Seven Keys to Your First Year at St. Lawrence

By: 
Joshua Elmer '20 and the First-Year Council

Toothbrush? Check. Laptop? Check. Linens? Check. Your car is packed, you’ve reviewed the packing list countless times, and you’ve said final goodbyes to hometown friends. Each Laurentian has been where you are now: exhausted from a busy summer, excited for the new memories to be made, and even a little nervous about starting college. No matter how much time you’ve spent preparing for your SLU experience, there are likely a few things you haven’t thought about yet.  Here are a few tips we thought would help!

  1. Don’t expect to always feel comfortable. St. Lawrence prides itself on encouraging you to reach beyond what you already know to find new paths for yourself academically, athletically, or through extracurricular activities. So, don’t panic if you didn’t get all of the courses you wanted this summer on APR2; discovering a new interest may be in store for you this year.

Tip: Put aside schoolwork for an hour and go to any and all campus activities that interest you. You won’t regret it when you’ve discovered a new passion.

  1. Your roommate does not have to be your best friend (but many of them are). Almost every incoming college student has heard horror stories about roommate matchups gone wrong. Here at St. Lawrence, roommate matching is carefully planned and highly successful. Most students develop good relationships with their roommates; however, do not feel as though you must. As a smaller university, SLU provides opportunities for you to make new friends with students from all academic years and a variety of backgrounds. So, if you and your roommate do not get along, don’t panic—there are plenty of other students out there looking for a new friend, just like you.

    Tip: Get to know your roommate a little bit before arriving on campus in order to feel more comfortable on Move-In Day. You will receive your roommate’s contact information by email. Reach out ahead of time and start building a connection.
  1. Your FYP is your family. The First-Year Program enables you and a dozen or more others to live and learn together during your first semester of college. Throughout this experience, you will find your peers reminding one another of due dates, counseling each other when times are tough, and celebrating together at First-Year Cup events like soccer games and trivia nights. Whatever ways you and members of your FYP interact, know that you have a family in that close-knit group that you can lean on during your first year at St. Lawrence.

    Tip: Leave your door open when you’re in your room during the first few weeks at school. A surprising number of students will stop by to say “Hi!” and it will help you get to know your FYP family very quickly.
  1. There is a club for you at SLU. One of the best parts about attending St. Lawrence is the breadth of extracurricular activities available to students. These are the perfect outlets for relieving stress after a long day of classes, making new friends, or exploring your passions. We have everything here at SLU from Ultimate Frisbee, SLU MIC (Men in Color), and Chess clubs—to the Outing Club, SLU Democrats, and the First-Year Council, to name a few. Even if St. Lawrence doesn’t have a club that you’d like, students (including first-year students) are able to create new organizations centered around their interests. Whatever you enjoy doing outside of the classroom, SLU will (or can) have a club for you.

    Tip: Check out the Club and Organization Fair at the beginning of the semester to learn about the available options.
  1. SLU nightlife is made for everyone. Many students flock to The Java Barn or downtown Canton on weekend nights for music and dancing with friends. The Java Barn, or simply, “Java”, is an on-campus concert venue run by students which hosts weekly acts from a variety of musical genres. For students hoping for a loud and exciting Friday or Saturday night, nothing is better than cheering on the SLU hockey teams in the bustling Appleton Arena. If you would prefer a calmer night, ACE (Association for Campus Entertainment) often hosts comedians and trivia events at Pub 56, our on-campus bar and dining option (with food available for all students), and the new SLU Barista Club also offers options. Whatever way you like to have fun, St. Lawrence has it covered.

    Tip: Change up what you do on your weekend nights. One week you may go to Java with friends, but another week it may be fun to drive to Potsdam for new food options. (Try the Cactus Grill and Cantina, Between the Buns, or the 1844 House for a cool night out with friends).
  1. Food is just a short walk or phone call away. Being such a small campus conveniently located close to Canton, St. Lawrence boasts delicious food options on and off campus. Two meal plan favorites for SLU students are Dana Dining Center (known as Dana) and the Northstar Café (“The Pub”). Dana is open all day and the Pub offers extended hours on weekends to provide students made-to-order foods like quesadillas and wraps. For students looking for different options off campus, look no further than Sergi’s Pizzeria, a student favorite for the specialty pizza “Bob’s Special” and pizza rolls, known among students as “fat bags”. A word of advice: Do not call the pizza rolls “fat bags” when ordering!

    Tip: Sergi’s is open until 2 a.m. on weekends—nothing tastes better than 2 a.m. pizza!
  1. One bad grade is not a failure. Every student receives one or several lower-than-expected grades in their first year at SLU, and that is simply part of the adjustment to college life. What makes St. Lawrence so unique is all of the opportunities it offers for students to improve academically. All professors have office hours and are often available by appointment to discuss grades, help with tricky class content, and generally point students in the right direction for the future assignments. Additionally, St. Lawrence can be defined by its sense of community among students and faculty. Through various facets such as Peer Workshops (for some science classes), the PQRC (for math assistance/improvement), the W.O.R.D. Studio (for presentation and paper revision assistance), the Whitman Annex (for students with accommodations and those seeking tutors), and the language writing centers (for paper/skills help in the foreign languages), students are able to get help improving the skills required for their classes.  Overall, whatever a student needs to improve his/her academic profile, St. Lawrence has it available to you.

    Tip: Seek help early —tutoring slots often fill up in the beginning of the semester (especially true for biology!).