Some Frequently Asked Questions
A committee of college students with a variety of majors/minors collaborated to answer each of these questions.
What should I pack for college?
First off, the essentials! Think about the things you use on a daily basis and make a list -- this includes school-related items as well as items for personal living. Depending on where you’re heading off to school, it may be easy to come back home throughout the semester to swap out warmer clothes for heavier ones, so just plan accordingly. Other than that, check out your college’s website to see what is included in your room (usually twin XL beds, a dresser etc.) and you can bring the appropriate bedding and additional storage as needed. The rest of your decor and room accessories are based on preference, and you’ll definitely get a feel for what you may need after you’ve seen the space. Keep in mind that if you forget something, you can always purchase the item from a nearby store or order it online to arrive at school. Stay tuned for a blog post about the Do’s and Don’ts of packing from a college student’s perspective!
When should I figure out my major?
If you are going into college undeclared, universities usually make students declare a major by the end of their sophomore year. In your first few semesters, taking classes related to your interests and potential major will help you decide what you’re most interested in! Check out a college student's perspective on declaring your major here.
What is the workload like in college?
Spoiler alert: the workload in college is heavier than your typical high school workload. Though you spend less time in a classroom setting, this is supplemented by more out-of-classroom assignments. Professors will vary in the amount of workload that they give you, but there’s a reason that college students are known for pulling all-nighters and developing caffeine addictions. For helpful time management tips, click here.
When and where should I buy textbooks?
A booklist for the semester will typically be posted somewhere on your student portal weeks in advance, but there is a bit of an unspoken rule to wait until Syllabus Week to see if your professors actually use/require the course textbooks. If you don’t want to wait that long, you can ask other students who have already taken your professors (reviews on RateMyProfessors will usually tell you whether or not a professor requires a textbook).
How does your college major align with your career options?
It depends on your major and it depends on your career options! For the most part, it’s important to keep in mind that the technical major doesn’t always have to align with a strict career path. For example, majoring in political science could prepare you for working for a non-profit, or maybe you decide you want to go to law school afterward. That being said, some careers are more specific and require that you complete certain certifications, which are built into the corresponding degree program.
Should I pick a minor?
You certainly can go into school with a minor in mind, but many students will only decide to minor in something after getting to college. After taking a few classes and further exploring your interests you may find a particular field of study appealing or useful, but you don’t necessarily want to dedicate the majority of your classes to this subject area. This is the perfect opportunity to choose to minor.
What kind of meal plan should I get?
Most likely your college will have a mandatory meal plan for freshman year. It varies based on your school, so make sure you check on your college’s website. Even if you don’t have a mandatory plan, it may not be a bad idea to start off with a meal plan at least for your first semester. You’ll be making big adjustments in living anyway and the last thing you want to have to worry about is whether you’ll be able to access a grocery store easily and make time to cook meals. After you get a feel for the amount of food you’re eating in college and maybe decide that you prefer eating off the meal plan or cooking on your own, you can definitely adjust your meal plan.
How can I apply for more financial aid?
One of the easiest ways to find out about more opportunities for financial aid and grants is simply by reaching out to your school’s financial aid office and asking about ways to increase your financial aid package and how to find out about scholarships available through the school. If your specific school/department within the university offers scholarships, reach out to the Dean or Chair to find out more about these opportunities (side note: these are often based on GPA). Additionally, websites such as https://www.fastweb.com/ regularly post scholarships that you can continue to apply to after graduating high school.
What would orientation have looked like?
Orientation is an opportunity for incoming freshmen to familiarize themselves with their college campus, learn more about the campus culture, and meet their future classmates. Every school’s orientation looks a little different, but it is standard for there to be a lot of icebreaker-type activities, as well as more formal presentations about your school’s academic and social offerings. Most schools will have students meet with their advisor, who will help them plan out and register for their fall semester classes.
What is the best way to find a roommate?
Many colleges offer a questionnaire for incoming freshmen who are planning to dorm. This will range in questions from study habits to the type of person you are looking for in a roommate. After completing the questionnaire you will receive a list of possible roommates who you can connect with through social media. Another great way to find a roommate is creating a post about yourself on your school’s “incoming freshman” Facebook group; don't forget to include ways to contact you, and don’t be afraid to reach out to other people based on their posts. If you don’t mind not having a say in who your roommate is, you can always choose to be randomly assigned. Keep in mind that picking a roommate is only the beginning of the process; to learn more about making the most of your freshman year roommate experience, click here.
What is a general process for creating clubs at a college?
The process for creating a new club can vary depending on the school, but generally colleges like to have an easy and simple process to create new clubs on campus. Usually, a college will require a minimum number of signatures for participants in the club (around 6-12 students), as well as a signature or approval from a supervising faculty member to submit to the Student Activities Office. Once the Student Activities Office receives the necessary signatures or forms, you're usually good to go. You can also contact your school's Student Activities Office to look more into specific guidelines that your college may have.
What are the benefits of joining Greek Life?
It depends on what you are looking for! Being involved in a fraternity or sorority, whether it be social, professional, academic, or community service-oriented, is a great opportunity to enhance your college experience. Greek life can vary widely between and within colleges, making it vital to know what you're looking for and be actively involved in the recruitment process. For more detailed insights from Parsippany alumni about their experiences in Greek life, click here or here.
What will the next semester look like?
Each campus will have different plans for the upcoming semester. Similarly to how each state releases its guidelines, colleges will release their own guidelines concerning housing, online and in-person classes, campus life, etc. Restrictions may progress from strict social distancing measures (adjusting residence life, mask-wearing, online class instruction), to more flexible precautions (in-person classes with masks and opening essential campus operations). Make sure you are receiving frequent updates from your school and adjusting your personal plans accordingly.
How do online classes compare to in-person classes?
Academically, online classes are not much different than in-person. You still have exams, essays, and are following a syllabus. One main difference, however, is that group work and presentations are less common, as they typically require in-person interaction. Also, professors may assign more written work, as opposed to quizzes and exams. From a social perspective, online classes sadly do not compare to an in-person experience. Since you aren’t in an actual classroom sitting next to people, trying to make friends or establish connections with classmates is rather difficult, as there is no chatting between classes or walking to/from class with people online. Stay tuned to our Alumni Blog for tips for staying mentally and physically healthy while learning virtually!