Ask Emma: Surviving freshman year

Map out classes ahead of time to avoid stress; seek out help before you start failing classes


When in doubt, ask for help, and not just from Emma. Questions can be submitted to [email protected].

EMMA LEDBETTER, Evergreen news editor

Dear incoming students,

I know this can be a particularly challenging time in your life. You’re living on your own for (probably) the first time, and you just survived a global pandemic. Pat yourself on the back for making it this far. Now, take a deep breath and get ready to launch your academic career as a WSU Coug! 

I’ve compiled a list of common questions from new students to help ease some of your stress. Take a look and remember plenty of other people have the same questions as you! 

Don’t hesitate to contact me at [email protected] with more questions. Your question may be featured in a future edition of Ask Emma!

Good luck and go Cougs!


Q: How do I find my classes?

A: Look at your schedule on myWSU and find the building and room number for each of your classes. The building names will be abbreviated, so you can use this directory to help you decode the names. 

Sometime this week, get a map of campus and find all the buildings you have classes in. Then, walk around campus and go to each of the buildings so you know how long it takes you to walk there. If you go before the weekend, you will most likely be able to go into the buildings to find the specific classroom. 

Of course, you could just wing it. People will help you find buildings if you’re lost on the first day. However, planning ahead will spare you that stress.

The more time you spend on campus, the more familiar you will become with the buildings. I haven’t had to map out my class schedule since my first semester, so it will get easier for you too.

Fun fact: If you have a class in the Smith Center, most people on campus call it the CUE (like the letter “Q”), which stands for Center for Undergraduate Education. If you ask someone to help you find Smith instead of CUE, they might point you to Smith Gym.

Q: What if I don’t make any friends?

A: I know it’s really easy to worry about this, but don’t. You will make friends. Take it from a seasoned pro: even if you feel very awkward and lonely, other people feel that way as well. You are bound to connect with at least a few people in similar positions.

In my experience, the best place to make friends is in your residence hall. Most of my current friends are people I lived with my freshman year. 

A lot of residence halls have a theme or common focus. Some have students who are all in the same section of a UCORE class. Others offer study groups. If you are unsure about meeting people in your residence hall, talk to your resident advisor.

Classes are also a good place to meet people because you’ll often find people with similar majors or interests. Don’t be afraid to say hello to the person you’re sitting next to in lecture; they probably want to make friends too.

The first few weeks of the semester are the best time to make friends because people haven’t been completely consumed by their classes yet. You can still make friends later in the semester, but don’t wait until you hit midterms and realize you don’t know anyone on campus.

Q: Are professors scary?

A: Yes. And no. It really depends on the professor.

Honestly, most professors are very kind and just want to be respected by their students. Don’t interrupt them or be obnoxious during lecture, and you’ll be fine. 

If you want bonus points — fellow teacher’s pets, this is for you — stay after class, raise your hand to ask questions or visit your professor during office hours. This is especially important if you’re having trouble understanding the course material. Professors genuinely want to see their students succeed, so be sure to reach out for help before you’re past the point of no return.

Q: What do I need to bring to class?

A: The most important thing to bring to class is yourself. Most professors require your attendance to pass, so if you take nothing else with you to class, you should at the very least park your booty in a chair every lecture. 

Most people also bring a laptop or tablet for notes, participating in lecture activities and completing late homework assignments on the go. You can also bring a notebook and pens if you prefer to hand-write your notes.

You’ll learn very quickly to bring only what you need to class. It isn’t worth it to carry a heavy pack up all those hills. 

Q: I’m worried I’ll fail my classes, what do I do?

A: As I mentioned above, it is incredibly important to seek help before you reach the point of no return. That means being familiar with your syllabus (yes, you actually need to read it). If you have three exams and have already failed one, it’s time to seek help. Don’t wait until you fail that second exam because you probably won’t be able to recover from that.

Basically, your gut instinct will be to suffer in silence to hide anything you perceive as ineptitude. Do not do that. Ask for help before you think you really need it, even if you feel like your questions are really dumb. I guarantee professors would rather have you ask dumb questions early in the semester than “is there any extra credit?” during dead week. 

If you’re too intimidated to speak with your professor, there are plenty of resources available on campus. Reach out to a teacher’s assistant. Go to the free tutoring sessions at the Academic Success and Career Center. Ask a friend in the class for help. 

One of the most difficult — and humbling — points in my college career was a physics class I took. I went to my TA’s office hours every week to work on my homework and sat with an ASCC tutor for multiple hours every week. I had never struggled so much in a class before — but guess what? I passed. I was pretty sure I was going to fail after that first midterm, but I made it through. That just illustrates my point. Always ask for help before things get really bad.

Q: How do I balance classes and a social life?

A: Your freshman year is the best possible time to get involved socially because your classes are still relatively easy. If you develop a good social routine your freshman year, it will be easier to maintain it as your classes get more difficult.

My best piece of advice is to try things you’re interested in until you know what you want to stick with long-term. If you find you’ve overextended yourself, drop a club or reschedule that weekend-long movie marathon with friends.

One of my favorite tricks for balancing classes and a social life is by studying with your friends. You will inevitably get very little studying done, but at least you tried. If you know you aren’t productive around other people, carve out a couple hours each day to make sure you are staying caught up in your classes.