What I Wish I Knew Before My First Year at Barnard

What I Wish I Knew Before My First Year at Barnard

The new school year is upon us! For many of you reading, you may be gearing up for your first year at Barnard. This transition is different for everyone, but remember that you are not alone in this process. In fact, all upperclass Barnard students have gone through the process before! Here are some things I wish I knew before coming to Barnard, as well as some things I learned during my first year:

You’re all in the same boat. One of the most reassuring things that I was told during my first week at Barnard is “You are supposed to be here.” While it’s natural to feel a little bit of imposter syndrome when you walk into a new environment, remember that all 600 first-year students are walking into a completely new and unfamiliar environment -- you’re not alone! Additionally, everyone in the Barnard community wants to help you -- whether it’s your professor, the orientation leaders, the deans, or upperclass students.

Your NSOP friends won’t be your only friends. As a matter of fact, most people I know found  their best friends outside of their orientation group. Two of my really good friends happened to be in my orientation group, but I met a lot of my other friends on my hall, or eventually through mutual friends (many not until the spring semester). There will be so many opportunities during your first year to make friends -- whether through clubs, classes, or just hanging out in the dorm! My advice is to give it some time: you’ll find your people.

It’s okay to take some time to adjust before you become very active on campus. I went to a high school where students were encouraged to do as much as possible, so when I got to Barnard and only joined three clubs, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. My parents assured me that three clubs are still three additional commitments on top of a full college courseload. Getting acclimated to campus doesn’t necessarily mean having a jam-packed Google calendar; getting acclimated can be as simple as walking around campus, getting your bearings, and talking to new people.

It is okay to take less than 15 credits your first semester. Both the Barnard first-year guide and your academic advisor will probably remind you that 15 credits is the target per semester (122 credits over 8 semesters averages to 15.25 each semester). If you find yourself taking 13 or 14 credits first semester, that is okay. A lot of people - regardless of their major - end up with some semesters where they take 16-18 credits -- everything will balance out!

Taking care of yourself is MOST important. I was never really the type of person who would pull an all-nighter in high school. In college, I’m even more committed to taking care of myself as best as I possibly can. This includes: going to the gym regularly (at least three times a week), eating fruits and vegetables every day (the powdered OJ they serve in Hewitt does not count), getting at least six hours of sleep every night (SIX!), taking study breaks often (sometimes too often), and managing my time well (and consequently, managing my stress). Getting a 4.0 GPA is not worth it if it means overworking yourself and putting your mental and/or physical health at risk.

It’s okay not to have a job the second you step onto campus. Waiting until second semester to find a job is definitely alright! Since my job as a Barnard Student Admissions Representative had a start date of second semester (I applied at the end of first semester), I didn’t have a work-study job first semester and it was fine. If you are looking for some extra cash but aren’t looking to get a Barnard College Job/Federal Work Study first semester, you can become a Barnard Babysitter or Bartender after you finish the certification process.

Having alone time is good. Like, really good. I love my alone time (hence why I’m living in a single next year). As much as I like getting dinner with my friends, there are definitely some days I just want to sit in bed with Chipotle and watch Parks and Rec. That’s okay. Eating meals alone in public is okay, too. Even though you may have felt strange sitting in the cafeteria by yourself in high school, it’s really not strange to sit by yourself and read a book while you’re eating your salad in Ferris.

Ferris = good, Diana = best. For most of first semester, I really dragged my feet whenever someone suggested going to Ferris for dinner. It’s pretty small and around peak hours, VERY crowded. However, if you go there off-hours, they have the best salad and pasta options (plus buttermilk biscuits I’m glad I didn’t discover until second semester). But, I must say that Diana is probably my favorite place to go for one very simple reason: smoothies. Yes, they have sushi and pizza and french fries. But their smoothies. And you can use swipes for them! My personal favorite: coconut milk + blueberries + strawberries + pineapple. Thank me later.

- Cassandra Clifford '21 

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