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20 Things to Know for Your First Year at BC, as Told by Boston College Alumni

#OnceAnEagleAlwaysAnEagle

That's more than a hashtag. With over 180,000 alumni, the Boston College family extends far beyond Chestnut Hill. When you look at BC Alumni social media (check out the sites at www.bc.edu/socialmedia), you'll see the spirited passion our alumni have for BC. It was no surprise that when we asked them to share their best advice with incoming BC students, they eagerly replied.

Here is what your fellow Eagles think you should know.

 

1. The mysterious powers of your BC ID

file

We all remember just how excited we were to receive our BC ID, the Eagle-One Card. Memorize your BC ID number, because it will come in handy. And yes, many of us still remember that personal eight-digit code. But your BC ID unlocks far more than just a meal plan and the door to your residence hall.

EagleBucks are the key to more than you know: vending machines, laundry machines, printers, and copiers. The BC Bookstore allows purchases to be made with your ID, and several off-campus restaurants accept EagleBucks too.

But having a BC ID in your pocket unlocks a lot more in a college mecca like Boston. The Museum of Fine Arts and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum are FREE with a college ID. The AMC Fenway movie theater offers a student rate as do J.Crew, Banana Republic, and other places.

Take this advice: Always ask if there's a student discount. 

Click here for everything you need to know about your BC ID

 

2. VERY CRUCIAL: The Maloney elevators

elevator elf

Rules have been written about appropriate elevator etiquette, and the elevators in Maloney Hall are no exception.

First, let us remember this: The Boston College campus is basically a StairMaster. Our calves are burning by the time we reach the stone eagles. And within days you'll realize the magic of the Maloney elevators and the easy access they provide to middle campus.

Maloney elevator etiquette is simple: You are only allowed to take the elevator to the fourth floor going up or the first floor going down. Students will groan and give you stares if you stop on any other floor. We've seen this. So if you need to get to the second or third floor, you're taking the stairs.

Pro Elevator Tips

► The Comm. Ave. Garage elevators are just as wonderful. Take one to the seventh floor to get access to O'Neill Plaza. Need to get to the bridge between Maloney and O'Neill? Just take the elevator to the fifth floor.

► The O'Neill Library elevators are slow and hidden, but if you're in a jam, just remember that the main floor is three.

 

3. Get out of the BC Bubble

BC Bubble

There's a whole world waiting for you…off-campus. Do yourself a favor and explore the area's eclectic neighborhoods. You'll be glad you did.

Here are a few areas that our alumni have pointed out:

  • Newton Centre: Not far from Newton Campus, Newton Centre offers everything one could want. There's coffee (Starbucks), ice cream (J.P. Licks), and the legendary diner Johnny's Luncheonette. It's worth the walk.
  • The Street and The Square in Chestnut Hill: The Street and The Square are located near each other off Route 9 in Chestnut Hill. They are basically fancy strip malls. There's a Wegmans grocery store, a CVS pharmacy, a Shake Shack, a high-end movie theater, hair and nail salons, clothing stores, and more.
  • Newbury Street: Take the MBTA "T" public transportation to Hynes Convention Center or to Copley and you're in the heart of Boston's "Rodeo Drive." Newbury Street has high-end shops and restaurants, and it's a great place to walk around with friends.
  • Public Garden: A beautiful oasis in the heart of the city, the Public Garden has long been one of Boston's treasures, lovingly described in the popular children's book Make Way for Ducklings. If you haven't read it, you are missing out. (Do it now. We'll wait.) Main characters Mrs. Mallard and her eight ducklings are immortalized here in bronze. During the holidays and any sports playoffs, the statues are dressed up in celebration. Along with the ducklings, the Public Garden is home to the Swan Boats. One of the few tourist attractions that hasn't suffered inflation, the cost is still under $5. And it's worth the wait.
  • Boston Common: Across the street from the Garden is the Common, home to Frog Pond (a popular destination for ice skating in winter) as well as a merry-go-round, if adulthood is weighing a bit too heavily. In early December, the city erects a huge Christmas tree here.
  • Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market: Touristy? Yes. Worth it? Absolutely. A great blend of local history, good food, and frequent free entertainment, it's a fun place to hang out.
  • The North End: Boston's famous Italian neighborhood is known for its great restaurants—and more. There are gelato shops, cappuccino bars, and even comedy stops. For the "under 21" crowd, we recommend a night out in the North End. Grab a bite to eat and then head to the Improv Asylum. After the show is over, head to one of the local cafes like Mike's Pastry or Modern Pastry for a late night cannoli. It's the best.
  • Go abroad!: Now this is a bit further out of the "BC Bubble," but it's a great option for junior year or the summer. There are so many options available and so many places to go! Start exploring your opportunities at BC's Office of International Programs.

