Do Student Voices

University of Rochester: Know Before You Go

HI FUTURE YELLOWJACKETS – Have you committed to the U of R? Are you equally excited but nervous about all that is yet to come? Here are some things I wish I knew prior to arriving on campus in the fall:

Meal Plans

First, take note of your eating options. As of 2020, all first-year students are required to be on a meal plan that is a combination of “meal swipes” and “declining dollars.” Meal swipes can be used at Douglass Dining Hall, Danforth Dining Hall, Grab & Go, and The Pit after 8:00pm. Declining dollars can be used at any dining facility, such as Starbucks, The Pit (at any time), and also Hillside Market, which is like a small grocery store. The purpose of making first-years have a swipe meal plan is to make sure they do not go through all of their money for food too quickly, as two of the three available plans give you unlimited swipes. These plans give first-years no more than $500 declining dollars to spend during the semester. 

Outside the Carlson Library.

The most common mistake first-years make is burning through this balance extremely fast, since they are not familiar with the prices of on-campus food. My advice is to purchase an unlimited swipe meal plan which will give you unlimited access to the main two dining halls and then budget your declining dollars to use throughout the entire semester. As you become more familiar with dining options and pricing on campus, the university allows you to move to an all-declining meal plan during your upperclassmen years. 

My advice is to maximize the small amount of declining dollars you have available and to be cognizant of food prices. If you go to Starbucks every morning, you will not have any declining dollars by November. Also, any declining dollars you do not spend during the fall semester will be added to your spring semester account when the meal plans are replenished. You can find all information about dining options and pricing on the Dining Services website.

Study Spaces

When you go on a campus tour, a tour guide will probably walk you through Rush Rhees Library, the most common place to  study. There are multiple locations inside this library, so you have a lot of options when it comes to finding a space. In the center of Rush Rhees is Evans Lam Square, home to the Q&i desk where you can check out and borrow any library resources. This area is typically busy so finding seating can be difficult, but it is a great place to study if you are borrowing a textbook for a few hours.

There is a second library building on campus called Carlson Library, located in the Science & Engineering Quad. Although this is a bit of a walk from most on-campus residence halls, it is usually significantly less crowded than Rush Rhees, especially at night, and has a variety of spaces to get work done.

On the same level of Evans Lam Square is Gleason Library, a large study space with big tables and whiteboards—ideal for group work. Gleason tends to get noisy, but if you need a public place to study with a large group of people, this is the spot.

Downstairs of Gleason, you’ll find iZone, the most modern of the study spaces. Perks of iZone include a computer lab next door, booths ideal for studying in groups, and some study rooms equipped with televisions that hook up to your computer. iZone is on the smaller side and fills up fast, but it is a great spot to foster creativity and is the most unique.  

Rush Rhees also has several designated quiet study spaces attached to both Evans Lam Square and Gleason with access to the stacks. The stacks consist of multiple levels of books,  desks to work at, and designated quiet areas. If you follow the stairs outside of Evans Lam Square, you will find the Periodical Reading Room and Great Hall. Both quiet areas are  picturesque with bookcases and wooden tables. There is the Art & Music Library located on the ground floor, where you can check out media resources or reserve viewing rooms equipped with televisions. Overall, Rush Rhees is the hub of studying on campus, but it is best to utilize the space where you will be most productive.

Left: The iZone is the most modern of the study spaces. Right: the Periodical Reading Room is located on the second floor of Rush Rhees.

Another library that is often overlooked is the Physics, Optics, and Astronomy (POA) Library located on the third floor of Bausch & Lomb Hall. It is open to the public during certain hours, but majors in these departments can come here 24 hours a day. It is a great place to access resources if you are doing research in these fields. 

Each first-year resident hall is also equipped with some study space. Susan B. Anthony Hall has two lounges on each floor, one of which Resident Advisors will usually designate to be the “study lounge.” At Genesee Hall, the main floor has multiple meeting rooms that can be utilized by students if the rooms are not reserved by student organizations. In the First-Year Quad (Gilbert, Hoeing, and Tiernan) there are lounges on each floor where students can be found socializing or studying. Each building also has a larger community lounge and/or meeting room on the ground floor ideal for studying in groups. These residential hall buildings are useful when the weather is not the best and you would prefer studying in a space without leaving your dorm.

