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Campus housing

The “first semester” of college life is always daunting, whether you’re going to an Ivy League law school or whether you’re going to a UC. College is a completely different lifestyle than high school is, and it takes a while to get used to college life at all; sure, there’s more freedom, but there’s also a huge increase in responsibility and workload, and there are different quirks to get used to in every university.

San Jose State is no exception – in fact, since it’s known to be an “engineering school”, it can seem even more daunting than the average university. Here’s a bit of advice to get through your first semester at SJSU:

1. Embrace the squirrels.

It may sound ridiculous, but one of the most noticeable things about the SJSU campus is the extreme abundance of squirrels. It’s possible that you’ll see more squirrels in San Jose State than you have in your entire life. Fortunately, however, the SJSU squirrels are not dangerous; according to the Spartan Daily, SJSU’s campus newspaper, “there have been no complaints of any health hazards caused by the squirrels on campus”. So don’t worry, you won’t be in danger if you happen to meet a squirrel; just don’t freak out and run away, and whatever you do, do not feed them. Dr. Lynne Trulio, SJSU’s Department Chair of Environmental Studies, warns that “we want a population that fits our campus…the more we feed them, the bigger the population gets”. In short, if you are deathly afraid of even harmless squirrels, or if you want to feed every animal you see, San Jose State just might not be the place for you.

A squirrel in San Jose State.

2. The library is an amazing place

San Jose State shares its library, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, with the general San Jose public, but that doesn’t mean the library doesn’t offer tons of services for SJSU students. The library’s website can link you to hundreds of articles and databases for even the most intimidating research paper, and the library itself has three “quiet study floors” especially for harried college students who need a place to study for important tests and finals. Even better, the library has a cafe! It’s called the On Fourth Cafe, and it sells baked potatoes, soup, coffee, sandwiches, etc., so that you don’t have to worry about missing breakfast because you had to stop by the library. In short, if you’re looking to do well in classes this semester, stop by the San Jose State MLK library for a useful place to study.

The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

3. Prepare for parking issues.

One of the biggest problems with San Jose State is the lack of good parking. It’s common practice for commuters to leave for class incredibly early so that they can snag the good parking spots. This is probably because California in general has a large population, and even a big city like San Jose has only so many parking spaces. Pro tip: if you don’t want to deal with parking issues, take public transit such as BART or even the bus.

San Jose State parking services

4. Take classes seriously

It can be tempting to dismiss classes freshman year and not take them as seriously, but this is setting yourself up for trouble in the long term. SJSU professors aren’t monsters, but they go through course material fast, since unlike UCs, they only have a semester to get through it all before the students have to register for new classes. Even missing one lecture session can be catastrophic to your grade in the class, since you could not only miss out on important information from lecture (not everything is going to be on the PowerPoints, ya know), but if your professor decides to spring a pop quiz on the whole class one day and you’re not there, your grade takes the hit. Besides, a good amount of professors at SJSU have some form of attendance policy, i.e. if you don’t come to class your grade takes the hit. Again. And contrary to popular belief, freshman grades actually do count, at least in SJSU, and are seen as pretty important, so if you screw around freshman year and fail to put in effort to learn the material, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering in San Jose State.

5. Have a way to get food.

There are two ways to get food on the San Jose State campus; have a meal plan that you can use in the Dining Commons, or get food from one of the various dining establishments on campus (the Union Square food court in the Student Union, the Just Below store, the On Fourth cafe, etc.). If you don’t know how to do either of those, getting food is going to be a nightmare. If you have a meal plan to access the Dining Commons, you will also get a Dining Dollars balance on your SJSU Tower ID card, which is meant for you to use at any of the campus food places. You also have to swipe your Tower ID to get into the Dining Commons. Basically, pro tip: get your Tower ID card ASAP, since it makes obtaining food a lot easier.

Even if you don’t have a meal plan, it’s still possible to add money to your ID card. What you do is:

  • go to the On Fourth Cafe in the SJSU library
  • make sure you have both a source of money (debit/credit card or plain cash will do) and your ID card
  • tell the cashier you would like to add money to your Tower ID card
  • give them the card and then give them the debit/credit card or cash
  • wait for them to add the money to your balance and then you’ll get a receipt that states your new balance on it
  • take your card (or cards if you used a debit/credit) and you’re done!

SJSU has a similar service called “Gold Points”. It works pretty much the same way as Dining Dollars – i.e. money stored in your Tower ID card – except you can use it in a lot more different ways than you could Dining Dollars. You can use Gold Points for food, the Spartan Bookstore, and even printing services in the library!

SJSU Union Square.

Obviously, the SJSU system is too expansive to cover in a single post, but hopefully this post was enlightening in regard to some brief basics about San Jose State University.


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Saima Yunus

Hi! I'm a computer engineering student at SJSU. I enjoy writing, good television, and Peet's vanilla lattes.


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