Are you a new UC Davis student looking for ways to win at college? Here are my pro tips for making the most of your Aggie experience.
1. In the residence halls? Leave the door open!
One of the biggest benefits of your first year is “dorming.” You’ll be in close contact with your fellow first-year students and can make connections and friendships that become your college lifeline. So, leave your door open. This will invite people to come by, say “hi,” and maybe ask you to join them at that off-campus event/activity/outing that that you didn’t know was happening. I promise you, the opportunities you’ll find and the people you’ll meet are worth much more than watching Netflix in your pajamas. (By the way, check out more cool Aggie Abode dorm tours.)
2. Bike rules: They’re a thing here
Davis students bike… a lot. The city is renowned as the bike capital of the U.S., and with that great title comes great responsibility for all of its residents. So know your bike laws! Turn signals, right of way and navigating roundabouts are essential if you care about your safety, or more importantly, not looking like a newbie. Take a class from the city of Davis on the physics of riding, how to ride in traffic and how to navigate our many roundabouts. By the way, you can get a free helmet by taking the “Helmet Hair Don’t Care” pledge.
3. Take advantage of office hours and free tutoring
Listen up: College is much more challenging than high school. Even if you were THAT PERSON throughout high school, natural ability alone will not put you at the top of the class at a competitive university like UC Davis. The good news is, this campus offers a wealth of opportunities to help you succeed. All professors hold weekly times for you to visit their offices and ask questions. Talk to your professors! Take advantage of free campus services including the Student Academic Success Center, peer tutoring, writing support and workshops on everything from study skills to getting involved with research. Our Transfer and Reentry Center offers all sorts of services, including advising, events and workshops for community college and older new students.
4. Do some recon on the location of your classes
This is a good idea, especially if you have a class in the Social Sciences and Humanities Building, aka the “Death Star.” Aptly named for its resemblance to, well, the Death Star, this building is a 3-D maze of indoor hallways, outdoor walkways, stairs, bridges and concrete, complete with intentionally designed dead ends. Rumor has it the architect planned it that way to encourage people to talk to one another as a social science experiment. Me: Do you know where SSH 90 is? Sleep-deprived person: Nah, man. Me: *shrugs.* On the bright side, it’s a weekend mecca for LARPers (live-action role-playing participants for the rest of you), so if you brought your lightsaber, you know where to find your squad.
In fact, you might want to check out where all of your classes will be so you don’t get lost the first day. You don’t need a GPS device and survival gear. Just use the campus map.
5. Always have a backup plan, especially for class schedules
Now that you’ve outgrown your status as top dog in high school, welcome back to the beginning (aka freshman year) at Davis. When building class schedules, remember that the number of units under your belt determines the likelihood of getting the classes you want. So, as a freshman, it's essential to have alternative classes on your list. Luckily, our general education classes — also known as GEs — give you hundreds of options. So, take a chance and try something new! Think Steve Jobs with that famous calligraphy class.
On a related scheduling note, avoid stacking up all your finals on one day. (Final exam dates are noted when you build your schedule.) You’ll thank me at the end of the quarter!
6. Know your food currency: Aggie cash!
Two things I know for sure: The sun sets in the west, and freshmen will ALWAYS complain about dining commons food. The DC does a great job, but for you foodies who crave more diversity, you’re in luck. Your Aggie Cash cards that come with the dining plans on campus are valuable resources that can score you food in many places beyond the DC, including:
Eat up, my friends.
7. Set a routine and take care of yourself
The most important tip for success is to take care of yourself. It’s not cool to neglect your mental and physical well-being. Make a routine for your day that includes time to unwind. You can take a walk, run, bike, do yoga, paint, nap, play music or picnic at the UC Davis Arboretum. The Activities and Recreation Center is a great place to get a workout. (Pro tip: Avoid the rush hours between 5 to 7 and 9 to 11 p.m.). I’m talking about your wellness, a topic the Student Health and Wellness Center takes seriously. This center can help you with healthy eating, sleep and stress reduction. And, get this, the center offers massages. You can also get counseling at both North Hall and the center.
These Aggie life hacks are just to get you started — this list could go on and on! A few other recommendations as you embark on your first year: Get involved early with a club, Greek life, sport or organization that grabs you. Meet with your academic advisor early. And don’t forget to explore the city of Davis.
Ultimately, it all comes down to you, so make the best of your time here, get involved and “do what you got to do.”
Will Han is a fourth-year majoring in neurobiology, physiology and behavior, and he’s a writing intern with Undergraduate Education. Will is also vice president of Theta Chi and executive vice president of the UC Davis Inter-Fraternity Council.