 

4. Professor/TA (Teaching Assistant) office hours

office hours

Sometimes the adjustment from high school to college courses can be tricky. And many Eagles have needed help in one subject or another. Remember: There is no shame in asking for help! BC has resources galore to help you if you're struggling, and you are meant to take advantage of them.

Stand out in the crowd: In some of the larger courses, you are just a number––one out of 300 students. Take the time to introduce yourself to the professor. Why? Because if you have a question and need to email them, they will know exactly who you are.

The same goes for office hours. Sure, you want to head back to your residence hall or grab a coffee at the Chocolate Bar (do you know about the Chocolate Bar yet?!) between classes, but trust us, office hours are the best-kept secret at BC. Professors and TAs are more than willing to help you.

You may be surprised, but many BC alumni have said that they regularly went to a professor's office hours to talk about things other than class––movies, funny YouTube videos, even roommate issues. It's amazing how willing our faculty are to help every Eagle get settled. Ever heard of a professor inviting a whole class over for dinner with their family? At BC, we have. A lot.

Pro Tip: If you need additional support, upperclassmen and graduate students will tutor you for FREE at the Connors Family Learning Center, located on the second floor of O'Neill Library. The staff will match you with a tutor who can help to edit a paper, talk through concepts with you, and even quiz you before a big final. It's a great resource and one that many alumni credit with helping them succeed at BC.

 

5. Clubs…join 'em all!

clubs

The Student Involvement Fair is a must! If we were to list all the extracurricular clubs on campus, this would be a much, much longer post––there are around 300 student organizations. There's at least one that's perfect for you whether you're interested in media, performing arts, academic/pre-professional, intercultural and AHANA, or spirituality, among others.

The Student Involvement Fair is generally on the first Friday of the academic year (get the details from BC's Office of Student Involvement). Take time to walk through Linden Lane and talk with the different clubs. And grab the free candy, Frisbees, and pens while you're at it!

 

6. Take Perspectives/PULSE

PULSE Placements

When asked what courses are a must at BC, alumni overwhelmingly cited two philosophy courses: Perspectives and PULSE.

Both courses are yearlong and thus offer a great transition from high school to college life. You develop friendships in the classroom that continue into the next semester because hey, you’ll all be together again. And trust us when we say that many a sophomore-year roommate is found with these classmates.

Here's what you need to know about two of the most beloved courses at BC:

Perspectives: Perspectives I, Perspectives on Western Culture is a 12-credit course (six credits per semester) that asks the Socratic question: "What is the best way to live?" In the first semester, students are exposed to Greek philosophers as well as the Judeo-Christian experience of God's self-revelation in history. In the second semester, you'll look at the rise of modernity and explore philosophical reactions to theological concerns. Because it covers issues related to both philosophy and theology, Perspectives satisfies the core requirements for both fields.

There is a lot of reading, but it's paired with film critiques and engaging classroom discussions. Many alumni have said that taking Perspectives taught them how to think, which helped them understand concepts in other courses and enhanced their undergraduate education.

You can also major in Perspectives at BC, and it is considered an honors philosophy major. It consists of four yearlong courses covering philosophy of the arts, literature, math, science, and the social sciences, as well as a senior seminar and a thesis.

Learn more about Perspectives

PULSE: Like Perspectives, PULSE also is a 12-credit, yearlong course that satisfies the undergraduate course requirements in philosophy and theology at BC. Unlike Perspectives, PULSE requires class work in conjunction with involvement in a PULSE placement.

These placements can be selected from among a variety of opportunities such as volunteering at a local food bank, tutoring adults to help them earn their GED, helping veterans create resumes to get back into the workforce, or volunteering at women's shelters.  

