At College Prospects, in the month of June we celebrate high school seniors. They’ve crossed the stage in cap and gown, tassels moved from one side of the cap to the other, and the transition to college life has begun!!
This period of life is about change.
For most students, these changes include moving away from family, developing an adult identity, questioning the beliefs they were raised with, and choosing a career path. None of those are easy tasks, but necessary rites of passage. The college years are often idealized as being about a great social scene, interesting classes, and preparation for a career. The reality is that college (and the transition to adulthood that accompanies it) can often get off to a rocky start.
Even the most prepared and independent college-bound student will face personal, social, and academic challenges in the months ahead. Too often, college freshman are overly optimistic and confident in their ability to manage the challenges they will encounter at college. This can result in disappointment when academic, social, and personal expectations are not met after arriving at college. These once optimistic students have a much higher risk of leaving college or flunking out within the first year.
But take heart! Awareness of the challenges ahead is the best means of preparation to face them. College is one of the biggest transitions a person will make. After all the work, sweat, tears, and financial resources it took to get into college, don’t allow yourself to fail because you were under-prepared and fell prey to unrealistic expectations.
Here are some tips to help you understand and cope with the changes you will experience in the upcoming months:
1. Get comfortable in your new surroundings- the sooner, the better!!
Don’t stay isolated in your dorm room. Explore campus, especially places where students congregate. Talk to people. Make new friends. Explore your new city or town. Find places you like to eat, hang out and study. The more you get to know your new surroundings, the more they will feel like home.
2. Get involved.
Hang out with your teammates and classmates. Join an on-campus club or organization, or a local gym. Soak up your free time with activities you enjoy. College can be hard work, but it also can be fun. Nothing to do at night? Go cheer for your university at sporting events. Chances are you’ll make some friends along the way. The more social connections you make in your new home, the more it will begin to feel like your old home.
3. Talk to someone.
Almost every first-year student who has left home for the first time experiences homesickness and loneliness. Don’t bottle up your feelings. College counselors are experts at helping homesick freshmen overcome the challenges of leaving home and establishing their own identity in a new place.
4. Go in with reasonable expectations.
Students who grasp the tough realities of college are better equipped to handle its many and varied challenges. Feelings of depression, isolation, homesickness and loneliness are quite common among freshman. Research shows that as many as 75 percent of college freshman reported feelings of loneliness their first two weeks of school. Know that you are not alone, and that if you make the effort and stick it out, these feelings will most likely pass.
Other things to keep in mind as you make this important transition:
College Is What You Make of It—College students are surrounded by the world’s experts in everything, and have facilities to pursue virtually any passion. Colleges offer flexibility in schedules and planning to put all of these pieces together in ways that make sense for each student. The trick of it all is that each student has to blaze their own trail up this mountain of opportunities. Be intentional about your activities and schedule you choose to follow.
Everyone Is Changing—No college student has it all figured out. The majority of students on campus will be at the same stage of life, grappling with the same challenges. Many will go through various phases as they try on new identities and interests. Reflect on the changes going on within yourself and others.
Be Brave When Shaping Your Adult Identity—Becoming the adult you want to be takes work, particularly if you aren’t yet sure who you want to be. Fortunately, colleges offer lots of opportunities to take healthy risks and try on new identities. You have the flexibility and freedom to explore subjects of study, clubs, off campus activities, and social groups without having to commit to them for the long term.
Explore Your Passions—Some students assume that if you don’t know where you want to be in 30 years, you can’t possibly make good decisions about what you should be doing now. This can be paralyzing for those who don’t have a long term vision. It can also be painful for those who have a vision but find that the steps to getting there don’t match up with their passions or values. Lean into your passions by identifying the thing you most enjoy doing and finding a way to do that work in meaningful ways on a daily basis. Learning more about your passion and perfecting it will allow you to become an expert. Passionate expertise is the most direct path to a fulfilling career.
Finally, remember that your College Prospects advisor is available to guide you throughout your entire college experience, and has had years of experience helping and supporting students like you during the transition from high school to college.