By Talia Goren
This article written for CollegeTipsForParents.org by Talia Goren was previously featured on our site in 2008. Talia discusses the many new encounters that all new college students go through, such as new surroundings, new people, professors, etc. She gives great suggestions on specific steps students can take to make the transition less stressful. Her tips are also useful suggestions for parents helping their children adapt to college life and the student’s college transition.
Many students have minor coronaries at the thought of the process you go through when entering or starting something as new and scary as college. The idea of making friends and the amount of course load and the horror of a scary professor seem, especially to those not blessed at birth with the social butterfly gene, like an impossible feat to overcome.
So what, then, is the best way to be the most comfortable and happy in this new environment? How do you get used to new surroundings, new people, new classes, new teachers, and all the other “news” associated with going off to school?
There are a few steps to take to achieve this goal.
First of all, make a priority list. Why did you enter this school in the first place? What led you to choose it? Was it the size? Maybe it was the majors? Perhaps even the location! Either way, write down your reasons for wanting to be there and what things you really loved about it. This will help you remember positive things when you are feeling down in the dumps.
Then, explore! This means finding out about different aspects of the school. They always give you a few days before classes start so use them! Look around, get a campus map and familiarize yourself with your environment. You can do it alone, or even with a buddy, maybe your roommate or someone you met at orientation. Get to know the different areas of campus and the best ways to get from one place to another. Take advantage of maps and offices with staff members in them. Ask lots of questions, someone is bound to know the answer.
The next thing to do is find out about clubs. Usually there is some kind of club expo where all of the groups, clubs, teams, sororities and fraternities are displayed. Ask questions, get involved, and find something that interests you. There is bound to be something!
In terms of all of the new people, keep in mind just that; they are all new! Hundreds if not thousands of freshman are entering schools every August and September and they are all just as frightened as you are! The most important thing to do if you are not as comfortable<> being social is to always smile. People feel more comfortable around people who smile, and you are more likely to be approached by someone who is more comfortable talking to strangers if you look as though you are willing to be approached. Also, not all upper classmen are evil, so please don’t be scared of them. Oftentimes, they will be your best asset because they’ve been at the school for awhile.
The idea of the “scary professor” whose aim is to give you as much work as humanly possible and perhaps take you to his dungeon where he has a torture chamber is-mostly- inaccurate. Just like in high school, there will be teachers you like and teachers you dislike. While many schools place you in classes without you really choosing them yourself (at least your first semester), most schools allow you to choose your own classes and your own professors. Take advantage of websites that rate professors because they are generally pretty accurate. Also, feel free to use other students for information. Again, upperclassmen have been there, and done that! While they may not have the same taste as you, they can usually tell you what kind of teaching style the professor has and you can decide whether or not it’s a good fit for you.
The most important thing to learn about college is that no matter how big or small, you have the power to change anything. If you are uncomfortable with a roommate, you can request to switch. If you decide your major is not the right fit for you, you can also change that. If a class is proving not to be what you thought it was or you do not get along with a teacher, there is always an add/drop period where you can switch into another class. Don’t be afraid to make a decision and have an opinion, because in the end you and your parents are paying for an education and for you to be happy and comfortable and learn a lot!