By Noa Bronicki
The first day of classes is fast approaching, yet the courses you signed up for may not be the first thing on your mind. Whether you are an upperclassman eagerly looking forward to reuniting with friends or a first-year student moving to the Hilltop for the first time, the initial few days back on campus can be a whirlwind. Now, however, it’s time to turn your attention back to academics.
Taking things one step at a time, the most important item is to show up to class. This includes not only the classes you are enrolled in, but also any classes for which you are waitlisted. If you are serious about the class, email the professor in advance, show up on the first day and you have a good chance of being added. Familiarize yourself with your schedule, the classroom numbers and remember that the first Wednesday of classes is actually a Wednesday schedule, and not a Monday like last year. If this is your first time on campus, it will be helpful to scope out your classes in advance. Even a senior might get turned around in the maze that we call the Intercultural Center (ICC) or forget that you need to use the side entrances of White Gravenor to reach the second floor classrooms.
Check your syllabi as soon as you get them, as some courses might have readings due the first day. Renting textbooks through Amazon can be a cheaper alternative to buying from the bookstore, although you need to plan in advance in order to get them processed through Georgetown’s package pickup center on time. If you’re indecisive, you may want to rent from Georegetown’s bookstore; you’ll have the option to return the textbooks for any class you drop during the add/drop period.
You will quickly find that most Georgetown University students use Google Calendar to stay organized. Even if you prefer a paper planner, you might find yourself receiving Gcal invites for lunch at Georgetown’s main dining hall — informally known as Leo’s — and weekend social gatherings. Whichever method you choose, I recommend setting alarms a few minutes before you actually need to leave for your classes. The scheduled reminders will spare you from both wasting time constantly glancing at the clock and the embarrassment of walking in late to a room full of staring students and slinking off to a seat at the perimeter. That corner seat may be more fatal than you think; even without assigned seating, routines established on the first day tend to stick, and you might find yourself craning your neck at the board to read your professor’s messy handwriting all semester.
To ensure you get a good spot, don’t be afraid to sit front and center. It will make a good first impression, and force you to stay awake and pay attention in class. Additionally, don’t hesitate to sit right next to someone. Not every seat will get filled, so if you surround yourself with empty chairs, you might remain alone. Instead, say hi to the student in the adjacent seat. Even if you don’t become life-long friends, you may at least end up with a study buddy for the semester.
Speaking of first impressions, it might be a cliche, but they do matter. Set your morning alarm early enough so you have time to get ready, and dress in a way that reflects your intentions. Dressing well may help you to feel more put together, and signal to your professors that you are a good student who is there to learn. Along the same vein, come to class prepared. In addition to the supplies you know you’ll need, bring an extra pen and folder, just in case you end up with one of those few professors that insists on having everything on paper.
As the week comes to an end, set yourself up for a strong semester. Write down the dates of important assignments and midterms from your syllabus. You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, but go to office hours. You don’t need to plan out a brilliant question to ask. Just introduce yourself to the professor and get to know them. Go to recitation even if it seems repetitive. Developing and maintaining relationships with your professors and teaching assistants (TAs) will go a long way and will help you succeed in the course and beyond.
If you’ll only take one piece of advice from this article, it’s this: don’t take the first week too seriously. It likely won’t go entirely according to plan, and while any mishap might feel extremely critical and life-altering in the moment, it will all be a blur by midterms.