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Wear Shower Shoes (and Other Tips for First-Year Survival)

Experienced Terps Share Tips for Making the Most of UMD

By Maggie Haslam

person reading paper with advice messages appearing around her: Get good walking shoes. Be nice to everyone. Wear flip flops in the showers. Go to First Look Fair! Relax! Have fun! Don't study in your dorm. Use Google Maps. Go to office hours. Join a study group

Advice from peers who've been there, done that, can help fill in the gaps to help first-year students succeed on campus.

Illustration by iStock; animation by Valerie Morgan

The first question incoming freshman Drew Detlor asked his brother Noah about the University of Maryland wasn’t which classes to take or how to apply for the health insurance waiver: It was which dining hall had the best food.

As a May 2023 grad, Noah could dish on the culinary delights of his brother’s new home, but also school him in navigating the day-to-day logistics of campus life. For weeks before Drew’s move-in day, they discussed how to skirt the politics of the dorm laundry room, befriend his two Easton Hall roommates and crush the First Look Fair.

“I think he’s going to do well; I just keep reminding him to put himself out there,” Noah said last week. “There’s just so much on campus that you can do.”

Not all first-year students have an older sibling to lean on. And while Orientation can tell you where to access campus mental health services and the “M Book” can teach you the Maryland fight song, they won’t tell you to walk your schedule before the first day of classes. Or that you’ll never get any studying done on the second floor of McKeldin Library (but you will make friends). Or to walk “through” buildings instead of around them when traversing campus on a rainy or blazing hot day.

On campus, in the dorms and in social forums, Terps are quick to share advice to new students adjusting to college life, from taking advantage of office hours to making traditions with your roommates. The nuances of showering at Maryland—from the necessity of flip-flops to packing a robe so you’re not slinking back to your room in a towel—are enduring topics on UMD’s Reddit advice threads and Instagram stories.

“One thing I wish I knew was to get a hard plastic shower caddy,” said biology major Juliana Corn ‘24. “I brought this really cute fabric one, and within the first week it was just gross from the wet floors.”

As the next chapter begins for thousands of new Terps, we asked students, alums—and a few faculty and staff—to share one key tip for a successful first year at Maryland:


“One tip that I learned from a professor was that you can download your academic calendar from Canvas/ELMS to your personal (Google) calendar to keep track of assignments automatically.”

—James Szot ’26


“Sign up for clubs—even if you have never tried it before. You are sure to make new friends!”

—Samantha Osborne ’26 via Instagram

teacher presents to two students

“Someone probably should have told me this: Go to class, even if attendance isn't mandatory. At least you can show your face and the instructor will know who you are and can maybe help you out down the road.”

—Kaylin Baumiller ’24

“The University Health Center (right across from Stamp Student Union) has a wellness center on the lower floor that is open until 5 p.m. If you ever want to relax from a stressful day, visit the wellness center for an hour or two!”

—Mya Smith ‘24

water bottle

“Get your metal water bottles engraved for free at Terrapin Works.”

—Taldavv via Instagram

“You are one Metro ride away from national parks, museums, concert venues, famous restaurants and even tattoo parlors, so on weekends when you're bored, just go places! Be wise about the tattoo parlor idea though. The ink is expensive…”

—Megan Heptner ’26

person talking

“Talk to your professors! Scholarships and jobs require recommendations.”

Tnorton1775 via Instagram

“Before each class registration period, meet with an adviser to make sure you know what classes you need to take. This will help make sure you stick to your four-year plan and will guarantee that you fulfill all of your requirements and credits in time for graduation.”

Grace Overman ’23


“Learn all the free services at McKeldin Library! There are hula hoops on the second floor.”

—Elaine.dickman via Instagram

“Over-the-counter medications (like ibuprofen, etc.) are cheaper at the health center even if you don't have university insurance. You can get prescriptions sent to the health center for your convenience.”

—Warren Dansou ’24

“ESJ can be busy but has so many good study corners/spots (and natural light!).”

—Aylahdhruv via Instagram

three people

“Attend academic events (e.g. academic discussions, guest speakers) offered by your academic department or college. These are smaller settings where you can meet faculty, experts and other students who share your academic or professional interests.”

—Katherine Russell, associate dean for undergraduate education, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences

“RecWell has so many great fitness classes! Also use the Eppley pool before it gets too cold!”

—Jakecitt via Instagram

car next to parking sign

“Be careful when parking somewhere you do not have a permit for—even for only five minutes.”

—Sedric White ’22, M.P.H. ’24


“One thing that has saved me a ton is a tiny fold-up umbrella in the bottom of my bag. Maryland has really wild weather sometimes.”

Nathan Blanken ’24


“Don’t focus too much on your love life.”

—bulvgar via Instagram

“If you feel overwhelmed in your first year, congratulations, you're normal. The University of Maryland offers a wealth of new experiences. You want to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Be sure to use campus resources. Your academic adviser is a great place to start.”

—Brent M.W. Hernandez, director of graduate student services

Maryland Today is produced by the Office of Marketing and Communications for the University of Maryland community on weekdays during the academic year, except for university holidays.