When I first moved three hours away from home to go to SEMO, I was terrified. I had gone to the same school with the same people all my life, and I was scared to have to make new friends. Looking back on everything, I know it was silly to be worried. But, I didn’t know that my first week. I have compiled a list of things I wish someone had told me as a freshman. Whether you’re feeling excited, nervous, or confused to start your freshman year, this list is a great start to getting prepared.

Get your room exactly how you want it when you first move in

Move-in-day can be stressful. You just drove a couple hours crammed in the backseat with your legs pulled to your chest because they were propped on your storage cube. It might be tempting to finish unpacking after your parents and siblings have left. Don’t fall for it! Put your family to work. If you even THINK you want your bed lofted, do it now! If you have any extra furniture at all, (plastic drawers, extra chairs, etc.) you will have to loft your bed in most of the rooms because of space. Have your little brother make your bed, get your TV connected to the Wi-Fi, and make sure all your clothes are hanging up before your family leaves. It is so much easier when you have help.

GO TO SE101

You have to. Like, really. You absolutely have to go to Southeast 101. Go, and pay attention. I promise it’s helpful! This year, SE101 takes place on August 19 at 3:15 p.m. You'll find out your SE 101 location following College and Department meetings.

Keep your door open

I know, I know, how cliché. Every college movie you see shows everyone’s doors wide open because I guess no one is worried about theft. I’m not saying to go on a cross-country road trip with your door wide open, but it’s great to leave it open when you’re open to visitors.

My freshman year, I lived on Towers East Floor 12. Yep, the highest floor in the building. Great for people watching, bad for fire alarms. Most of the girls on my floor were freshmen too, which was great! Since we were all moving in on the same day, it was easy to go around and peek in people’s rooms to see how it was set up. It started a conversation 100% of the time, and it got everyone acquainted with each other. 

That first week, we started a Snapchat group chat to go to all the events together. And, we continued to go to events together throughout the year. If I was ever bored, I would just open my door and wait to see who walked by. It’s a pretty universal invitation to start a conversation and hang out, and it’s an effective one at that.

Talk to people! Just do it!

I still remember how I made my first friend at SEMO my freshman year. We were in the elevator on move-in day, and she noticed we were both going to the 12th floor. She immediately asked for my phone number, and I saved her contact as “Kari on Floor.” That was literally all it took to become friends. We are still friends going into our senior years. 

My second friend was one of the girls I had met through the roommate finder website. We had talked for a bit, but we realized we weren’t living in the same building. She saw me walking on campus with one of her friends from high school. We recognized each other and started talking. Now, she’s my roommate. 

Take any small opportunity you can to make conversation with people. If you follow them from the SEMO class of ‘26 Instagram, talk to them! If you like their shoes, talk to them! Sit next to each other in class? Guess what, talk to them! The college experience is all about the connections and friendships you make. It’s okay to be shy and it’s okay to be anxious about talking to new people. But, all it takes is one minute of bravery to have a lifelong friendship. Just do it!

Don’t go to Walmart on freshman move-in day

If you listen to nothing else I say, listen to this. It. Is. Not. Worth. It. Everyone else will have the same idea you do. So, pay attention to those freshman packing lists! Don’t bank on just getting something after you get there! Walmart, Target, Schnucks, they will all be packed. Whatever it is, it can wait until the next day or two.

Go to every opening week event

There are so many things happening the first week of school before classes even start. The Move-In-Bash is your first look at what SEMO is all about. There’s free food and always some kind of activity to do. Speaking of free food, the Welcome Back Picnic is full of free food and coupons you can use later. Take advantage of this! Eat to your heart’s content. I promise, there will be plenty of campus food and takeout in your future. Get some free food to start off the semester.

To see all the clubs that SEMO has, you’re going to want to go to the Involvement Fair. I went through the involvement fair and signed up for clubs like I was signing autographs. You should definitely put your name down for the clubs that you are interested in! The best way to do college is by being involved. But, maybe don’t put your name down for the underwater basket weaving club if you don’t know how to swim. Be realistic in what you would want to do because those clubs will be emailing you until Christmas. Be open to trying new things and follow up with the ones that interest you! At the very least, go to their first meeting.

At the involvement fair, make sure you head over to one of the Greek life tables. Greek life at SEMO is one of the best ways to get involved and make friends. There is no harm in signing up to rush. The worst thing that happens is you decide it’s not for you and meet some new friends along the way! You can reach out to any active member of a sorority or fraternity to get more information.

For events happening after the first week, make sure to keep up with the Engage in 8. It lists all the events for the first two months of the fall semester. I recommend going through it early and marking all the things you want to go to in your planner.

Grab a buddy and map out your classes

I have never had a good sense of direction. I have even gotten lost on a go-kart track; it’s literally a circle. Even if you’re not THAT directionally challenged, it’s a good idea to grab a buddy and walk out where your classes are before the first day. Especially if you only have 10 or 15 minutes between each class. I did this a couple days after moving in, and it was a lifesaver. I also downloaded a map of SEMO’s campus and made a photo album for it, so I could easily access it. Try to leave early for class in case you still need extra time to find it. Don’t be afraid to ask for directions either! And if you’re late to class because you couldn’t find it the first week, don’t sweat it. The professors are understanding, and it happens to us all. 

Start a routine!

It’s hard to go from having so much free time over summer break to having a list of brand-new responsibilities. Starting a routine early will help this transition. If you know you want to work out, go to the rec center on the first day! Wake up for your 8 a.m. on time! KEEP A PLANNER! Figure out a consistent time you can do homework! To have a successful (and fun) college experience, balance and time management are key. The earlier you start this, the better. 

Take cardiac hill

Speaking of stairs, SEMO also has hills! How fun! A lot of freshmen live in Towers, which is a great location for Cardiac Hill. Don’t let it scare you! It is so much faster when you’re trying to get your second Starbucks of the day before your afternoon class. If you still don’t think it’s your thing, take the shortcut by using the elevator in Brandt. It cuts out a whole section of stairs. 

Don’t go home the first weekend

I know, it is so tempting. You’re feeling homesick, you miss your dogs, and your high school friends want to catch up. There is always something going on during the first few weekends of the fall semester. Even just exploring Cape Girardeau is so much fun! There will be plenty of time for you to go home. Just wait a bit so you don’t miss out on anything. You only get one freshman year! 

Download the Canvas app

Canvas is the Learning Management System (LMS) SEMO uses for its courses. It’s where your teacher posts assignments and learning materials. The Canvas app is GREAT. It can send you notifications about when things are graded, posted, or announcements. Make sure you have it from the very first day of classes to ensure you never miss an assignment. 

Bring a water bottle with you to class

I’m convinced SEMO keeps the stair companies in business. The first couple of weeks of school are HOT, and you’re going to need to stay hydrated. You’ll thank me later.

It will all be okay.

-Heather