Advice for Baby Bears

Welcome Class of 2027!

Congratulations and welcome to the Barnard Class of 2027! We are so happy to have you join our community. As a current first-year, I have enjoyed my transition to the Barnard community, but I also navigated specific practices unique to Barnumbia — the chaos of registration, understanding the swipe and point system, trying to find open laundry machines, how the Columbia-Barnard thing works, etc. So, here is some first-year advice from a first year. 

  1. Laundry: It’s the Hunger Games out here. 

I found most laundry machines to be available early in the mornings (7-9 am) on the weekends. You will find the most washers and dryers on Level 8. The best dryers on each floor are the bottom dryer, but fighting for one is hard… If you are waiting for someone to take their stuff out, give them a solid 5 minutes. It’s awkward to be caught taking out laundry before that mark. Never leave your stuff unattended in the laundry room; things are stolen often — both dry and not even washed yet.

  1. Swipes and Points: 120 points for Ravenclaw?

Your first-year meal plan consists of 19 meal swipes per week and 120 points. Meal Swipes are used in all the Barnard and Columbia dining halls, and the permitted entrance to each dining hall is worth one swipe. To use your 19 swipes to their full potential, you could get three meals each day of the week and two on the weekend (when there is only brunch and dinner offered). If you have extra swipes from that week, use them before Sunday. Points are like cash ($120), which can be used for things from coffee and pastries to convenience store items sold in Diana and Liz’s (like tubs of ice cream or hand sanitizer, to name a few). 1 point = $1, so the prices listed on each indicate the cost in both cash and points. For example, a tub of ice cream at Diana is $6 which is 6 points. Unfortunately, these can’t be used at Columbia or at dining halls. Points will be lost/not be carried over after your first year at Barnard. 

  1. Clubs: Omg there are so many!

At the beginning of the year, there is a club fair in front of Low. You can join as many as you’d like. Just a heads up, some are very exclusive no matter how qualified you might be. It’s a rite of passage to be rejected or never hear back from a few clubs. But don’t be discouraged! Most clubs don’t stop their membership after the fair and there is always next year. There is something for everyone, whether it is literary magazines like Echoes or even film comedy groups like The One Train Is Delayed

  1. Registration: Are those happy tears or sad ones? 

I will admit, registration is notoriously painful. Most likely, you will not get your planned or ideal schedule. Each person receives a different time starting as early as 7 am to as late as 2 pm. Remember: it is always in EST. You pick which classes you attend, which section you want to attend, and what days of the week you attend. Yes, you can have Fridays off. For example, a Spanish class could meet M/W/F at 8:40-9:55, T/TH/F at 10:10-11:25, etc. It’s up to you which one you want to pick. My advice is to get PE done your first semester while it’s still warm! The Barnard student planning portal allows you to “plan” a temporary schedule, so you can adjust what your schedule might look like with different classes. Do this early on; that way when it’s your time to register and you press the register button, it will automatically enroll you in the classes you “planned” out. But that doesn’t mean you WILL get into all of them. Sometimes you will be put on the waitlist or denied. So have backups. Just because you are on the waitlist doesn’t mean you will get in. Sometimes you can see what number is on the waitlist if it isn’t instructor managed (then you might have to kiss up to professors). 

  1. Best Libraries? Go to your own Library; you have like 10 of them!

There are a lot of libraries at Columbia, so have fun exploring which one suits you. Milstein is the best library, but I am biased. It has the perfect level of comfort, is closest to The Quad, there is usually space, and noise levels differ by level (from chatty to silent). The second best is the Brooks Parlor. You will always find space; it opens early and closes late, and is right in The Quad. It’s pretty cold though, so bring a jacket. Side note: whenever the main doors open to the building, the Brooks doors make a loud shaking noise. You will rarely find room or comfort in Butler (definitely check it out still). Know that even Columbia students would rather work in Milstein. 

  1. Must Need Items: Get in – we are going shopping!
    1. No mesh shower bags: these mold very easily, tear, are impossible to clean, and  tend to smell. I suggest getting a plastic shower caddy instead. 
    2. Laundry bag with straps or wheels: You will eventually have to lug your laundry up and down the stairs and elevators to find a dryer or washer. I suggest getting something that can be carried with ease. 
    3. Surge protectors are saviors: Your side of the dorm will have two outlets–one  near your desk and one by the window. Get a surge protector for optimal use, further reach, and to plug in more than one object at a time.
    4. Buy a fan or you’ll melt: It stays hot until early November so get a fan with a long enough cord to attach to your surge protector so the air can reach you. As someone from California, I thought I could take on the NY heat. I was so wrong. You won’t have AC or wind coming into your dorm. The window and fan given to you won’t do anything. Don’t be the wicked witch of the East and melt.
    5. ID Holders: You will be swiping in everywhere from dining halls to any building you enter. Make your life easier by getting a lanyard with an attachable wallet or phone card wallet, so all you have to do is tap it. Avoid plastic card holders since they break easily over time. You can buy handy ID holders at the Barnard store, Columbia store, or Ivy League Stationery. 

Enjoy your first year! Take advantage of all the tailgates, homecoming, and NSOP activities. Let me know if you, too, find the owl in Alma’s Cloak. Don’t worry; you will get the hang of it. This will be a time of many firsts and many memories, and these memories last. Most importantly, have FUN!

Photograph By Samantha Candelo Ortegon

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