One of the first initiation tasks at Hogwarts is to get sorted into your Hogwarts house (which you can do with us right here if you haven’t before) but you don’t have to just sit there without a discussion. During Harry’s experience, he had a full-on internal debate with the Sorting Hat (which can communicate with you inside your head) on whether he should be in Slytherin or Gryffindor. More people should try this! The next seven years of your life is pretty tied to this moment after all.
In fact, the Sorting Hat can get stumped itself – this phenomenon is called a “Hatstall”, where the Sorting Hat takes over five minutes to decide on a student’s house. Both Hermione and Neville nearly ended up outside of Gryffindor due to the hat’s indecision.
Once the small matter of your Hogwarts house is determined, it’s important to know how on earth to get into your common room, seeing as every one has its own set of rules. For Gryffindors and Slytherins, a simple password is all you need, but for Hufflepuffs, you must tap a barrel in a specific sequence to enter your common room, and for Ravenclaw, even worse! – you answer a new riddle every time to get in, which feels exhausting. Sure, Ravenclaws famously have wit beyond measure, but we all have off-days.
It's always a big deal moving to a new place, meeting new people, etc. – but it’s an even bigger deal when some of your co-inhabitants are dead. Despite this small fact, they are still very active around Hogwarts (Nearly Headless Nick is particularly talkative) and if you walk through one, you’ll be hit by an awful, icy chill. Still, we’ve all had frosty exchanges with new acquaintances, right?
You’ll also want to stay clear of a different sort of apparition, Peeves the poltergeist, who has dwelled in the castle for centuries with nobody successfully being able to remove him. Some of Peeves’ favourite pastimes include making up mean little songs about you, causing general chaos and tormenting the cantankerous caretaker, Argus Filch.
Speaking of Filch, he’s not much fun to run into either. There’s also his beloved pet, Mrs Norris, who will grass you up if she sees you wandering around the castle after-hours too. For a cat, she’s remarkably purr-ceptive.
But play by the rules, and Filch usually leaves people alone, even if he is prone to confiscating fun magical objects. To be fair to Filch, though, being a Squib (AKA not having magical powers) and having to deal with the chaos left behind by Peeves all day would put us in a bad mood too.
They say a picture speaks a thousand words, and in the case of the Hogwarts paintings, that’s actually quite true. Indeed, the portraits that hang around the castle all feature old witches and wizards of yesteryear who magically still hold a presence long after they’ve passed. While sometimes, you might not fancy small talk with a piece of sentient art, (Sir Cadogan is usually quite hard work) they do sometimes come in handy for pieces of advice, spying on people or passing on messages, etc. And if you’re a Gryffindor, you really don’t want to get on the wrong side of The Fat Lady, seeing as she’s the one who lets you into the common room.
There’s always one kid in the class who thinks they’re about five years older than they actually are. In Harry’s case, this was Draco Malfoy, who challenged him to an actual grown-up wizards’ duel, in their very first year. In classic Draco style, he was all talk and no action – and confronting an eleven year old with a wand that can cause actual explosions is never a good idea anyway.
If you’re a little Geographically-challenged (AKA, you get lost a lot) you might want to watch your step a bit when roaming the Hogwarts corridors. The staircases like to move around, which is not ideal when you’re trying to get to your next class in time. Isn’t being a young student with a busy timetable enough stress?
Look, we acknowledge that Hermione was showing off a little when she mentioned (on several occasions) that she had read Hogwarts: A History as prep for her magical education, but to be fair, you can’t blame Muggle-borns for wanting an extra leg up on these sorts of things. And Hogwarts: A History does seem genuinely helpful, almost like a cheat code to the castle. Without Hermione having read this book, we might not have known so readily that you can’t Apparate within the school grounds, Muggles cannot see the castle, or even about the Chamber of Secrets!
Learn more about the magic of going Back to Hogwarts with our handy page all about it.