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Friday, June 14, 2024

Top 10 tips for surviving UC Davis

Fall is in the air! Leaves are changing color, summer romances are ending and the smell of fresh textbooks is wafting through campus.

For those of us returning, it’s just another quarter. But for those just walking onto the UC Davis campus for the first quarter, this can be an intimidating time.

Have no fear, because we’ve dug up the top 10 things students need to know to survive their years here at UC Davis.

Learn to balance school and fun.

It can be tempting with the newfound freedom of college to go to every party in town or hit the bars every weekend, but doing so will only hurt you in the long run.

Of course, you shouldn’t give up your social life completely. Making friends on campus is a great way to form study groups, and this is something that comes highly recommended by the student peer advisors on campus.

Cris Breivik, academic counselor, and the student peer advisors in the Residence Hall Advising Team (RHAT), agreed that you should always “smile, be nice and make friends.”

Don’t get in over your head.

Stephanie Holley, former UC Davis student, found out the hard way what it was like to fall behind in the beginning. She was placed on academic probation not long after arriving at UC Davis, and was later dismissed.

“Make sure you manage your time. Don’t overload yourself right away. If you’re going to take 18 units, make sure you have the time to take 18 units,” Holley said.

To be a full time student, you’re only required to carry 15 units, and this is a good number to start out with. Just remember that a typical bachelor’s degree takes four years to complete, so there is no hurry.

Holley has since received her phlebotomy license after attending MTI College in Sacramento.

“I really do want to go back to UC Davis,” Holley said. “It would be so much easier knowing what I know now. I just thought it was going to be easy.”

Obey bike rules.

Chances are, students are over 16, which means it is legal to leave your helmet at home. But if it makes you more comfortable, you won’t be the only one wearing one.

The RHAT advisors said to always be sure to lock your bike to something, preferably with a U-lock. Bikes do get stolen on campus, and you don’t want to risk being late to class because yours disappeared overnight.

Equally important as the U-lock and fender is to always watch for traffic in the bike circles. Sarah Greer, a UC Davis alumni who graduated with a degree in political science, learned the hard way the dangers of the bike circles.

“Someone wasn’t paying attention and jumped into the bike circle and ran right into me. My front wheel was all bent, and I really wasn’t able to ride it anymore,” Greer said.

Thankfully, there is the Bike Barn right on campus, and Bike Forth on Fourth and L Street, to help pick up the pieces after these bike accidents. However, the RHAT advisors warn about one more thing.

“Watch out for suicidal squirrels!”

Class attendance and office hours really are important.

Unlike high school classes, most professors won’t take roll, especially in the classes that are 300 to 400 students – there just isn’t the time. This makes it really tempting to skip that 8 a.m. class. Don’t.

Even if your professor posts lecture notes online, he or she will often say a lot that isn’t put into the lecture slides, and this is where your own notes come in handy.

While the professor and TA’s office hours are completely optional, they are also something you should attend. Professors love to answer questions, and the TAs are often still students, and will understand what you’re going to have trouble with.

As an added bonus, when it comes to the end of the quarter they will remember you, and this does have a positive impact on your grade.

Don’t procrastinate.

College essays are something that specifically should not be procrastinated on. Chances are, your professor will want at least three sources, and won’t accept all online sources, meaning you can’t use your smartphone to download sources at the last minute.

Often times, it helps to keep a planner, or hang a calendar on your wall. This allows you to keep your assignments organized and not panic when you pull out your syllabus and realize those 90 statistics problems are due in 30 minutes.

Get familiar with Shields Library.

Located right across the street from Memorial Union, Shields Library is almost impossible to miss. This is a great place to find sources that don’t come from the internet, and extra resources for difficult classes.

Shields Library is also by far one of the quietest places on campus to study, and has multiple private rooms for you and your study groups to lock yourself in.

This is also where you’ll find the 24-Hour study room, located on the side of the library closes to the MU. The 24-Hour room is exactly that – a study room open 24 hours a day – and a great place to avoid distractions at home. However, beware during finals week, when you may not be able to find a seat and you’ll see plenty of people sleeping on their books and laptops.

Use UC Davis resources.

There are a number of groups and resources on campus that are here to help you. Breivik and the RHAT advisors recommended getting involved in their programs.

“Go to Residence Hall Advising Team programs and take advantage of the Academic Advising Centers – you can take advantage of tutoring in math, chemistry and writing,” the RHAT advisors said.

According to the RHAT, tutoring is available in the Academic Advising Centers, provided by trained tutors from the Learning Skills Center.

Chemistry and math tutoring are offered every Monday through Thursday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Writing and statistics tutoring are also available from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on specific days each week. Additional tutoring subjects may be offered in future quarters.

Get involved.

There are many different options to become involved on campus. Early in fall quarter, places such as the ASUCD Coffee House, Silo and Bike Barn are looking for people to join their staff. Working on campus allows you to meet other students and make yourself known on campus.

There are also student-run organizations that are always looking for new members, such as the California Aggie Marching Band-Uh and The California Aggie.

Sophomore psychology and biological sciences double major Amanda Jones said it’s important to explore new activities.

“My tip would be to not be afraid to try things you wouldn’t normally do,” Jones said. “It’s so easy to stay in your own bubble but in college there are so many opportunities to try new things and meet so many different people.”

Don’t go home every weekend.

Being homesick is common for first-year students just moving away from home, and it can be tempting to run home from Davis at every given opportunity, but you shouldn’t.

Chances are, going home will cause you to put your schoolwork to the back of your mind, only putting you into a hole when it is time to return Monday morning.

Eventually, the homesickness will lessen, and you can plan that surprise trip to see your mom over your spring break, when you can relax and leave the studying behind for a few days.


The easiest way to ensure time to sleep is to create a routine, and stick to it. RHAT recommends allotting at least two hours of studying for every hour of class per week.

This means that when you get out of class, you should head straight to a designated study area, other than your house, and knock your studying out while the materials are fresh in your mind. RHAT also advised to never go home to study.

Avoid all-nighters. The lack of sleep does take a mental toll on you, and eventually affects you physically as well. If you can’t get enough sleep during the week, devote one day every weekend to at least sleep in and relax.

MICHELLE STAUFFER can be reached at features@theaggie.org.


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