The transition to college is difficult to say the least. From the massive work load, roommates, new found freedoms, homesickness, and meeting new friends to name a few, adjusting to your new environment is anything but easy. In fact, it’s confusing, stressful, and at times completely overwhelming. Once you get used to things, it gets much easier, it’s just getting through the transition period that presents a challenge. I thought it would be nice to share the things that I struggled most with in my transition to college and what I did personally to handle the situations.
Compared to high school, the work load that college brings is slightly frightening. While you are more than capable of handling the workload, it’s about figuring out how to go about it.
- Manage your time. I was the queen of managing my time in high school, so I thought that college would be the same. Boy, was I wrong. The first 2-3 weeks of school were stressful and had me fearful of what the rest of my college career would bring since it just seemed like so much to handle. Once you get into a routine and figure out how you want to manage your time, it gets so much easier.
- Go to tutoring and office hours. Along with the freedom and independence that comes with college, also comes a feeling that it’s no longer okay to ask for help in classes you are struggling with. That’s so not the case. Your professors and tutors are there to help you and want you to succeed. They are well aware that the transition to the workload in college is difficult and will be there to give you tips not only on how to succeed with your homework assignments and tests in their class, but also give you pointers on managing your time. Which, if I might add, is always much appreciated.
- Use a planner. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know that I preach that you need to use a planner. I honestly don’t know what I would do without my planner and I still scratch my head as to how these people do it without one. Whether you choose digital or paper, fill it in, write down important dates, and refer to it consistently. I promise it will soon be your best friend.
Homesickness is a battle that all freshman deal with. Being away from your family and loved ones that have been by your side for so many years is difficult, especially when you are going from seeing them on a regular basis to once every few months or so. And the truth is, everyone deals with homesickness differently. For me, the biggest triggers to put me in a homesick funk where when I logged onto Facebook and saw that my friends attending the same university had classes together or when I would drive down the road and see a car or truck that looked like my mom and dad’s.
- It’s okay to be upset. I am the kind of person that absolutely hates showing emotion. In fact, I’m not even one to cry in front of people. When my parents visited over the weekend only three weeks after dropping me off, I had the hardest time saying goodbye and started to cry. The fact of the matter is, it’s okay to cry and be upset. It doesn’t mean you are weak, it means you are going through a transition. I promise, it gets better.
- It doesn’t mean that you don’t like your school. Maybe it was just me, but I entered college with the misconception that if you ever struggled with homesickness, it meant you didn’t like your school. Not the case at all. In my case, it was difficult for me to miss my family and friends from home so much when I loved my new found freedom and university.
- Personalize your room. I covered my bulletin board with pictures of my friends and family from home. Everything from my dance recitals to pictures at high school graduation. It was always a comfort for me to walk into my dorm room and see faces of the people I know and love.
- Don’t wallow in your emotions. While yes, I did say early that it is okay to be upset, that doesn’t mean that you should allow yourself to be upset all the time. Go out for ice cream with your new friends on your floor, look into organizations to join, go to the gym, or write. Whatever it is that can take your mind off of being homesick, do it.
Finding Your “Niche”
One of the hardest things for many people in college is finding your niche again. Just because you were the super star of sports in high school doesn’t mean that title transitioned with you to college. And that realization is hard for many people as they make the transition to college.
- Get involved in an organization related to your major. The best thing to do to meet people that share the same mind-set as you is to get involved in an organization related to your major. Being a marketing major, I have the opportunity to join a business fraternity or even groups for women in business.
- Do your research beforehand. Before you make the big move to college, do some research on organizations that match your personal interests. Maybe you like to bake, want to find a church, enjoy PiYo and TurboKick, and are interested in the steps it takes to start your own business. If that’s you, then maybe Cupcake Club, a church group, a class pass to your gym, and the Association of Collegiate Entrepreneurs is for you.
- Go to involvement fairs. If you don’t know where to start, go to the involvement fairs on campus. Typically they are held the summer before your freshman year during orientation and during the first week or two of classes. They are the perfect way to find a few organizations to check-out to see if you might be interested in joining.
Making New Friends
The hardest thing for me in finding and making new friends was that I didn’t come to my university with a group of friends from high school. Being the only person from my graduating class to come to my university, it was a bit nerve racking at first to realize I didn’t have some of my closest friends by my side. If I’m being completely honest, that is what gave me the push to get out and make friends once I got to college.