Each week, students are expected to commit 10-12 hours to their PULSE placements, but many alumni have said that they enthusiastically contributed additional hours. Not surprisingly, many also have continued their volunteer work in the areas they selected long after their PULSE course ended. 

As with Perspectives, a lot of reading is required, but you'll also draw on your experiences volunteering and reflect on how society can assume responsibility to help people overcome the social injustices they face.

Learn more about PULSE

To say that these courses are life-changing doesn't even start to explain the impact they have had on the lives of BC alumni. Trust us when we say that you should take one of the two courses while at the Heights.

 

7. Residence Hall events

residence hall events

Two words: Free. Food. If your RA (or anyone else, for that matter) is holding an event that includes pizza or cookies, you should go. 

You are in college, and like many college students, you may be on a budget or just looking to save a few dollars here and there. You have our permission to take advantage of all these events! Plus it's nice to just sit and talk with an RA (over pancakes!) and get to know your residence hall mates better.  

 

8. #Gassongram is a thing


#Gassongrams are a phenomenon created by students for students. Boston College has a stunning campus — and Gasson Hall is the crown jewel. That building in the center of campus is inimitably gorgeous. You will spend many days taking pictures of this monumental feat of architecture…and posting them online. As does everyone else. #Gassongram all day every day.

Head to our Instagram feed (you’ll see many #Gassongrams).

 

9. Career Center

career center

Looking for a job? Want to talk to alumni who work in marketing? Hoping to network with folks in Denver? BC has a place for that.

The Career Center staff is well equipped to help you with your job and internship search. They will gladly teach you how to interview, build your resume, and create your LinkedIn profile. Many companies hold interview days at the Career Center for summer internship opportunities.

Pro Tip: Set up a Gmail filter for all emails from the Career Center so you can be aware of opportunities and companies visiting campus.

Pro Tip: You do not have to be a Carroll School of Management student to take advantage of the Career Center. We repeat: you don’t have to be in the Carroll School to go to the Career Center. Promise yourself that you will visit the Career Center—it’s in Southwell Hall, on Commonwealth Ave.—at least once during your freshman year. You won’t regret it.

Pro Tip: Make a LinkedIn profile early and secure your custom URL. The Career Center staff will show you how to do this. You want to own your brand (i.e. your name) online, and customizing your URL is a great way to ensure you do.

 

10. Say no to the B Line

B line

Ahhh, Boston public transportation. The city has a love/hate relationship with the "T" (the nickname for Boston's subway service, the MBTA), especially when it comes to the B train. This ever-so-slow branch of the T's Green Line may tempt you, since its final stop is Boston College, but it takes about 20 extra minutes.

Pro Tip: There are faster ways to get to Boston College.

  • Take the Green Line D train to Reservoir Station, which only takes about a half hour. Then climb the stairs to wait for the BC Shuttle Bus, a free service that will take you all over campus and includes a line that runs directly to Newton.
  • Take the Green Line C train to Cleveland Circle, the last stop on the C Line. Walk over to the Bank of America on Chestnut Hill Ave. to board the BC Shuttle Bus to campus.

You can buy reloadable "Charlie Cards" (fare cards) at most T stations. And BC offers a discount on monthly passes for students.

One Last Pro Tip: The 86 bus. Lots of students headed to Harvard Square in Cambridge naively take the Green Line to the Red Line, which can take about an hour and a half. Instead, take a 20-minute ride on the 86 bus from Reservoir Station directly to Harvard Square.

There is only one time we'd encourage you to take the B Line: The T Storm. During the Beanpot (a hockey tournament in February between BC, BU, Harvard, and Northeastern), BC students will pack the T and take it all the way down Comm. Ave., passing BU's "campus" along the way. With the T full to capacity, is it our fault that the Terrier fans can't get on the T? Of course not.

 

11. The beauty that is "Late Night"

late night

Ever dreamed of having chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, and various other fried foods late at night? Well, your dream has come true. The major dining halls on campus offer a late-night service that runs until midnight on weekdays and until 2 a.m. on weekends. Alumni dream of these sandwiches. The BC Alumni Twitter account has even seen requests to ship a "late-night buffalo chicken wrap" to California, and the steak and cheese in Corcoran was voted one of the best by the New York Times Magazine.

