Fikayomi Olagbami | Staff Illustrator
Welcome to Pitt! You did it! You have arrived on campus, are most likely sitting in your dorm room and might now be asking yourself things like, “What’s next?” and “How am I gonna do this?” and “Class is tomorrow?!” Or you may have already thrown this guide in the trash. If so, no hard feelings. For those of you Panthers who are stressed out about what this semester will hold, I recommend two things — take a deep breath, and let’s focus on just the first week.
The first week of college can be hard, especially as a first-year. Being in a new city with new people is especially scary. Add the stress of classes, clubs and maintaining a social life on top of it and now you’re probably having major anxiety. This feeling is completely normal. In fact, most students reading this will experience this stress and anxiety at one point or another. But I’m here to help. Here are five things you can do to survive the first week of school.
1. Plan, Plan and Plan
One of the best things to do is plan. It sounds easy, but honestly it takes a lot of time, commitment and organization. My tip — buy a planner. A planner is a college essential for any student. Whether you need to write down assignments, plan out your day or just have a visual class schedule on paper, the planner is the perfect choice for you! I promise you that a planner will be one of the best college purchases you make.
If a planner is not your style, don’t fret! There are many other options for you to keep organized. You can choose to use to-do lists, a daily schedule, weekly schedule, or maybe even a monthly schedule. Or if you don’t like planning out your days or week, you can just simply write down important dates for the semester. You can always download some apps to your phone as well, such as Google Calendar, Notion and the Outlook Calendar, to keep yourself organized. You can find some more apps to help with your time management here.
2. Read the syllabus
I cannot stress this enough — you must read all of your syllabi. I know you’ve probably heard it before, but honestly, the syllabus is so important. A syllabus is essentially your guide for the whole semester for every one of your classes. Your syllabus should lay out the schedule for the class, different resources and any materials needed. My tip — once you get the syllabus, either read it on your computer or, if you like paper, print it out! Once you’re done reading, get whatever planning tool you’re using and take note of all of your assignments — and I mean all. You can go here to see the best way to plan out your semester.
Getting this done during the first week of school prepares you for tackling the rest of the semester, and gives you an idea of when your busiest weeks will be. Trust me, once midterms come around and you already know your schedule and assignment deadlines, you’ll be thanking me!
3. Get to know people
A lot of people say this, I know, but even though you’re getting a college education, don’t forget about your social life. On a college campus as big as Pitt’s, you’re bound to meet a lot of people. Whether they are on your dorm floor, your roommate, classmate or maybe someone you met at the dining hall, there are so many people that you will get a chance to meet.
For your floor, definitely either keep your door open to meet new people or maybe even just place some of your social media handles on your door. These new people may be sharing certain living spaces with you, especially bathrooms if you’re in Towers or Nordenberg. But if that’s not your thing, I understand.
For introverts like me, writing your social media handles down allows you to still meet your floormates but not in a scary extroverted way! Remember, not everyone you meet may end up being your lifelong friend, and that’s okay! Sooner rather than later, you’ll find your people, so don’t worry if it’s not during the first week of school!
4. Be prepared for the food
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, sometimes the dining hall food is not going to be the best. Instead of using your meal swipe, you may find yourself using a meal exchange — most likely everyday — at one of the many different Pitt Eats locations around campus.
If you’re in Sutherland or spend your days on upper campus, you’ll probably get used to using your meal exchange at Chick-fil-a. On lower campus, you will have a lot to choose from. I highly recommend The Roost in the Cathedral of Learning or Create in the William Pitt Union.
If you’re looking to use dining dollars, don’t be afraid to use them! Dining dollars can be rolled over from Fall to Spring semester, so don’t fret if you still have some left come winter break. Be
sure to get familiar with what places take dining dollars, both on and off campus, and you’ll be ready to go!
5. Find your way around campus
Be sure to use syllabus week to your advantage, and get to know the place you’ll be staying for the next few months. My first year, all I did was walk around campus, visiting different spots, finding my own unique spots and just seeing campus life. Who knows? You might even find a crying bench by the Cathedral lawn just like me! Or you might find your own hidden study spot around campus!
Walking around campus the first week of school not only helps you in the long run, but also gets you out and active! While you’re sightseeing around Oakland, you may decide to get some Pitt merch along the way. Trust me, you can never have enough Pitt merch, especially the half-price sweatpants from The Pitt Stop!
You also will learn the different Pitt slang that comes with walking around campus. You’ll learn that the Cathedral is nicknamed Cathy, Dunkin is always packed, and never, and I mean never, walk up Cardiac Hill unless you have to. If you don’t know what Cardiac Hill is, trust me, it’s for the best!
Now hopefully some of your stress and worry has subdued and you’re feeling ready to face the first week. If you’re still worried, I completely understand. I still remember how anxious I was as a first-year. Try to take a deep breath and relax. You got this! You’re gonna rock this fall semester, and through these pages I will be cheering you on! Good luck!