Ohh College. Often regarded as the best years of your life. If you’re getting ready to make that step, you have a big road ahead. While we congratulate you for getting accepted into that wonderful program, we also want to prep you for what to expect during your freshman year in Chicago! We thought it would be best to ask the advice of Wood Family Foundation Scholar and University of Illinois at Chicago sophomore, Marla Stamps. Marla is now in the Media Communication program at UIC and offered 10 bits of advice to ease your anxiety and prepare you for Freshman year!


Pack Less: Before coming to college, I watched YouTube videos of college freshmen packing their entire bedrooms. More than likely, you will be living in a confined space with another person. Packing too much will make the move-in process more stressful and difficult for everyone. The rooms are not as big as you might think. If you do have too much, a simple solution is to buy storage bins.

Budget: We tend to neglect our financial limitations. It is important to spend in moderation. If you plan to go out with friends, set a weekly or monthly limit. Also, it is important to know the difference between a want and a need. If you are a Starbucks person and want a Caramel Frappe every day, that adds up. It’s okay to cut back! More importantly, track how much you are spending to see where your money goes. It will help you cut your spending when you notice the unnecessary items you have bought. A helpful app I use is Mint.

Textbooks: Textbooks ARE expensive! If you want cheaper books, the best options are buying them used or renting. Chegg.com is a good site to visit for that. If you want the required book for free, check the library. You can check-out the textbook for class and continuously renew your check-out.

Prioritize: A common situation that you will encounter is being asked to go out with your friends. But, you have assignments due and deadlines to meet. Although hanging with friends is more appealing than studying, you should remember the purpose of being in school. What type of student do you want to be? I’m not trying to imply that you shouldn’t have a social life, but balance your time. Personally, I like to plan my day. I use Google calendar and input homework assignments I want to do between certain times. I may throw in a time to nap and when I will have free time to hang out.

Ask for Help: Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Not everything will come easily to you and that’s okay. The professor has office hours for a reason, so utilize them and take advantage of that time. Also, I would advise seeking a tutor if you need extra help. Or you can form study groups with peers. It’s okay to ask questions. Some students may feel their question is silly. “The only stupid question is the one not asked.” Depending on your major, you may have the same professor for numerous classes. Befriend them and watch your education soar!

Studying: Do NOT study in bed. This is the worst thing you can do because you will fall asleep. Instead, sit at your desk. Or you can go to the library on campus or study lounges. Do not forget to turn off your phone. I cannot express the number of times I have picked up my phone and looked at the screen for no reason. A good study tip would be to create your own study guide because many professors do not create them for you. Also, do not over study. If you have reached a point, where you do become tired then stop. Do not force yourself to keep going.

Class: Very simple, just go to class. It’s tempting to sleep in, but trust me, it’s not worth it. I am the type of person that sets multiple alarms because I have the tendency to stop my alarm and go back to sleep. If setting multiple alarms is what you need to do, then do it. I would advise that you become acquainted with at least one student from each class. If you miss a class, that person will save your life. But, you should not miss class because you set multiple alarms to wake up and be on time.

Majors: It is okay to not know what major you’re interested in. You have time. But, if you are considering changing, speak with your advisor. They can inform you about potential major possibilities and help with the switch. It’s important to note that, if you change your major, the previous information you learned was not worthless. Utilize what you’ve learned and apply it to your studies!

Discounts/Cheap Places: The cafeteria food is not the best. So, you might eat somewhere else. The restaurant Busy Burger on Taylor street offers a 15% student discount. You need to have a valid student ID with you. Rosati’s Pizza has pizza slices for $3.75 and Bacci’s Pizzeria has pizza slices for $5 dollars. However, Bacci’s pizza slices are extremely large. The museums offer a student discount too, with a valid student ID.

Clubs and Events: Depending on your interests, I would highly encourage everyone to join a club or organization on campus. Use this experience for your resume and to bolster skills you wouldn’t necessarily pick up in class. Networking is a great skill to learn and the best opportunities are right in front of you on campus!

~ Sincerely,



Favorite Chicago Cafes:

Favorite Mexican:








Things to Do!

  • Second City, Laugh Factory, Under the Gun Theatre etc.
  • Paddle Boarding on Lake Michigan
  • Riding along the bike trail
  • Using Museum Student Discounts
  • Cubs, Bulls, Sox, Bears, Blackhawks
  • Free CONCERTS!
  • Study in the “Winter Room” in the Harold Washington Library
  • Explore underground Chicago on the Pedway system (Don’t mistake for Lower Wacker Drive)
  • Spin Ping Pong Club // REPLAY Arcade
  • Explore the roof decks // Virgin Hotel, The Godfrey, Streeterville Social
  • Myopic Books
  • Promontory Point
  • Dim Sum and Bubble tea in Chinatown