The College Experience: New Beginnings and An Investment in Your Future
Updated: Jun 4, 2021
Few undertakings mark such a monumental turning point as enrolling in college. For students, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend college, questions abound and there is a mix of anxiety and excitement. As you get ready to make this important step in the midst of what we all hope is the tail end of a most unusual and turbulent time, there are tried and true practices that will serve you well as you embark on this new chapter of personal, academic, and professional growth:
Anticipate and Prepare for an Adjustment Period:
You may have dreamt of the freedom of being an adult and moving on to college yet, as the adage goes, be careful what you wish for! You might not believe this, but it is very likely that you will become homesick even if you counted down the days before departure. In fact, an estimated two-thirds of college freshmen experience homesickness*. Recognize that you are not alone in this and take practical steps to making your transition to college easier by:
Scheduling time to reconnect with home via weekly (or daily check-ins in the beginning) using videoconferencing or video calling options.
Taking a slice of home with you: Do you have a favorite recipe from home? Learn how to make it before you leave for college for those days that you need a bit of a pick-me-up.
In addition, the workload and academic expectations will be like nothing you experienced in high school – there will be a greater emphasis on sustained, deeply-rooted knowledge, critical-thinking and application of this knowledge. Your study habits and organizational skills will often need to be adjusted to accommodate this shift away from rote memorization. Give it time.
Don’t Be Afraid to Say That You Need Help:
Very few successful individuals have made it to where they are today without assistance along the way. This assistance comes in the form of mentors, academic support from tutors, emotional support, and in the professional world, friends and acquaintances who are experts in specific fields and from whom advice can be sought. Even those who seem to have it all figured out will find the need to seek assistance along the way – that is often why they seem so put together and tend to move ahead. Spend little to no time worrying about what others may or may not be doing and focus your energies on what YOU need to do to make the most of your college experience. You will find that there are many individuals out there who are ready and willing to help, especially because they were recipients of others’ benevolence when they needed it. Recognizing that you need help is not an indictment on your capabilities, but rather an acknowledgement that you are human. There is no shame in actively seeking out help and accepting it when it is offered:
Schedule weekly appointments with tutors. They are often offered free of charge in your university’s student success center and within your academic major.
Attend your college professors’ office hours with questions – they would not have office hours if students did not need them. They are there to help.
Raise you hand and ask questions in class. You might feel awkward asking questions especially if everyone else in the class seems to understand but believe it or not, many of them have the same question but are too afraid to ask. Break the ice by asking your questions and in the process, find your voice.
Be Open to the Experience and All That it Has to Offer:
While it might be tempting to go to classes and then straight to your dorm room/home or work, it is important that you make a concerted effort to obtain the full impact of the college experience. Stay true to yourself but don’t use that as an excuse to pass on opportunities that will take you outside of your comfort zone and enhance your learning experience:
Seek out leadership positions in student organizations with missions to which you feel a strong connection.
Apply for summer internships and professional development opportunities in your area of study.
Ask about experiential learning opportunities on and off-campus campus such as undergraduate research.
Identify study abroad opportunities.
Give of your time and talents for the betterment of humankind; engage in social justice efforts in the community, from mentoring to activism.
You will emerge better equipped for the complexities of the professional world for having done so!