The Question: What should I do when I visit campus as a newly admitted student?

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Welcome to The Question, where you’ll get answers about life at Brown all year long! I’m Celina Stewart, and I’ll be bringing you insights (and photos!) into my fourth year at Brown and my answers to some of the questions I wish I’d asked before college. 

I know our readers are a mix of prospective students, newly admitted students (congrats!), parents, and people who are generally interested in Brown. However, this post is especially for those of you who just got in (and your families, in many cases!) and plan to visit campus as you make your college decision. There are a couple things admitted students should know that people just generally interested might not need to consider. So, what should you do when you visit Brown as a newly admitted student?

First, you’ll want to make sure you like Providence and the College Hill area more specifically. Are you the kind of person who wants to live in a city with a fairly robust but by no means bustling downtown area, college students and a mix of locals, and access to bigger cities like Boston and New York within a couple hours commute? If so, you’ll probably be fine. If you live on the East Coast, it might be worth it to take an Amtrak here or fly through Boston to check out the MBTA commuter rail and gauge what your holiday commute might be.

Once you’re on campus, think about one of the most important parts of your college experience: food! Check out the Thayer Street and Wickenden Street (a little farther east, but by no means ‘off campus’ entirely) offerings – you’ll find yourself eating out more often than you’d guess. For me, food trucks (namely, Lotus Pepper) have been a huge part of my experience at Brown. If you think you’d also like to eat cheaper, better food on the go, check them out! You would think that every location has similar restaurants, but when you have to grab food quickly a couple times a week, it adds up quick. If you’re a die hard fan of a place that isn’t near Providence, you’ll have to broaden your horizons (don’t worry too much: we have Chipotle).

For on campus eating, be sure to check out the Ratty (located on George and Thayer Streets) and the Blue Room (in Faunce campus center, where tours depart from). If you can, see if a current student will “guest swipe” you in to either to save money – and then try out the food for yourself. Different schools have different options, and Brown is not an exception. If you follow a specific diet (for example, vegan, vegetarian, Kosher, Halal, gluten free, etc.), you should make sure our options are going to meet your needs (we have meal plans that should accommodate each of these diets, but certain restrictions could change this for you). You will bond with people in dining halls and spend a considerable amount of time in them (especially because you have to have a meal plan your first year), so you better enjoy!

Once you satisfy your food needs, think about a secondary need: housing! You’re required to live 3 years on campus, so your living situation is a must see before arriving (obviously this requires you to figure out a non-trespassing based means of getting inside). If you can, check out the inside of Keeney quad or Andrews. If you’re feeling brazen, turn on the shower when you duck inside the bathroom; I cannot stress enough, good water pressure is a huge plus to your daily lifestyle. As a secondary note, bring a jacket when you visit. Providence is notorious for its curious and often wet weather, so as you walk between buildings think about investing in warm apparel to combat some of that wintery experience.

Thirdly, and arguably most importantly, go to a class! Now, this is much easier if you visit during A Day on College Hill or other time when there are preselected classes for prospective students to sit in on. However, if you come during an off week, you can still probably sneak into some of the bigger courses for a preview. I recommend finding classes meeting in MacMillan or Salomon DECI, since those are the biggest auditoriums (think the MWF 10:00, 11:00, or 1:00 start times). Check with the professor or students before heading in; sometimes these spaces are used for discussion groups. You can sit in on smaller courses, but be sure to clear that with the professor beforehand as many classes are capped and don’t physically have space for an extra person to join in. If you can’t sit in, try to sit in the Sci Li lobby, Blue Room, or on the steps of Faunce so you can overhear people’s discussions about class. Better yet, if you see a friendly looking person, feel free to introduce yourself and ask questions about Brown. Many people just hanging out on the Main Green would be happy to speak with you (obviously, move on when your questions are answered to not make it awkward) if they know you’re visiting.

Before you leave Brown, think hard about what you see and how you feel on campus. Do you like that people rock any number of personal appearances, or would you prefer a more conservative dress code? Do you love 70s architecture and feel stimulated by post-industrial design, or would you prefer a more “traditional” (read: Hogwarts) style campus? Are you into winter, or do you want to wear sandals in April (lol, Providence weather). Did the dorms look comfortable to you, or would you rather have a 24-hour security guard and air conditioning? Any of these opinions is totally fine! The most important thing to do when you visit is feel comfortable – if you’re making this your home for nine months a year for the foreseeable future, that’s the bare minimum you should look for!

Want more photos and FAQ updates? Check out @thebruinclub on Twitter! Have questions or comments for me? Want more details?  Send an email to celina_stewart@brown.edu and I’ll get back ASAP!

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