Brandeis 101

Starting college is scary. It’s like playing a board game that you’ve never played before, but without the instructions. I, personally, am not great at figuring things out without making a mistake or two. Although you have a lot of advisors and equally clueless people around you, you will have to figure almost everything out on your own. A year later, there are a few things I wish I knew when I first came to Brandeis.


General

Before you even get to Brandeis, join all the Brandeis Facebook groups, and not just the Class of 2023 Facebook group. There are a lot of them, including: Travel Arrangements, Textbook Sale and Exchange, Free Food,  Housing, General Items for Sale and some fun ones like Overheard or Overseen at Brandeis. The notifications from these groups might be annoying at times, but they will keep you in the loop and provide you with many valuable resources. 

Figure out how to use Sage and LATTE! You will be using these two websites a lot throughout your college career. Sage allows you to check pretty much anything: your GPA, class schedule, the status of your degree, the general and major requirements you need to complete, any outstanding fees, emergency contact information and a lot more. This is also where you will register for classes. LATTE is where you will see assignments, readings, essentially everything that is related to your classes. Course grades are also posted there. 

While you are exploring Brandeis sites, look at the medical patient portal too. When you are sick, the last thing you want to be doing is figuring out how to make an appointment at the Health Center. You can make an appointment online using the medical patient portal or over the phone. Make sure you know what you need appointments for: right now, walk-in appointments are for cases of vaccines, tuberculosis screening tests, emergency contraception, and urinary tract infection. Walk-in hours are Monday to Friday, from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. Everything else will require an appointment.

At orientation you will be given a lot of phone numbers, particularly for emergencies. Write them down. My thoughts were similar to what a lot of yours might be: I will not need these numbers, and even if I do, I can find them online. But if there is an emergency, the last thing you will want to waste time on is looking for those numbers. At least save the Brandeis Police and Emergency Medical Corps numbers.

The Brandeis Emergency Medical Corps (BEMCo) is an organization of volunteer students who are certified EMTs, who work everyday on campus. If you have a medical emergency that you do not think you can handle on your own, call them. Most students are reluctant to do so because they are afraid to get in trouble, but the largest concern for everyone is your own safety. Furthermore, Brandeis has a Medical Amnesty Policy (it can be found in the Rights and Responsibilities), which provides amnesty to students who are involved in or who report emergencies. 

Download the BRANDA app. It has times of when the dining area, library and gym are open, tracking of the shuttles, the calendar of events and much more. 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Everyone needs help and there are many people there for you at Brandeis. 

Academics

Look into the requirements of the majors that you might be interested in. Nothing is set in stone but being aware and familiar with the requirements will help you navigate the process of making your class schedule. 

As school is your first priority, (or at least it should be), making your schedule carefully is crucial. Although it is important to explore your options and try out new fields, it is even more important to not overwhelm yourself. I was the person who did not explore; I planned all my majors and minors in advance, and to this day, I haven’t taken a class that isn’t a requirement. I am not complaining, but I do not think that I am a good example—you really should explore. 

While it is a good idea to explore different fields and take classes outside of your intended major, you should make sure that you are on track. After all, you don’t want to be that person starting their junior year and has a bunch of random classes that cannot add up to a major (at Brandeis, that’s truly an achievement). I recommend taking some classes that will fulfill your general requirements, some for your intended major and some for exploration purposes. 

You have to complete certain requirements for all majors, and that is something you need to be aware of; you cannot graduate with that major in the usual four years if you cannot fulfill them. It is important to recognize that for majors with more required courses, you might need to limit the number of classes taken for interest if you want to graduate in eight semesters. 

However, that is not to scare you out of exploring, and that is exactly what shopping period is for. Shopping period is when you can freely go to classes without enrolling in them, add new ones, and drop them without having it on your record. That is exactly what I will be doing at the beginning of this semester, and who knows, maybe you’ll see a philosophy major in a biology class. With the amount of freedom you have, it is very important to take advantage of shopping period and try to go to classes that may be of interest to you. 

Another important thing to remember is if it sounds like you are going to hate a class, chances are you will. No matter how many times I tried to tell myself that you cannot judge a class by its description, I never truly enjoyed a class that sounded boring to me. If you hated history in high school, chances are taking history in college will not become any more enjoyable. But keep in mind that some classes are a lot more fun than their description sounds, so don’t judge a book by its cover.   

Once you figured out your schedule (or at least a preliminary version of it), take the time to find where your classes are before the first day of class. First impressions matter, and you do not want to be the person who walks into class ten minutes late on the first day. This is especially important if you only have ten minutes in between your class, you will not have time to run around looking for your class, and let’s be honest, Brandeis is not the easiest place to navigate. It took me two weeks to figure out where the dining halls are and around a month to find them without a map. Another fun thing to do is to take someone with you and go looking for classes together: you get to bond while doing something useful. Do not worry if you think you are the only one who is lost, almost everyone is. During orientation, your orientation leaders are there to give you a tour of campus and help you find your classes, so don’t be afraid to ask them. 

Be prepared for class. If you are certain that you will take a class, get the textbooks for it. You can get textbooks at the Brandeis bookstore, Amazon or sometimes there will be a copy of the book available in the reserved section at the library. The reserved section is where professors reserve the books for their students; you cannot check them out, but you can use them at the library. You can also rent textbooks at the Brandeis bookstore. Before you buy the textbooks, I would check the Brandeis Library OneSearch for the textbooks: sometimes they have digital versions available for free (especially for older books). 

If you want to save money (and who does not want to do that) check the for sale Facebook groups or the Textbook Exchange, lots of students sell their used books there for a fraction of the price at which they are sold at the bookstore. Talking to people who were in the class you are going to take is also a good idea, as they might have textbooks they want to sell. You can also sell those books to other students when you are done with them. 

However, sometimes even though there are required books posted, the professor will say you do not really need it, or post the readings on Latte. It’s pretty unpredictable. I would also wait until you’re certain that you are going to stay in the class before getting the books: I know a lot of people (myself included) who spent hundreds of dollars on textbooks for classes they ended up dropping. This is especially bad for books you rented. 

Taking advantage of office hours is a classic: you hear about it everywhere. And there’s a reason for it, it’s crucial to your success in a class, especially one that you are struggling in. Meeting with your professor outside of class not only gets you the help you need to succeed but also helps to establish connections for mentorship. It’s okay if you are uncomfortable with doing that, most people are. I still have to force myself to go to office hours. 

But be mindful; don’t just go to office hours just for the sake of it. If you are going to go, at least have some questions to ask the professor; don’t go in there with nothing to say.

Hopefully this is the beginning of an instruction book, but remember, everyone writes their own.

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