As exciting as it may be, moving onto campus as an incoming freshman is undoubtedly a stressful experience. First-year students are invariably hit with an overwhelming wave of information and responsibilities from the moment they pull onto campus and begin to settle in. With that in mind, here are a few tips for managing stress, staying safe and making the most out of your freshman year.
How to . . . manage your workload.
Paul Mueller, a Resident Assistant at Grand Valley State University, recommends using a planner or calendar to keep track of upcoming assignments. “I like to color-code mine,” he said. “I know what I have to do in a certain time-frame.”
How to . . . make friends.
While you may be tempted to hole up in your dorm room if you’re feeling shy or overwhelmed, you will need to combat this inclination if you want to make new friends. Mueller recommends “leaving your door open as much as possible” and greeting people who walk past, as well as “sitting out in the common room watching TV” because a lot of students tend to congregate in that area.
According to Mueller, baking cookies will also inevitably attract new friends.
“People will flock like no other” at the prospect of free food, he said.“Everyone is in the same boat as you. No one really knows each other and everyone’s nervous.”
How to . . . handle a roommate dispute
“I like to clarify your roommate is not your best friend,” Mueller said. “They don’t have to be.”
If a dispute arises, you should first try to talk to your roommate and see if you can solve the problem between yo
urselves. If not, you should talk to your RA, who can facilitate a meeting to try to solve the problem.
How to . . . get back into your dorm room if you’ve been locked out.
While you may be tempted to contact your dorm’s front desk right away if you’ve been locked out of your room, this is usually not the best initial course of action.
“Wait for your roommate,” Mueller said. “If you go to the front desk and have to get a spare key, they charge you for it, or if you have to call the RA on duty at nighttime, we will charge you for it as well. The RA or the front desk is supposed to be a last resort.”
How to . . . keep your possessions safe.
Renee Freeman, chief of police at the GVSU Police Department, stresses that residential students should be locking up their items in their rooms and cars in order to prevent personal-property theft.
How to . . . register your bike with the GVPD.
“It’s really important (to register your bike) because we unfortunately have quite a few bicycles that are taken,” Freeman said. “So first we encourage that they register the bikes and also that they lock their bikes up. We’ve tried to make (registration) really easy. It’s all online right at the GVPD website, and then once they register, we can send them a registration sticker.
"We can track the bike so much more easily when we have all that data available to us.”
How to . . . stay safe on campus.
Freeman emphasizes the importance of having a plan in place in order to maintain one’s own personal safety. Such a plan could include using a buddy system or utilizing safety resources like the free RAVE Guardian app, which is compatible with any smartphone.
“(RAVE Guardian) allows for (students) to communicate with our security dispatch here at Grand Valley Police Department, so they can set up a virtual safe walk,” she said.
With the RAVE Guardian app, students can notify the GVPD they will be walking from one area of campus to another within a certain designated timeframe. That way, if GVPD does not hear back from them within that timeframe, they know to check on them to see if something is wrong.
“We also have an actual safe walk,” Freeman said. “So if someone’s not comfortable using the virtual safe walk, they can call GVPD and ask for someone to escort them from point A to point B. That’s a service call, so that can come right into our local dispatch here, our non-emergency dispatch, but any calls for police would go to 9-1-1.”
For any other questions or auxiliary services, including bicycle registration and lost-and-found, students can call the GVPD’s business line at (616) 331-3255.