How to GW

1 …find an internship

If you’re interested in politics, world affairs, museums, business or scientific research, chances are that you, like many GW students, will hold an internship at some point during your four years in Foggy Bottom.

In fact, some of you probably considered the possibility of working for your congressman when deciding to come to GW. While you may want to visit the White House the first week of classes, the best course of action may be to hold off securing an internship during your first year at GW.

“If a freshman came to me saying he wanted an internship, I’d probably talk about whether it was something he or she really wanted to do,” said Brian Rowe, assistant director of the GW Career Center. Rowe recommends getting involved in campus activities, and using those connections to find an internship.

“If you’re the junior, and I’m the freshman, you can put in a good word for me at some organization or make an introduction,” Rowe said. “The success rate is much higher in trying to find any kind of job.”

GW also offers the Internet-based GWork service where potential employers can list available positions. When junior Amanda Notarangelo was looking for an internship on Capitol Hill, she went on GWork and found “tons” of job opportunities in congressional offices.

“Within a week I had three interviews set up on the Hill with different offices and I was hired on the spot at my second one,” Notarangelo said.

2 …change your housing assignment

While some freshmen will identify their freshman-year roommates is their new best friends, other students will be less enthusiastic. It could be differences in social preferences, study and sleep habits, or even taste in music, but whatever the reason, a number of freshmen end up switching housing at some point during the year.

Should you find yourself in need of a new living situation, your best course of action is going to GW Housing Programs’ Web site. There you can find a list of other students looking to switch rooms.

Last year, GW instituted a new policy whereby students have to locate an open bed and directly switch with another student to secure alternate housing.

“There is not a room change process because all of the beds are assigned and so we ask students to find other students that they are willing to swap with,” said Seth Weishel, director of GW Housing Programs.

Weinshel also advised students to ask around and see if any friends of acquaintances know of an open bed or someone who wants to switch.

Junior Andrea Katz recommended that students in the process of switching housing look for conditions that best suit their needs and preferences.

“If you have problems with roommates, look for a single,” Katz said. “And look for housing near your classes.”

3 …declare (and switch) your major

Whether it’s theater or international business, a student’s major dictates his or her course of study at GW. Some students enter school with majors already in mind, while many are officially “Undeclared.”

Picking a major is an important decision in any collegian’s career, but students at GW can rely on the assistance of faculty members and administrators as they make their selections.

Students can declare their major by meeting with a faculty member in the sponsoring department to review the student’s courses and interest in the major before crafting a tentative plan of study to fulfill the major’s requirements, said Landon Wade, director of Academic Advising in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.

No student is required to declare a major until the registration period of their fourth full-time semester, or the registration period of the semester following the completion of 45 credit hours. For most students this occurs during the spring semester of their sophomore year, a process that typically takes place before registering for junior year classes.

Although declaring, and even switching majors can seem like a daunting task, students have been known to double major within and even across schools.

Senior Meg Brewer is switching from the School of Business to the Elliott School. She advises that even if you are only considering switching, you should immediately go in for advising at the school.

“It’s so helpful to get a one-on-one sit down with someone who can look over all the work you’ve already done and get solid advice on where you stand, where you need to be going,” Brewer said.

Freshmen are assigned advisers within their school before starting classes in the fall. Assigned advisers change as majors are developed.

4 …get involved with Greek life

Despite its urban environment, GW has an active Greek-letter community, with about 17 percent of the student population involved in an Inter-fraternity Council, Panhellenic Association, National Pan-Hellenic Council or Multicultural Greek Council Greek letter organization.

But being Greek means much more than just going to parties, as initiated members can network with their organization’s alumni, live in Greek housing, compete with other Greek and non-Greek organizations in intramural sports and competitions and contribute positively to the community through charity work.

This past academic year the Greek community raised more than $160,000 for charitable causes through philanthropic events said Dean Harwood, Director of Greek life.

“Being involved in Greek life is a great way to pull the GW experience together,” Harwood said. “It is a great way to get connected to the community, develop lifelong friendships, provide service to the D.C. community and grow as a student.”

Panhellenic Association formal recruitment occurs in the Fall, while the IFC offers both Fall and Spring recruitment. NPHC and MGC intake occur differently for each group. Each organization varies on how many and what kind of new members they are looking for.

Mei Loo, president of an MGC sorority, suggests new students interested in Greek life should explore all three Greek councils.

“Never limit yourself with the social norm or where people think you should belong, rather (consider what) interests you and where you feel most comfortable,” Loo said.

Off-campus Greek-letter groups not monitored by IFC or PanHeln or sponsored by the University also exist. These organizations include Alpha Pi Epsilon (APES), Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), and Sigma Alpma Mu (Sammy).

5 …get involved with the Student Association

At a school like GW where it seems as though every other student is planning a run for some kind of public office, it is no wonder the Student Association is one of the most popular ways students get involved on campus. With three branches mirroring the federal government, freshmen can find many opportunities and ways to get involved in the SA.

So how does one get that first foot in the door and start on the path to becoming president of the SA?