And yes, there are also healthy options available at Late Night!

A note for our alumni: BC has changed through the years, and so has its food. You might not have had some of these yummies when you were at the Heights!

 

12. Keep your door open…and also, make popcorn

opening door

Having your door open is an invitation for conversation. If you're in your room, keep the door open and say hi to those who pass by in the hallway.

And, the smell of popcorn is one of the most intoxicating smells in the world—and that makes it one of the easiest ways to make friends.

Try it. Open your door and start microwaving some popcorn. By the time it's done (don't burn it! burned popcorn is the worst), you'll hear the chatter start in the hallway:

Do you smell popcorn?
I smell popcorn!

Your curious hall mates will sniff out the trail leading directly to your room. Place the popcorn in a big bowl and share: Voila! You just made friends.

 

13. Guide to being a Superfan



We Are BC! There's nothing like the excitement of game day, donning your Superfan shirt and getting ready to cheer on the Eagles.

The folks over in BC Athletics have created the ultimate student ticket option: the Gold Pass, designed to fill the stands with cheering students giving BC the best home field advantage. Do your part! You'll accumulate points for every game you attend, becoming eligible to cheer on the Eagles when bigger rivalries come to the Heights. Click here to learn more about student season tickets.

BC vs. ND.

BC vs. BU.

The Sieve Chant.

Learn what these words mean and more in this guide created by The Gavel, a student-led literary magazine.

 

14. Go on retreats and service trips

retreats

One of the best things you can do freshman year is sign up for retreats and service trips. The Office of First Year Experience's 48 Hours retreat is a must freshman year. It's a great time to get away from campus and connect not only with fellow freshmen but also with upperclassmen. Ask a BC alum: 48 hours shouldn't be missed.

Kairos, Halftime, and many more retreats are available. You may have heard rumors about Kairos (it's full of secrets!), but trust us when we say to sign up for it even if there's a waiting list. It's a special weekend that you'll never forget.

BC offers many opportunities to go on service trips, but we would be remiss not to plug Appalachia Volunteers, one of BC's largest programs. Spring break can be for trips to Cancun or road trips to Disney, but many students opt to give back. Each year, over 400 students volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, building homes in Appalachia for those in need. If you do one thing before you leave BC, devote one spring break (or all of them) to Appalachia Volunteers.

 

15. A lesson in laundry

laundry

For some of us, our first time away at college is also our first time doing laundry. Luckily, our alumni have provided tips and tricks for getting your clothes clean.

Begin by separating your laundry into piles of similar colors—all the darks in one pile, all the lighter colors in another. Clothing tags will often say "machine wash cold" or "wash with like colors," and it's important to pay attention to those instructions to avoid shrinking, fading, discoloring, or otherwise ruining your clothes.

Pro Tip: Because room space is limited, we recommend a simple mesh bag for your laundry. It will save space, and you can do your separating in the laundry room. Your roommates will thank you.

Check LaundryView to see which washers and dryers are available and when your own laundry loads are finished.

You can use EagleBucks or quarters in the laundry room.

Colors: Wash dark-colored clothes in cold water. Always turn your jeans inside out to protect their color from fading. No white or lighter colored clothes (this includes neons) should be in this load, in case the colors run.

Pro Tip: You may have to do two cold washes—one for darker colors and one for lighter colors. Darker colors often "shed" color, which will turn lighter colors dingy, so keep them separate.

Pro Tip: Try out Tide Pods! A pod is a little ball with detergent that you throw in with your clothing. No mess or spills like with liquid detergents. But remember to throw the pod in before you start the washer, because the washer doors lock. You don't want to pay for a 40-minute wash with no detergent!

Pro Tip: Invest in Shout Color Catcher sheets. If you have dark jeans (whose color may run), the sheet will protect the rest of your clothes in the wash. You want to keep your Superfan shirt bright golden yellow!

Whites: Wash your white or very light-colored clothing and delicate items in a warm wash; however, if some of your underwear is more colorful, you can absolutely toss them in the cold wash. You can use a mesh bag to keep all your underwear safe and sound during the wash too.

