Surviving Colorado State University-Pueblo

“What is there to do around here?” This is a common question for any college freshman who has moved away from home and found himself in a new and unfamiliar town. The common answer to this question from upper classmen and alumni of Colorado State University in Pueblo is, “You have to make your own fun.”

Although this is a very helpful tip for incoming freshman, it is not entirely true. One of the best tips for incoming college freshmen at Colorado State University Pueblo, especially regarding the question of fun, is to live in the Belmont Residence Hall. Some students find that they don’t like the experience and move out after their first semester but it is this CSU-Pueblo alumni’s experience that students who don’t live in the dorms are less likely to be involved in other activities around campus, such as Casino Night, guest speakers (in past years these have included former punk bandleader turned political activist, Jello Biafra, and poet Maya Angelou), or Movies at the [Fountain] Plaza.

Campus involvement is my second tip. Nearly every major on campus has a club or organization associated with it, from the English and Psychology clubs to the Beta Beta Beta biology honor fraternity. And if academic clubs are not what you are looking for, there are two social fraternities, Lambda Chi Alpha and Kappa Sigma, and one social sorority, Alpha Sigma Alpha, the Office of Student Activities and Residence Hall Association which are responsible for a large majority of the activities on campus, the Experiential Learning Center which organizes outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, skiing and camping trips throughout the year as well as oversees the ropes course, climbing wall and intramural sports tournaments. The Associated Students’ Government is also a good way for freshmen to get involved and meet people, as well as a resource for finding other clubs and organizations on campus that might interest them.

My third tip, and this tip goes for any college freshman at any college, is don’t over do it. While you may have been a top student in your high school, college is a completely different “ball game,” as it were. Not only are the classes harder but you, not Mom and Dad, are now responsible for motivating yourself to go to them, plus juggle them against social activities, including the inevitable parties. If you feel like a course is too difficult for you, or if you have overloaded yourself with too many courses, take advantage of your withdrawal period (which ends about a third of the way through the semester). A W will appear on your transcripts but a W will not affect your grade point average whereas the D or F you may earn if you don’t take the withdrawal will affect it.

If possible, talk to upper-classmen before choosing your classes. Nothing is more frustrating than struggling through a class and complaining to an older friend, only to find out that they’ve taken the same class with the same professor and had the same troubles and could have warned you, “if you would have asked.” With most required classes at CSU-Pueblo averaging between twenty and thirty students and general education classes catering to as few as sixty to seventy-five students, creating personal relationships with, and forming well-grounded opinions of professors is much easier than at a school twice or three times its size. Another benefit to choosing the Belmont Residence Hall is that older neighbors will be able to offer fairly good insight into what to expect from professors, although you should keep in mind that they are only offering their personal opinion and everything they say should be considered carefully. What one student loves about a professor may make you hate them, and vice versa.

And if you can’t find an older student on your floor to tell you about a professor, check out the professor grading system or the CSU-Pueblo bulletin board on MySpace.com or look for people on Facebook.com who have the same major who might be able to offer some advice. One of the greatest things I found about CSU-Pueblo is that nearly everyone is willing to help. Especially when it comes to telling you which professors to avoid. Unfortunately, with a school the size of CSU-Pueblo, avoiding professors in your major field is next to impossible. The English department, for example, has fewer than twenty professors and each of them teach a required course for the major and each of them are, in most cases, the only person who teaches their courses because each of them comes from a different background, some of which as specific as earning a doctorate in Victorian literature.

Whenever I talk to new freshmen, which I did a lot through my Greek involvement, they want to know about the “night life.” For the freshmen, eighteen and nineteen year old crowd, there isn’t as much available but there is still a great deal of “off-campus” entertainment in Pueblo, Colorado. The town boasts three bowling alleys, each offering its own special feature, from “cosmic,” or black-light bowling to Quarter-mania ($5 cover at the door and then every game is only a quarter along with quarter fountain sodas until the snack bar closes). Check out the schedule at the Tinseltown theater, from time to time you may find a midnight showing of a cinema “classic,” usually something that is celebrating an anniversary (ten years, twenty-five years from the original theatrical release) but occasionally it is just a random movie the staff wanted to see and has chosen to share with the public.

Many of the bars in town offer occasional “all-ages” live music shows, most of which feature bands whose singer or guitarist you might have seen in your economics class earlier that day, meaning a lot of the bands that play around town are comprised of local college students. Lucky Lou’s and Kickers are the two “clubs” in town and both offer a college night (eighteen and older with college ID).

And speaking of the college ID, keep track of that; it’s more than just your lunch pass. While it is not prominently advertised, the school does offer a community discount program where participating vendors around town offer specials and discounts for students who present their ID at the time of purchase. Take a trip up to the Associated Student’s Government office within the first few weeks of school and ask for a list of community discounts.

On a serious note, my last bit of advice is figure out what you want to do and get started with internships and entry-level jobs as soon as possible. This advice is true for all college students. With Bachelor’s degrees rapidly becoming available to employers at the price of a dime per dozen, experience in the field will be what puts you over the top after graduation. This is the most valuable piece advice I can give to any college freshman and the advice I wish someone had given to me.

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