[adapted from the book The Naked Roommate by Harlan Cohen]
You are excited and likely also a little nervous about heading off to college. Everyone says that college is the “time of your life”. You are ready to experience the freedom and independence of moving away from home and living on your own. College is an exciting adventure but few people talk about how hard freshman year in college can really be - both socially and academically. Some students have such a bad experience that they end up transferring or dropping out entirely. Moving to a college campus with some realistic expectations is important so you know that you are not alone if you feel like you are NOT having the “time of your life.” Here are some tips that might help you transition to college a little more smoothly and hopefully set you up for success in college.
Expect the unexpected
Don’t set too many high expectations about college. This will only set you up for disappointment if your expectations are not met. Be flexible. College is filled with lots of twists and turns and ups and downs. Being flexible will allow you to relax, have fun and experience college for what it is.
Don’t expect everything to fall into place immediately. You likely will not find your best friend(s) in your first week or maybe even in your first year. You may not love your classes or your roommmate or even the people on your dorm floor. Be patient. It will all come together. You will find your friends! It may be in your classes, a club or sports. Everything in college is different and new for you and every other freshman student. Give it time. Just be patient and take it day by day.
Find your pLaces and people
One of the best pieces of advice to incoming freshmen college students is to get involved. Join a club, play intramural frisbee, join the dodgeball team. Join something! This is where you meet people. Join more than one club/group/team. If you find that the people in one club end up being weird, you’ve got another place to go. If you tie yourself to one particular group, you may feel pressured to conform to them. Be free to be yourself and do you! Start with things you like to do or things you are interested in. Go from there and meet your people.
Speaking of “just being you”, it is normal to want to fit in, especially on a new college campus. Know that everyone is trying to find their way and the best advice is just to relax and be the best version of yourself! If you are trying to redefine yourself in college, that’s okay too but don’t lose yourself in the process. People will want to know the real you. Surround yourself with people who are supportive and want you to be your best. Whatever you do, avoid trying to be someone that you think everyone else wants you to be.
College academics are hard
Too much partying and not enough studying can be your downfall. College is not like high school. You can’t just get by with minimal studying and some cram sessions for tests. You have to manage your time and get down to business if you plan to pass your classes. Some important tips from current college students:
Time management is one the most important tools you will need in college to be successful. If you can manage your time well, you can carve out space for both work and play. We all manage our time differently and college is about finding that balance. It likely won’t happen right away but set yourself up for success by using a planner. Spend the time between classes to get some studying done. Don’t wait until the night before a test to cram (hint: you won’t do well on your exam). If you need help with this, ask! There are professionals on campus that are trained to help you manage your time. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Homesickness is real
The first semester of college can be hard both academically and socially and you may get homesick. This is NORMAL! Nearly 72% of surveyed freshmen “frequently” or “occasionally” felt lonely or homesick. In fact, if you don’t get homesick at all, you aren’t in the norm. Of course, you may never ever hear this from anyone around you because, well - Snapchat, Insta - only post the fun stuff. Nobody is going to show their vulnerable side. Just know you aren’t alone in this.
Want more tips?
This blog just touched on a few of the issues you can expect in college. Harlan Cohen has 102 MORE tips in his book The Naked Roommate.
I highly recommend this book to all high school seniors headed to college. It is light, entertaining and also real. It covers so many actual college experiences with true stories about topics including resident halls, roommates, finding friends, Greek life, dating, sex, drinking, drugs, money, campus safety, the freshman 15 and so much more.
College really can be the time of your life as everyone claims. It’s a time for new friends, new experiences and a lot of learning. Make sure you walk into it with your eyes wide open and learn how to be successful before you step foot on campus in the fall.
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