Double-check that you do not have a red sock or T-shirt in with your whites! There is nothing worse than opening a washing machine and seeing that all your whites are now pink!

Towels and sheets: Wash them in hot water. Give them a good clean.

Drying basics:

  • Sweaters should never be dried in the dryer. Let them air dry.
  • Your comforter or towels might require a second shift in the dryer. Have your card or quarters ready for two turns.
  • Be sure to clean the lint trap before you put in your clothes. This helps to ensure safety (lint can start fires) and avoid any weird smells.
  • Invest in awesome dryer sheets that smell nice––you'll thank us!

Lastly, we recommend that you invest in a good drying rack. Your jeans, delicates, and even some shirts probably shouldn't go into the dryer. Let them air dry on the rack while you're at class.

 

16. All about the BC libraries

Bapst Library

Here's a quick reference guide to the main libraries at Boston College. Keep in mind that you can also use the Theology and Ministry Library on Brighton Campus, the Social Work Library in McGuinn, and the Educational Resource Center in Campion.

  • Bapst's Gargan Hall: If you have ever wanted to study at Hogwarts, head to Bapst. Gargan Hall is always super quiet, and everyone there is extremely focused on the work they need to do. Try to find a good seat during finals, we dare you!
  • O'Neill: O'Neill tends to be more laid-back but can be crowded as well. It's the more modern library with more computers (both Macs and PCs) as well as other technology facilities. You can reserve small study rooms on the fifth floor to study with your friends during finals or work on a group project (but reserve in advance, because the study rooms go quickly!).

Pro Tip: You can search for a book online and locate exactly where it is on the website, which saves a lot of time.

 

17. Winter is harsh…but you will survive



Invest in a good, warm winter jacket as well as good quality boots. We strongly recommend waterproof boots as snow becomes slush very quickly in New England.

Pro Tip: The best part about winter? Hot chocolate! Many restaurants on Newbury Street and around the city have specialty hot chocolate in fabulous flavors to keep you warm during the coldest months.

 

18. Be nice to the Facilities people

facilities

If something goes awry in your room, Facilities Services answers the call. Take a tip from many alumni: Go out of your way to make them feel appreciated. Whether it's offering a bottle of water, a cookie, or even just saying "thank you," the smallest expression of gratitude means a lot.  

 

19. Take in some culture

campus event

Sure, BC has loads of superstars on the field, but did you know that many incredibly talented students perform off the field to huge crowds at BC?

There are a plethora of entertainment options on campus—from a cappella groups to comedy troupes, to dancers, musicians, and up-and-coming actors in every kind of show imaginable. Organize your friends to see the Heightsmen, take in a Sexual Chocolate show, or attend a fantastic play at Robsham Theater.

Speaking of Robsham, the Robsham ticket office offers discounted tickets to many Boston attractions. You can buy tickets to the New England Aquarium, the Museum of Science, and a number of other places in the city. The Robsham ticket office is also where to buy tickets when outside musical acts come to campus.

 

20. Go Green!

go green

You may think you will never run out of money on your meal plan, but toward the end of the semester, you may need to wrangle in your budget. One of the easiest ways to save money (and the environment, for that matter) is to invest in a good water bottle. At each dining hall, you will find a filtered water station where you can fill it up.

BC also has designated trash cans for your recyclables in each residence hall and around campus.

 

21. Handwritten notes go a long way

thank you note

OK, we lied. It's 21 tips, but this tip is one you should do for life and not just while at BC. Take the time to write a handwritten note. Sure, it's easy to tag someone on social media or text them "Happy Birthday," but how much more would it mean if you sent them a birthday card?

If someone on campus—a professor, a friend, one of those awesome Facilities people, anyone—goes above and beyond to help you, send a handwritten note of thanks.

Your life will be busy at BC, so take time to cherish and appreciate those around you. Slow down. Open your door. Have a conversation with someone that doesn't include texting. Smile. Say hello. Invite the person who is never invited. Branch out.

Boston College is a wonderful place because of its wonderful people. You are now a part of the BC family. Show the rest of the world how we Eagles roll.

Good luck! You are going to do great!

Baldwin at a game

 

Looking for more tips about life at Boston College? Check out the The A to Z Guide to Boston College.

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