“History suggests that incoming freshmen who have such ambitions are well served by involving themselves in networking opportunities with students currently serving in leadership positions,” said Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services.

“Learning from those who have been previously successful in gaining the trust and confidence of fellow students can be lessons well taken,” Chernak added.

There are three non-voting freshman senate seats in the SA as well as various assistant vice president positions that are kept open just for freshmen.

In addition, new students can serve as senate staff and are encouraged to participate in the House of Freshmen, the main freshman advocacy group on campus.

“We’re very much all encompassing, we try to help out all the student organizations on campus and advocate for an array of student issues,” Capp said. “We’re the primary voice for students.”

6 …find a quiet place to study

It’s a situation you will doubtlessly find yourself in. It’s a Thursday night, and you’ve got an organic chemistry midterm the next morning. Your roommates are in the midst of watching a loud movie and your notes are dangerously close to an open box of pizza. Clearly, you must go elsewhere, but where do you go to find some peace and quiet?

For junior Dan Doty, the answer is easy. “Go to Eckles Library on the Vern,” said Doty, a former resident of Somers Hall. “It’s always quiet there, even during finals.”

The Foggy Bottom campus offers a number of opportunities for studying as well. Junior Dan Ellinoff recommends the small parks and the Elliott School study lounge.

“Any place that is small is probably good,” he said.

Of course, one can always go to Gelman Library, located next to Kogan Plaza and home to a Starbucks popular among GW’s crowd of all-night studiers.

While a number of Gelman’s study rooms are notoriously loud and not conducive to individuals cramming formulae into their brains, Gale Etschmaier, Gelman’s associate librarian for public services points to four different spaces that are by-and-large peaceful – the third floor periodicals room, Rooms 401 and 501 and the sixth floor reading room.

However, Etschmaier added that often students can work with their roommates to keep their rooms quiet when necessary.

“I would advise any freshman whose roommates were being loud and who had an exam the next day to try to talk openly and honestly, but tactfully, with them,” she said. “Every student can understand the stress of an exam and most are willing to be considerate about this.”

Duques Hall, the home of the School of Business, has become a hot study spot since the building opened in opened in 2006.

7 …get the classes you really want

Having been the last to register, freshmen often find that most or all of the classes they want are completely filled up. But if you are currently the proud bearer of two 8 a.m. classes with professors whose reputations are less than favorable, do not despair. There are still two and a half months before the fall semester begins, and the registration Web site is open seven days a week.

Junior Vanessa Okoro recommends waiting until the first few weeks of school before returning to Web registration.

“A lot of people drop out of classes during the first week, and then it’s a lot easier to get into a class,” she said.

Beyond perseverance, there are several strategies one can use to get the classes he or she desires. One such method is personally asking a professor to sign you into his or her class.

Though many professors are known to respond favorably when asked to sign students into their classes, other professors are known to never allow anyone to sign up late.

“Chances are, if it’s a popular class, you won’t be able to get in,” junior James Hacker said.

Other students, such as junior Dan Doty, take a more complex and creative route to getting classes.

“Get a junior or senior to register for the class you want,” Doty said. “Then have them drop (the class so you can) register yourself.”

8 …start a student group

GW is home to more than 300 student organizations, from the College Democrats to the Pre-Med Society to the Cigars Smokers Club. But if you can’t find an outlet for your passion on the Student Activities Center’s list of groups, you can always start your own organization.

Starting a student group is a surprisingly simple process and can be done online. Potential organizations must fill out a registration form, take an online quiz, sign a responsibility form, and upload a copy of the group’s constitution. The group’s officers should also attend a mandatory new organization registration meeting, several of which will be held during this fall.

“Attending this meeting will offer all kinds of helpful information to navigate the ins and outs of successfully leading organizations at GW,” Director of SAC, Tim Miller said.

Senior Maggie Desmond, co-founder of Green GW, said freshmen interested in staring a new student organization should find lots of supporters, so that the burdens of organizing the group, recruiting students and planning events does not fall on just few people.

“Starting a student organization can take a lot of time and effort, so it’s best to be sure you have others around to share the load,” she said.

Desmond recommended using Facebook and email listserves as a way to find potential group members.

9 …join a club sports team

Many GW students played on at least one of their high school’s sports teams. However, in a school that competes at the NCAA Division I level the competition is fierce, and many athletes have already been recruited by a team’s head coach.

For those students who do not have the time, skill or desire to play at the NCAA level, club sports are a great option.

There are no University-paid coaches for club sports, teams are entirely student run, and practices are not held everyday, yet many club athletes are dedicated to their sports and compete at the local and regional level. Teams have been known to travel as far as San Diego and Las Vegas for tournaments, Director of Recreational Sports, Aubre Jones said.

Rebecca Kohn, president of club softball, said her organization is always looking for new players to come out and join the team.

“Joining … is a great way to meet new people and play the sport you love,” Kohn said. “Although we are serious about softball, we will also plan fun activities. (It’s) a great opportunity to play competitive softball and become involved at GW.”

Both Kohn and Jones encouraged new students to contact the presidents of club sports they are interested in playing and to look out for club sport student representatives at CI’s Student Organization Fair.

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