Carmichael Hall in winter. (Photo by Gabrielle Levy)
These next seven tips deal with the side of starting college that your parents try not to think about: friends, partying, and the weird college traditions that every school has and tries to hide. College isn't just about getting prepared for adult life, it's also about having fun, and keeping these suggestions in mind will give you a good head start.
1. Participate in NQR. Officially known as the "Nighttime Quad Reception", and technically sanctioned by the University, the Naked Quad Run is a time honored Tufts tradition that every student should do at least once. It's a great way to blow off steam right before finals, and something to laugh about for months - if not years - to come.
2. Getting TEMS'ed is an unpleasant experience. Tufts Emergency Medical Service, which is run by students and works in conjunction with local health authorities, is probably the last thing you want to see on a Saturday night. Not only will you feel lousy the whole following day - hopefully in your own bed rather than one at a hospital - but a visit from TEMS stays on your record. Thankfully, it's pretty easy to avoid: just know your limits, or have a trusted friend keep an eye on you.
3. Hodgdon-Dewick Trick Turning. Enterprising students managed to figure out that there is a glitch in the dining debit system, and taking advantage of it is easy to do and profitable for freshman still on the unlimited meal plan. "Trick turning" circumvents the electronic limitations on when and how often you can visit the dining hall and the "Good to Go" takeout shop. Many students stock up on water bottles, snacks, or even a full extra meal. Considering that most students on the unlimited meal plan never come close to eating their money's worth, it's no surprise that the University hasn't made too much of an effort to correct this.
4. Get into a cappella! (Full disclosure: I am a member of an a cappella group) Tufts is a leader on the collegiate a cappella scene, and if you haven't heard of a cappella, you will have had more than your fill by the end of orientation. Currently, at least seven groups have emerged from the student body, from the oldest, the Beelzebubs ("Tufts All-Male a cappella Group", to the newest, Anchord ("Tufts Christian A Cappella Group"). Becoming a member of one of these organizations is rewarding and very fun, but also can be extremely time consuming. If your audition to one or more of these group isn't successful, don't worry. It isn't for everyone, nor for every kind of voice, and the audition process can be arbitrary. Instead, join one of the amazing University-run choral groups (Full disclosure: I also sing for University Chamber Singers) or get onstage with Tufts' student theatre organizations, Pen Paint and Pretzels or Torn Ticket II.
5. It's OK to tell your parents to back off. If they're like most, your parents are likely going to experience conflicting emotions upon your entry into college life. They'll be worried that you'll do something irresponsible, but they'll also be jealous that you're getting to embark on some of your best years while they sit at home. Give them enough details of your day-to-day life so they won't worry, but don't be afraid to ask them to leave you alone. College is about figuring out who you are, as an adult and responsible member of society, which you can't do with Mom constantly watching your every move. Sure, you'll screw up, but how else will you learn? Eventually, your parents will realize this.
6. Dorm Life. Uphill or downhill, all-freshman, all-female or mixed year and mixed gender, where you live can have a huge positive impact on your residential experience, but it will rarely have a negative one. Living in a residence hall is what you make of it. You can choose to participate in hall activities like barbecues and hall snacks, but the most effective way to ensure that you make the best of your social opportunities is to leave your door open. If your door stays open, especially in the first weeks of school, people walking by will often poke their heads in and introduce themselves. On the flip side, you should do the same. You'll never know if your future best friend is living next door unless you take a few minutes to walk over and say hi.
7. Dorm life, 2: Roommates. If you filled out your housing questionnaire honestly, the Tufts housing office ("Reslife") probably did a pretty good job of matching you with someone who, if nothing else, shares some of your basic habits like staying up late or keeping their space neat. Your roommate doesn't have to be your best friend, and in fact, it's sometimes better if you have separate social circles. The best thing you can do to ensure harmonious living for the rest of the year is to lay out some basic rules right from the start, and then touch base from time to time. Like to study with music on? Make sure your roommate is down with your song choices or put on some headphones. Plan on going to bed early? Just give your roommate a heads up so they know not to invite a bunch of people over to pre-game a party. Basic communication goes a long way to keeping your living situation from stressing you out.