Your First Week To-Do List

Especially if you’re starting in a new city, getting your bearings is critical.

Josephine Werni, University of Minnesota Twin Cities


Aside from making friends, attending welcome week events and generally adjusting to one of the largest life changes that you’ve likely endured at this point, there are several other things that you should make sure you do your first week.

A month into the semester, when the waters of stress are just beginning to lap at your elbows, you’ll be glad you did these things when you had the time early on.

1. Remember What You Forgot

Transporting (most of) your junk from home to college for the first time is a uniquely cumbersome experience. There’s a chance that it’s the first time in your life that you’ve ever had to round up all of your personhood supplies and make them work in a new and “modestly sized” environment.

9 Things to Do in the First Week of College

Even if you are a seasoned veteran at moving your shit, the process is rarely a smooth one. You probably forgot to bring something, if not multiple somethings. This is why, the instant you’ve got an hour or two if downtime on move in day, I urge you to take a thorough inventory of your fresh environment.

It’s generally better to find out what you forgot sooner rather than later, that way, you can either replace it or have it sent to you before school starts and everything gets a good deal more overwhelming.

Whatever it is that slipped your mind during the moving twaddle, I promise it wasn’t as dumb as what I forgot my freshman year (Spoiler: It was a pillow. You bet I remembered pillowcases, but not an actual pillow).

2. Peep the Public Transportation

Whether it’s due to ridiculous parking pass rates or a lack of space, a good percentage of college students don’t have cars with them at school. Even if you are able to have a vehicle at university, it would still be wise to possess a working knowledge of the local public transportation system. Or, figure out what you’re going to do if public transportation is non-existent where you’ve ended up.

9 Things to Do in the First Week of CollegeDespite proximity to the Twin Cities being one of biggest boasting points for my old university, there was a total absence of any public transportation to said cities. So, if you didn’t have a car, it didn’t matter that you were “Only 20 minutes from the vibrant metropolis of downtown St. Paul!”

3. Pin Down Your Post Office

When you live in dorms or resident halls, your mail is customarily issued to you there at the front desk. While collecting mail only requires a brief trip downstairs, sending out anything larger than a letter necessitates a visit to the local post office. Therefore, it would be a good idea to figure out where it is and maybe buy some stamps while you’re at it. How else is your long-distance bae going to receive locks of your hair?

4. Take a Walk

One of the best ways to get to know a new area is to pick a direction and take a wee ramble around. Even if you’ve set out to find specific things, you’ll inevitably make unplanned discoveries and simply get a better idea of where things are in relation to one another.

Furthermore, ambulating about is relaxing and allows time for decompression and reflection. If you’ve already done enough of that, taking an exploratory walk can also be used as a socializing opportunity—invite a new acquaintance to join you.

5. Find Your Nest

On one of your walks, try to find a peaceful, secluded spot that you could see yourself coming back to when you don’t feel like being constantly surrounded by hundreds of other people for a little while.

6. Test the Water

By waters, I mean the communal dorm showers. Wait until a weird time of the day, like 2pm or something, and investigate the water pressure prospects.

9 Things to Do in the First Week of College

Dorm showers are typically noted for being ineffective, but I promise that out of the mediocre options, there will always be the “good shower.” The good shower may only be a baby step above the rest, but its identification is worth it.

7. Scope Out the Food

Although many freshmen are required to have a meal plan of some variety, it’s still worth the time to get a feel for the local food dispensaries. Even if you’ve got a meal plan now, this likely won’t always be the case and it’s never too early to start getting familiar with how you’ll feed yourself in the future.

There are several food related questions you may want to answer about your new town. Is there only one local grocery store? How expensive is it? What spots serve food late at night, once the dining halls have closed?

8. Find Hiring Business and Apply for a Few Jobs

By “places that are hiring,” I mean off-campus locations specifically. Despite the classic advocacy for university jobs, which is appropriate given their plentiful benefits, I think there is a case to be made for making money separately from school.

When you’re living on campus with a meal plan, it’s easy to feel like you reside in an bubble in which your life is completely intertwined with your university.

Having a local, off-campus job is a good way to remove yourself from that bubble for a little while each week. Off-campus jobs offer the opportunity to make connections with people who aren’t your classmates and a way to get to know your new town independently of your university.

9 .Track Down the Thrift Stores

Due to the “pricey” (to put it gently) nature of higher education, becoming familiar with the thrift stores in your college town is a good move.

Thrift shops are both a joy to peruse in your free time and a budget friendly source of many items that you are likely to need in the coming years of college. Pretty much any town, big or small, is going to have at least one.

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