by Connor Watkins (BA '18)
Once I discovered Baylor and read everything I could about the university and its community, I knew Baylor was my top choice. In fact, I was so sure that Baylor was where God was leading me that I never visited campus until my mom and I arrived in Waco, greeted by one of the four-pillared signs that resemble the four pillars at Baylor’s original campus in Independence, Texas. We were excited, but the 11-hour trip from Alabama, combined with me being a first-generation college student, made for a very nervous mom. What all have we learned since then? I asked my mom about that question. Here are 8 things my parents wish they knew when I came to Baylor.
1. How many bowls of cereal and ramen noodles I would eat
I ate at the dining halls often as a freshman, so I was used to having a variety of foods and not having to cook. Living off campus as an upperclassman, my life was substantially busier, and without food prepared for me at the dining halls, I often just had cereal or something else quick while rushing around. I honestly do enjoy cooking (and make some mean pasta), but there were still plenty of times where I disappointed my mom when she asked, “So what did you have for lunch today?”
Baylor offers numerous dining options and plans, with healthy options even available on the go. Click here for menus and to learn more.
2. How well I would fit in and adjust
Of course, we were sure that I would find my niche on campus, but there are always doubts for anyone. I quickly fell in love with the community at Baylor and in the Waco community through my church family and others I’ve met in town—my Welcome Week leader even ended up being one of my best friends. All students have stumbles, and might not find their forever friends right away, but parents should rest assured that Baylor has a place for everyone, and it’s okay if your child walks into the wrong class a couple times.
Is your student looking for a place to connect? Learn more about ways your student can connect with others at Baylor, in areas such as student organizations and
3. How busy I would be
I’d like to think I’m one of the better communicators out there, but even I can get lost in my schedule and not return calls as fast as my parents may like. Dad, I’m sorry for all the times I’d say, “I’ll call tomorrow,” only to be busy with homework or an event. Mom, I know you worried about me when my schedule kept me busy from sun-up to sun-down. Students are all quite busy people; know that they still love you and care, but may not always text back right away.
Students keep busy schedules, and sometimes could use a helping hand balancing it all. A visit to Academic Support Programs can pair students with staff and student mentors who can help them with time management, study strategies and more.
4. How to handle emergencies well, despite the distance
No matter if you’re an hour or multi-day drive away from home, your child having an emergency that you can’t immediately attend to can be stressful and frightening. At the beginning of my junior year, I went to the Baylor clinic for a medical issue and was advised to go to the emergency room. Let’s just say my mom and I had a very emotional phone call afterwards. It was scary for both of us. She wanted to go with me, and I didn’t really want to go at all. Eventually, we settled down and the situation wasn’t as serious as it seemed. She realized I was independent enough to go on my own, and she found a lot of peace in how I handled things, so it ended up helping us grow a lot.
Students can find a number of convenient healthcare options, both on-campus and throughout Waco. Click here for a listing of hospitals, clinics and more in the area.
5. How the Texas climate would affect me
As I mentioned, Alabama is my home state, so I was used to hot and humid summers. Still, the saying, “Everything is bigger in Texas” applies to the number on the thermostat too. We weren’t ready. And don’t get me started on backpack sweat. It’s never a surprise to see 3 digit temperatures, but on the bright side, it almost becomes fall…in mid-November. Also, I’ve personally struggled a lot with allergies at Baylor. Nevertheless, I’ve adjusted and gotten somewhat used to carrying tissues in my backpack.
Connor’s right—it can be really hot at certain time of year. For active students, the McLane Student Life Center offers a wide range of indoor activities to help burn off energy without burning up.
6. How I would be affected by changing majors
We commonly hear that students are likely to change their major one or more times before they graduate. Of course, I thought, “I know what I want to do! That won’t be me.” Thankfully, I was wrong. I came to Baylor as an Aviation Sciences major (Yes, there’s an aviation department at Baylor. Cool, right?), but as hard to believe as it may seem, I found that I wasn’t as in love with flying as I thought. Ultimately, I found the perfect major for me: Professional Writing. I loved writing growing up, but just never fully committed to it as a career. After I switched, I never looked back. But, I was set back a little when I switched majors because of the specific classes I was taking. I recovered by taking some heavy course loads, but it is definitely something we wish we would have known when planning in the beginning.
Baylor offers numerous resources to help students who are considering a major change find the right path and stay on track to graduate in four years. Your student can visit Career and Professional Development or talk to his or her advisor to change a major and develop a plan for success.
7. The need to book travel arrangements early
Whether it’s Family Weekend, Homecoming, or any other huge campus-wide event, Waco likely grows to twice its size with people when the extended Baylor Family comes to town. Hotels fill up quickly, and many charge even more for these times of year because they know the demand. So, be sure to plan well ahead and block out which events you’d like to come visit for and get everything booked early so you don’t have any last-minute surprises.
For information on Waco hotels, restaurants and attractions, visit the Waco Convention and Visitors Bureau website.
8. How much college actually costs and how to save and prepare ahead of time
My parents didn’t go to college when they were my age, so the cost of college was a bit overwhelming at first. College in general can be expensive, but we all know the incredible Baylor experience certainly isn’t free. My parents would have loved to plan and save more so that we wouldn’t have been so caught off guard or struggled financially, but thankfully Baylor is quite helpful at giving aid to those who need it, along with scholarships and federal financial aid.
To learn more about financial aid options, visit Baylor Admissions’ cost & aid page. Baylor’s First In Line Program also offers a number of resources for first-generation college students in their transition to college life.
Connor Watkins is a 2018 Baylor graduate from Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He aspires to work in the publishing industry, and hopes to find one of his own books on the New York Times Best Sellers list soon. His parents are Stephanie and Ronnie Watkins.