There are so many places to study on campus but it is necessary to explore all of the areas available. I was not aware of all the spaces in Rush Rhees until halfway through my freshmen fall semester, so make sure to ask others if you are confused! Find the place that works best for you. You can find more information about the libraries specifically on the River Campus Libraries website.

Auditions for Performance Groups

Attending general interest meetings for clubs and auditioning for performance groups is something you will do often during the first few weeks of your freshman year. What I did not expect is how fast some auditions occur.  My advice is to be prepared! If you have any interest in joining university acapella groups, theater organizations, dance groups, choirs, instrumental ensembles, or auditioning for music lessons at the Eastman School of Music, prepare over the summer so you arrive on campus with something ready. Whether it’s a monologue, a song, or a choreographed dance, you will alleviate some stress surrounding auditions by knowing you are ready.

Performing arts groups at the University of Rochester.

The university also has music practice rooms across campus that students can purchase keys to use whenever they want. Keys cost $50, and you can receive $10 back if you return the key at any time. These practice rooms have pianos and are typically available until midnight. I recommend visiting the music department in Dewey Hall to get a key so you can easily rehearse for any immediate auditions. 

If you would like more information, consult the university’s CCC page. CCC is an online directory for student organizations to post events and for students to register for any on-campus events. On this website, you can find contact information to reach out to any student organizations you may be interested in joining. 

Registering for Classes and Academic Advising

In case you are not aware, first-year students at the U of R do not register for classes until they get on campus, typically during orientation week. Prior to registering for classes, a personal academic advisor, assigned to you, will reach out. You will typically meet with this advisor to discuss courses you are considering taking and make sure you feel prepared for course registration. 

Course registration for all first-years occurs on the same day, with certain time slots  assigned based on your birthday. On each floor of every first-year resident hall, there is  a First-Year Fellow,  an upperclassman who serves as an academic resource for all students living in the hall. Fellows typically will stay in the floor lounges all day to assist students with registration as their time slot approaches. 

Some general advice for course registration: Have backup courses ready just in case a class may be filled, do not be afraid to let your advisor know if you have any questions (he/she  is there to help), and utilize your First-Year Fellow if you happen to have any problems while  registering for your courses. 

Also look at the department webpages for any areas of study you may be interested in pursuing. There are a lot of resources on these pages, such as what courses a first-semester business major might take. Course registration sounds way more stressful than it actually is, and the university does a good job pointing you towards resources to help design your first semester.

The Shuttle System

You can view different shuttle routes on the DoubleMap app. 

The university offers a variety of shuttles that stop at Rush Rhees, at the Eastman School of Music, College Town, parking lots, and even the mall on certain occasions. The shuttles are organized by colors. For example, the shuttle that takes you to Eastman is called the “Red Line.” In order to track shuttles and see the routes they take, download the app “DoubleMap.” Here you can view the location of shuttles in real time as well as all the stops. The shuttles are free for all students and are extremely useful. Shuttle schedules and stops can also be found on the Department of Transportation website.

The Tunnel System

One of the most important things to learn is the tunnel system, as the harsh winters of Rochester will be here before you know it. There are tunnels that connect all of the main academic buildings on the Eastman Quad to each other and also to Wilson Commons. You can get from Rush Rhees to Starbucks to Lattimore Hall (etc.) all underground. Not only are these tunnels the best in the winter, they are also useful anytime, as they allow you to get to some halls even faster while avoiding extra staircases. The map of the tunnels is confusing at first, so I recommend asking an upperclassmen to give you a quick tour.

The university’s main buildings are connected by a tunnel system. 

In Conclusion

Your first semester on campus  consists of a large learning curve. Before getting on campus, reach out to current students and do research online to find out as much information as you can. I hope this information is useful and helps you feel better prepared about coming to campus. Good luck and Meliora!