How to avoid being "that freshman"

    This is the first installment of Ask NBN, our freshman advice column. This week’s answers come from Assistant Managing Editor Nick Castele, a Medill sophomore.

    Photo by Claudia Snell on Flickr, licensed under the Creative Commons.

    I’m bringing a laptop, but am not sure exactly what else I will need in the school supplies department. Pens, pencils, of course, but what else exactly should I bring before I arrive on campus?

    Not too much, actually. The days of pencil cases, colored pencils and those Crayola stamp markers are over. Bring a notebook, a backpack — maybe a stapler and some tape if you want to be on top of things. If you’re taking classes that involve calculating, don’t forget to bring your favorite Texas Instrument.

    Now, dorm room supplies can be a little trickier to figure out. No doubt your folks have figured out all the “essentials” —  everything from air purifiers to Benadryl to hand lotion to Tylenol PM. Here are some things you might not have considered:

    1. A book light. They’re useful if you need to keep working long after your light-sensitive roommate has hit the bunk for the night.
    2. Thumbtacks. You never know when you’ll have to illicitly tack a poster onto your dorm room wall.
    3. Plastic cups, plates and silverware. Food and drink are everywhere. Be prepared for spontaneous parties.
    4. Peanut butter. Assuming you’re not fatally allergic, George Washington Carver’s masterpiece may well become a primary source of nourishment if you run out of points or meals midway through the quarter.
    5. Febreze. Dorm rooms are tiny. College kids smell. Fight the stink.

    For more, be sure to check out our packing guide we put together last year.

    North by Northwestern file photo.

    What are things that upperclassmen despise about freshmen? Want to warn us?

    I just served my time as a freshman, so I don’t have any freshman peeves — yet. Instead, I chatted up some upperclassman pals with strong opinions about first-years. Here are three big annoyances to consider.

    I hate it when freshmen act like they own the place.

    It’s hard out there for a freshman. You’re new. You’re at the bottom of the fish tank. All you want is to be awesome again — like you were just a few months ago in that joyous, responsibility-free zone that stretched from January until prom.

    Then, you were undeniably and indefatigably the unmitigated Shit. Now you fail in many of your attempts to garner the much-older crowd’s love. It’s natural to act cool. You’re in a bold new land. You want to save face. You don’t want anybody to smell your fear.

    But freshmen just cannot be totally cool in the eyes of upperclassmen. It’s a law of nature. Cool is like tenure. Cool is like chairing a committee in Congress. You have to be older to get it.

    Chill out about snagging alcohol.

    This is college. You will always find alcohol, if that’s what you want to find. There are parties everywhere, especially before it gets cold. Upperclassmen will enjoy their time with you much more if you don’t bug them about getting booze. Also, there’s need to drink to the bottom of the sea every time you drink. Nobody likes a messy freshman, but everyone likes a fun one.

    It’s annoying when freshmen travel in packs.

    “Well damn,” you say. “I’m not cool enough for upperclassmen, but I’m annoying when I’m with my friends. I can’t win, can I?”

    Take heart! The senior who suggested that one added, “But it’s also kind of adorable.”

    Most people will probably agree. Freshmen are like loud puppies — too annoying to love, but too cute to hate. And ultimately, we were all freshmen once, too. We’ll tolerate your naiveté, because it resembles our own. Your mistakes were our mistakes. Your unclean rooms and poorly-laundered clothes were ours once, too.

    Best advice: don’t try to be cool. Just be yourself. Take that hackneyed advice to heart — there’s a reason people keep saying it. Make friends. Be social, but not a drunken/wigged-out liability for everyone else around you. Relax and enjoy yourself. College is a great time.

    Check back next week for more questions. We might even tell you where the Keg is. Have more questions? Send ‘em away to


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