- Meet the people on your floor. One of the most fun things after a long day of classes followed by an equally long sorority chapter meeting is coming back to your dorm’s lounge and seeing familiar faces. When you move into your dorm, introduce yourself to people, even if it means that you are knocking door to door. I promise it doesn’t make you “weird” or “strange”. In fact, when a girl from down the hallway went knocking on doors to meet people, we were excited to meet her because someone knocked on our door. It’s the little things, guys.
- Join organizations. I quickly joined two organizations within the first few weeks of my freshman year and made some of my very closest friends that way. Since I joined organizations of interest to me, I was able to meet like-minded people that enjoyed the same things I did.
- Talk to people in your classes. Whether it is someone in your math class or the fitness class that you joined, talk to them. One of my best friends is a girl that I met in my cycling class and I’m forever grateful that I decided to say “hi” to her during my first time attending.
- Ask people to hang-out. Don’t just sit around and wait for someone to ask you to go to something, be the one to initiate it. If you have gotten to know people well enough that you have their cell phone number, never hesitate to ask them if they want to get coffee, meet in the library to study, or invite them to church.
Since you are no longer living under your parent’s roof, you have a completely new sense of freedom. No more texting where you are at and checking in throughout the night about your whereabouts and when you will be home and most of all, no more curfew. With this new found freedom comes some responsibility on your end. It is up to you how you choose to manage yourself with this new found freedom you have.
- Set standards for yourself. Personally, I don’t drink, but I still like to be back to my apartment by 11pm on school nights so that I can get a good amount of sleep before my 9am class. If you are choosing to drink, set a limit on how much you will drink and have a time that you want to be home by.
- Don’t go too crazy. For some people, the new found freedom they have is overwhelming in the sense of “what will I do first?” Many of the things that people want to do are dangerous for them both physically and academically in that if you go too crazy, you are not only hurting yourself, but could be expelled from the university. Please, please, please do not take advantage of your new found freedom.
- Have a friend to check-in with. It sounds super weird and a little like you are going back to under your parents roof, but if you feel that you will take advantage of your new found freedom or won’t follow the curfew you set for yourself, have a friend on your floor that you can check-in with to stay accountable. It might be something you only have set in place for the first month of school, but is a great thing to consider continuing after that just in case. When one of my friend’s got into her first car wreck late into the evening on a Friday night, it was great that she had several numbers of people in our dorm to come and help her out!
Besides having shared a room with my younger sibling on vacation and with friends during summer camp, I had never shared a room with someone for an extended period of time. It was a major adjustment to me personally to realize that my roommate might be a night owl was I was a morning person, that even if I had the door locked and was enjoying some time to myself she still had a key to access the room, and that we might have completely different expectations of how things would work within our dorm room.
- Make a roommate contract. I was surprised when I talked to a friend that mentioned that her and her roommate hadn’t written a roommate contract because they are required at my university. Some things that you might want to think about are:
- Will you allow guests to spend the night? If so, how many nights are acceptable?
- Will you have quiet hours in your room or times set each week so that both you and your roommate can have some time alone?
- If one roommate wants to go to bed and the other stays up, will the lights stay on or be turned off, should headphones be worn, etc.?
- If any noise in on in your room, should headphones be worn? Or even have examples of when headphones are or are not acceptable.
- Will you be sharing food, clothing, shoes, etc.? If so, set the boundaries of when they need to ask or if they can just borrow the item.
- Communicate. If there was something that wasn’t covered in your roommate contract that your roommate does that bothers you or that you aren’t sure of, don’t be afraid to speak up. I promise, mentioning it to them won’t make you bossy, mean, or stuck-up. Talking to them now instead of not saying anything about it will help you to avoid any difficulties with them later down the line.
- Talk to your RA. If something comes up with your roommate and you are unsure of how to handle it, talk to your RA. Chances are, they are someone who had difficulties with a roommate in the past and they also received lots of training so they know the rules of how to handle things.
If you are going to college, which of these tips do you plan to utilize? If you are already in college, is there anything you would add to this list or a point in this list that you think incoming freshmen should pay close attention to? I would love hear about it in the comments below!
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