By Beth Scholler, Senior in English and Comparative History of Ideas, Transfer Student from North Seattle Community College
Does the university seem huge to you? I remember thinking that I would never find my way around campus. On my first day here, I walked to each class with a map in hand (there were a lot of us, by the way). By the end of the week, I could get to my classes without maps. By the end of the quarter, I knew most of the campus. By the end of the year, I saw people I knew everywhere I went. After two years here, UW is not that big. It's a shame I wasted so much time stressing about nothing, but hopefully I can save you some stress by giving you some helpful information.
OK, about Orientation. Yes, you have to come to orientation, but you don't need to waste your time. Come prepared with questions for your adviser. Look through the time schedule before you come to orientation for classes that you want (gray-shaded classes are full), including interesting back-ups that have nothing to do with your major. If you can't get the exact class you want during your first quarter, you may as well find an intriguing alternative. Don't make orientation the only time you see your adviser!
When the Orientation Leaders explain registration, ask questions if it sounds confusing. I was an orientation leader and I found it's easy to forget that new students don't know what a DARS or an RSO or a TRIG is (Degree Audit Report, Registered Student Organization, and Transfer Interest Group). Your orientation leaders are there to answer questions; make good use of them! Also, one of the people from First Year Programs will give you their number and email in case you ever want to discuss a problem or ask a question. I have worked with these folks and they are serious about this. They want your UW experience to be the best it can be. Save their number in your planner.
Save your planner. Use your planner. You will receive it at orientation, as I did. Unlike me, hopefully, you will remember to look through it more than once. When I trained to be an orientation leader, I found that there was important information in there. Looking in my planner first would have saved me valuable time. When I tried to register for winter quarter, I thought I remembered how to do it, but it wouldn't work. I made an appointment with my adviser and she showed me what I did wrong. Guess what? Step-by-step directions were in my planner. I've also lost time trying to find contact information for various departments. They, too, are in the planner.
I'm sure you've heard a lot of the same stuff I had—UW professors have no time for students; all classes are taught by graduate students; and, there are 500 students in every class. Worried about the size of classes? As transfer students, most of your classes will be upper division, which are almost always much smaller than big intro courses. If you do take a large lecture class, you can still be more than a number: sit in the front, answer questions, and, of course, go to office hours. UW professors, for the most part, want their students to come see them. Remember that you may want recommendation letters from them and it helps if you give them a chance to know you. When you attend a large lecture class, there is almost always a smaller “quiz section” that is taught by a graduate student. The grad students are working with the professors, not replacing them. Each section will have 20-30 students and no, they do not take quizzes every week. In the quiz section, the grad student, or T.A. (teaching assistant), will explain the material in more detail and answer questions.
What is the best part of UW? That's tough to call, because there are so many great things—the beauty, the reputation, the academics—but I have to say the resources are incredible. I can't list them all here. You'll have to do some exploring on your own, but here are a few:
Media equipment—check out digital cameras, laptops, projectors, and more for free with your student ID through classroom support services.
Center for Experiential Learning—found in Mary Gates Hall. Through CEXP, you can find many ways to get involved on campus and in the community. It also contains the scholarship office and the undergraduate research program. Plus, there are fellowships to be had! Check it out!
The Career Center is in the same building and can help with resumé, job interviews, jobs, and so much more.
Finally, I have to praise the IMA. Students with ID have free use of an amazing gym. There are intramural and club sports, a climbing wall, a pool, and loads of exercise equipment.
I could go on and on, but I'll stop here. I just want you to know how fantastic UW is and to ease any concerns you may have about coming here. I am happy to answer any questions that you might have now or when you're here. My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to meeting you!
Oh, yeah, one more thing—come to Dawg Daze the week before school starts. It's lots of fun for new and returning students alike!