As a rising senior, I have had a variety of experiences with dozens of tales to tell about life at the University of Houston.
As a student who arrived just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, I would say my previous statement is a lie.
For many present and future Coogs, the “the best years of our lives” were stolen from us by the global pandemic, not to mention the grief and trauma that potential was replaced with. Now, as we are somewhat on an upswing, I’m going to take a look back upon my undergraduate college experience and give my advice to incoming freshmen, and other prospective students starting their journey as a Coog.
Take advantage of every event that interests you
The UH website is incredibly detailed, and I would definitely advise all students, no matter their year, to bookmark that page. There are an endless amount of helpful links, and a detailed calendar with nearly every event you can think of. Some colleges and even specific majors have their own page with a calendar of events that they recommend attending. However the UH Calendar has events listed for every single day from now through next year with times locations and a short blurb to give a little more insight into what you may experience there. And if by some possibility you do not find something that interests you, let any friends, classmates, or even professors drag you along to events they recommend! You never know who you may meet and what you may discover. Worst case scenario: You learn something new!
Make as many connections as possible
Picture this, you’re in your first ever class on your first day of classes and you see someone who just looks cool. You may see them every week for the rest of the semester, but after that, they’re essentially gone! You never got to compliment that shirt they were wearing or the way they style their hair. What if they could’ve helped you study for that one test you didn’t do so well on? Or even been in your wedding party 10 or 20 years in the future? You may impact their life, and they may impact yours. So, compliment that stranger! Smile at that person in the library! Introduce yourself to that guest speaker who really impressed you! There are so many opportunities that await future Coogs, and though it sounds cliche, you do miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Some may call this “networking,” but I call it “future friend-making.”
Party (with reasonable caution)
You probably don’t need me to tell you twice. Freshmen are likely going to find some way to party, and it won’t always be safe. As a freshman, this wasn’t my scene, but I have heard too many horror stories from underclassmen who have partied and ended up in dangerous situations. So do not hesitate to bring friends, charge your phone, call an Uber, Sharpie your roommate’s phone number on your arm, and take all the precautions necessary to help you from being a victim of dangerous circumstances, especially if you are of a minority group that could potentially be targeted.
Take some time to self-reflect. There is so much you won’t learn in your classes, and most of it is about you
It’s not a joke when I say that most people I know struggle with something relating to their mental health, and most say that their mental health has only worsened since the start of COVID-19. Thankfully, UH offers psychiatry services through CAPS, so your mental health is best preserved through the difficult transition from high school senior to college freshman, from college freshman to college sophomore, or any transition that you may find yourself experiencing. Sometimes running on auto-pilot can stop you from realizing how burnt out you are. So for your own sake, be sure to do mental health check-ins. You may discover something about yourself that you have always needed help with or something that has been stopping you from doing your best, and the professionals at CAPS and the psychiatry clinic are always willing to help those in need, and they make it as affordable as possible for college students.
Free Stuff? Run!
As an incoming senior, I know firsthand that there are plenty of occasions all semester long in which organizations give out free, yes FREE, t-shirts, food, memorabilia and even ice cream! On my first day of school freshman year, my second class was canceled. Then, when walking back to my dorm to change before lunch, I stumbled upon a UH booth giving out free ice cream! And I was done before noon! Now where can you find out information about these events? My first recommendation would be to download the UH app and turn on notifications. That will be helpful for emergency drills and situations, but they may also notify you of fun events happening on campus! My second recommendation would be simply walking around. There are a plethora of UH tents that are put up in a variety of places throughout the semester, and they are known for handing out free stuff. Plus, you get to explore more of our beautiful campus, so it’s a double win.
A senior telling you to make sure you do your homework sounds cliche, but it’s true. The first few semesters of college are very important, and if you get the best grades that you can, you’re setting yourself up for success in the future. Not only for scholarships, potential internships and graduate schools, but for job applications as well. Being able to show that you were on the dean’s list for a few semesters makes resumes very attractive, both on and off campus. The moral of this story is: try not to go out on the town every weekend, and try to drag yourself to an 8 a.m. on Monday that you’d rather sleep through. Get your homework done, impress your professors, and build yourself a good foundation, because your classes will likely only get more difficult from now on.
Make sure you know what resources are at your disposal
This last point is most near and dear to me, because though I was sold on UH by a lot of what they offer, I didn’t even know half of it until about two years in. There are a plethora of programs for UH students that can help you live your best life. Firstly, the Campus Recreation and Wellness Center (better known as the Rec) is free to all Coogs who wish to work out and sweat off a difficult day of classes. Secondly, CoogsCare is a service on campus that provides a variety of necessities, one of which is CougarCupboard. CougarCupboard gives shelf stable and fresh produce to Coogs no matter their income or need. CoogsCare also provides emergency loans for books or courses and Crisis Aid to LGBTQ+ people who may find themselves suddenly on their own. There are so many areas that CoogsCare covers, so I recommend visiting their website to see if any of your needs can be helped by their offerings. The LGBTQ+ Resource Center offers almost anything an LGBTQ+ Coog could need, such as Gender Inclusive Housing, the locations of single-stall restrooms on campus, many transgender health services, and condoms and dental dams in their office. The Women’s Resource Center offers confidential Sexual Misconduct Support Services for anyone who has been sexually assaulted. COOG$ave is a program that helps Coogs save money on things you may frequent in the area, like the Houston Zoo (free daytime admission with your Cougar Card) and the Houston Ballet ($15 tickets during Student Rush). These are only some of the things that Coogs can get just for being students here, there are so many more things that you can find online or on the UH app. Take a look and find what you need that could help you succeed in your time here.
The best piece of advice I can give you is to enjoy the time you have here, because going forward you may find that you will miss the excitement of walking to class 5 minutes late, or sitting in Moody dining hall studying for a test you have at CASA. Being a senior and looking back on my time here at UH, I wish that I had taken every opportunity to experience new things. It’s not too late for me, but it’s also not too late for you, incoming Coogs. Get out there and relish in the excitement and buzz of a new opportunity!