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Brandeis 101: Everything you need to know before starting Brandeis

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. These 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 2025 Facebook group. There are a lot of them, including: Travel Arrangements, Textbook Sale and Exchange, Free Food, Housing, Buy Nothing Brandeis 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 Workday and LATTE! You will be using these two websites a lot throughout your college career. Workday 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. 

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. This semester, you need an appointment for all visits. It is open Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

At orientation you will be given a lot of phone numbers, particularly for emergencies. Write them down or add them to your contacts. 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 emergency medical technicians (EMTs), who work every day 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 the times when the dining area, library and gym are open, schedules and 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. 

Making your schedule carefully is crucial (you can get a visual of your schedule on schdl). Although it is important to explore your options and try out new fields, it is even more important not to 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 who 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. 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. The 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: it is the perfect time to explore classes.

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 figure 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. Snap Maps are great for finding most places on campus! First impressions matter, and you do not want to be the person who walks into class 10 minutes late on the first day. 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. You can get textbooks at the Brandeis bookstore, at 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). 

However, don’t buy textbooks too early: 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. 

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. 

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 not comfortable with doing that; most people aren’t. 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.

 

Housing 

Having a comfortable living environment is crucial to being happy: if you dread going back to your own room, that’s not a healthy environment to be in. Unfortunately, bad roommate matches happen, and it’s okay to not get along with your roommate. I came to Brandeis thinking I was going to be best friends with my roommate, but I soon realized that that was not going to be the case. And that’s OK.

Although you should work to maintain good relations with your roommate, you can always go to your Community Advisor (CA) if you are having issues. In general, your CA is a resource you can go to for any housing-related issues you have. They will help you have a conversation with your roommates or guide you to any further steps that need to be taken. 

If the match just is not working out, you can go to the Department of Community Living and ask for a change. When I had issues with my living situation, they moved me within a week of me asking without making a big deal out of it. If you aren’t happy on campus, remember that moving off campus is always an option after your first year. 

If there is an issue in your room which requires maintenance, you need to file a work order, which can be done online or through the BRANDA app. 

Dining

Food is a topic of much debate. Personally I am not a huge fan of Brandeis food, but others disagree. If you want to be able to have a lot of variety in the food you eat, choose the meal plan with the most points. You can eat at the dining hall for points or at any other place on campus. However, be wise with spending your points; many students use all of them up during the first few months and later have limited options. 

If you do not like the dining hall food, you can always go to Upper Usdan, which has burritos, sandwiches and sushi. There is also Louis’ Deli, which has sandwiches, salads and soups. The Stein is my personal favorite. It is open Thursdays through Sundays and serves comfort food. If you are in the mood for fries at 1 a.m., that’s where you should go. There is also a convenience store on campus, where you can purchase snacks, sandwiches, salads and much more. 

You can use a meal swipe at most dining locations on campus; charts of where you can use a meal swipe are also available on the Sodexo website. It also has menus of what food available at the dining halls, though they are not always accurate. There is also a food pantry open to all students located in Kutz Hall. 

Transportation 

To get around campus, you can either take the Campus BranVan or the daytime Campus Shuttle. Brandeis also has a daytime and evening Waltham Shuttle, which can take you to Waltham during the week, as well as a shuttle to Market Basket. You can find more information and the schedules on the Brandeis website

Take advantage of the free shuttles to Boston. They work Thursdays through Sundays. They leave every hour and a half and take you to the center of Boston or Harvard Square. You can find the exact schedule online.

Social Life

Joining a club is a great way to make friends. Brandeis has over 200 clubs that will suit any interest you may have. You can even write opinion pieces for my (former) section at The Hoot. Hoot staff have written about everything ranging from feta cheese in the dining hall to investigative pieces on the implementation of Title IX at Brandeis.  

Check the calendar of events to see what’s happening on campus: there’s always lots of things going on. There are a lot of things listed on Brandeis’ discounts for students page. The Museum of Fine Arts offers free admission when you show your Brandeis ID. This is just the tip of the iceberg; also look around for general student discounts. 

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

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