, so have a default reason up your sleeve at all times.

Be prepared to be mistakenly called a “first-year” or “freshman,” and you might feel silly asking where certain rooms are when you’re looking for an information session about your senior thesis. Just go with the flow—there will be a day when you don’t identify yourself as “a transfer student,” but you might feel a little frustrated until then. Above all, keep calm and carry on!

The Nine Ways of Knowing staff members are of various classes and majors at Barnard and come from all across the country. Some have been here since their first year; some have transferred to Barnard from other schools. They all love Barnard, and are happy to share their wisdom with new and incoming classes!

Photo courtesy of the Dear Lonely Planet blog.

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