Tips for Incoming Freshmen from an ISU Graduate

Hello there future (and current) Cyclones!

With my time here at Iowa State coming to an end, I can’t help but want to impart some wisdom onto those new to (or are actually at) Iowa State. So, here are somethings that I wish I knew my freshman year, tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way, and general advice from personal experience.

Learn the bus routes

I still to this day only know the Orange 23 route (the free bus that takes you around central campus and out to the commuter lot) well enough to completely trust it but I am getting the hang of the Red 1A route (the bus that goes out to West Ames). The Orange 23 was my lifeline freshman year on those cold and rainy days. After I moved off-campus, I never took the time to learn any of the bus routes. I just drove my car and walked. I mostly wanted to stay active but boy did those cold and rainy days make me regret that decision. My best piece of advice, download the MyState app. The bus routes are in the app and the departure times for each stop are on there as well! Truly a life saver.

Join a club

There are soooooooo many to choose from that there is no way you won’t find something you are passionate about or interested in. They do wonders for a resume through leadership experience and involvement. They also offer up opportunities to grow as a person and professional as well as experience things you wouldn’t get to otherwise. I’ve met professionals in industry (which have led to internships), gotten to really know professors (which has helped me get into grad school), and made life-long friends (hello study buddies!). Being involved in the clubs I’m in truly shaped my Iowa State experience. If there is one thing and one thing only you take away from this whole post, it is this: JOIN A CLUB!!!! And don’t just join, get involved!

Have no idea where you classroom is? Look up the building floor plans

The true hero of my time here at Iowa State. I don’t want to be wandering around a building lost nor do I usually have the time to do so. Simply Google the name of the hall along with floor plans (Ex: Carver Hall Floor Plans) and they will pop right up. Figure out which floor it’s on (really easy to do) and there you have it!

Meal Plans are a Guessing Game

Since they have changed the way meal plans are handled from what I had freshman year, I can’t tell you which option is for you. But, I can give you some advice. Number 1, yes you need dining dollars. You may think you will only eat at the dining centers and through meal bundles, but think again. You might want to grab a quick snack on campus or need a meal on the go. Instead of using your own cash (or having to carry any) just use your dining dollars. Not to mention, the more dining dollars you buy, the bigger your discount is (this website explains it better!). Number 2, I can almost guarantee that you will use less than what you think  you will need. You won’t be able to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every single day. There’s trips home (or somewhere else, class schedules, exams, and more that can play into not being able to use a meal swipe. Stock up on meal bundles (go crazy with pizza, fries, and chicken strips…no shame!), treat your study group to coffee (use up those dining dollars!), do what ever to get the most out of your plan!

Dine around

I lived in Willow freshman year so Seasons was my go to. I grew tired of Seasons pretty quickly (I’m a foodie so redundancy in cuisine doesn’t sit well with me) so I hopped over to Convos (Conversations Dining Center) for a while before I then moved onto the MU Food Court followed by UDCC (Union Drive Community Center) and a few odds and ends places. Moral of the story: don’t be afraid to branch out for dining options! There is a wide variety of dining options (even after the dining centers close) so give them all a try!

Speaking of Dining Centers…It is okay to eat alone

If there is one reoccurring worry that I hear year after year it is, “I don’t want to eat at the dining centers alone”. To start off, I rarely ate with anyone. Seven out of my 10 meals per week were just me, myself, and I. I honestly preferred it that way. I would bring my back pack with me, settle into a booth with my laptop, and eat while I worked on assignments (or let’s be honest, there was a lot of Netflix watching). It is a lot of work to sync schedules with friends to go get a meal together during the day and even in the evenings. Don’t worry about looking like a loner; lots of others go dine by themselves, too!

Avoid the dreaded “they look like a freshman” 

The second most reoccurring worry is “I don’t want to stick out and look like a real freshman”. First off, no shame what so ever for rocking your Destination Iowa State lanyard and walking around with a campus map. The free t-shirt you get at DIS was how I learned the fight song, and the people who wear those to games are low-key heroes. But back on topic, remember that MyState app I talked about earlier? There is also a campus map on there that you can use to navigate campus. Super helpful.

Learn the lingo

You’ve probably picked up a lot of slang already in this post. It’s a little confusing hearing conversations that include lingo such as CALS, Towers, Lago, and SUB. You can start deciphering conversations a little or feel like a tried and true Iowa Stater by using these guides here and here!

You’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it twice, and you’re going to hear it again: don’t procrastinate

Saying it is easy, following through is much harder, but don’t procrastinate. Get behind the 8 ball and get work done! It is so easy to put off writing that paper to go play a pickup game of basketball at Lied, but trust me, just get it done. A lot of things can pop up. Club meetings and tasks, other course work, and so much more can deter you from getting that paper done. Get it done now so you can go have some fun later.

Find a balance

Now I know I am going to contradict myself from what I said above, but make sure you have some fun along the way. Know when there is a time to go have fun and a time to get work done. College is supposed to be about new experiences, making memories, and growing as a person. So you have that paper due and it’s taking way longer to get done than you thought. Take a break and go play that game of basketball. Instead of staying in Friday night to study for the exam Monday, go to AfterDark with your friends. Find your balance between work and play and everything will be okay.

For the love of all things Iowa State, attend at least one athletic event

Whether it’s football in Jack Trice, a track meet at Lied, or basketball in Hilton, JUST GO! There is no experience like it. I’ve witnessed Hilton Magic (multiple times!) and even got to storm the field after our incredible homecoming win against TCU this year. Go! Have fun! Learn the cheers! Be part of the experience!

Utilize your resources

Iowa State has so much to offer its students. Struggling with a class? Attend Supplemental Instruction (SI) or get a tutor through the Academic Success Center. Need help processing things mentally? Utilize Student Counseling Services. Car need a jump? Call the Help Van. Feeling under the weather? Take a trip to the Student Health Center. There are so many services that Iowa State offers, and you can find out more about most of them in this past blog of mine!

Just enjoy yourself

College is liberating, stressful, exciting, hectic, fun, trying, eye-opening, and humbling. Enjoy every minute of it. Appreciate every event, emotion, and experience, because someday, you will be a graduating senior like myself looking back and wondering how four years managed to fly by so fast.

There is sooooo much more I would love to share with you but a blog post can only go on so long! So I’ll just leave you with this: Good luck future (and current) cyclones! Enjoy your adventure at Iowa State.

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