As a college student, you have no doubt heard, “College is the best time of your life!” What is seldom mentioned, is that during the transition period to your new college life, it is normal to feel stressed out, insecure, overwhelmed, and uncertain. After all, going to college presents a lot of changes and firsts:
- Your first time being away from home for an extended period
- Your first time living in a dorm and having a roommate
- Your first time wearing shower shoes and toting a shower caddy amongst strangers
- Your first time “really” having to study for your classes in order to do well
- Your first time being completely responsible for yourself
Not to mention that…
- You’re new to campus and don’t know where anything is located
- Your family and friends are back home
- You don’t know anyone (yet) at your new school
Whether your college is a five-minute drive from home or you’re across the country, it’s typical to feel unsettled and unhappy at some point as you adjust to this significant change. Here are my top ten best practice strategies for how to start your semester off right and make a successful transition:
- Resist the urge to go home your first weekend. You can call your family or best friend, but do not go home during your first weekend in college. Why not? If you do, you’ll miss out on opportunities to connect with others and begin building new relationships.
- Make your self-care a priority. Engage in healthy and enjoyable self-care activities like exercising, painting, knitting, listening to music, meditation, yoga, reading, writing, etc. Take self-care breaks when studying and completing assignments.
- Treat yourself with kindness and understanding. Feeling discontent or sad is not a sign of weakness or that there is something “wrong” with you. Remember that you are going through a huge change and what you are experiencing is normal. Treat yourself just like you would treat your best friend if she called and told you that she was feeling down or lonely.
- Get involved on campus. Attend your college’s activities fair. Identify campus organizations and activities that interest you and commit to attending at least one event. This is a great way to meet people and begin building new friendships. Making friends is the key to feeling like you belong.
- Build a routine. We thrive in structured environments. You can help yourself adjust quicker to your new college life by building yourself a routine. Consistency is key. Aim for consistent bed/wake times, meal times, when you study, workout, etc. Utilize your day planner and calendar.
- Go to class. Every. Single. One. Going to class will help you to establish a routine, meet and interact with your classmates and professors, and learn how to get around your school’s campus. Going to class will also help you excel academically. Excelling academically will help boost your sense of control and confidence on campus.
- Meet your basic needs. Get plenty of rest and eat healthily. Our sleeping and eating habits are at the foundation of our health and well-being. Make them a priority. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night to ensure optimal learning the next day.
- Turn off the technology. It’s tempting to glue yourself to your tablet, smartphone, or computer as a means to staying constantly connected with your friends from back home and giving the appearance to others that you’re “busy.” However, others will be less likely to try and engage with you if you do in fact appear to be aloof and unavailable. Turn off the technology. Leave your dorm room. Smile when you pass someone on campus. Take note of how people respond. You’ll be surprised to see how many people smile back.
- Talk to your RA. Your dorm floor’s RA is a valuable resource trained at helping you adjust to your new college life. If you’re feeling homesick, stop by her room and talk about it. She will provide a supportive ear and no doubt have helpful suggestions as well.
- Contact your college counseling center. If you continue to feel down or are concerned that you may be experiencing something more serious such as depression, contact your college counseling center and schedule an appointment with a trained professional.
Follow these strategies for a successful transition and you’ll soon be feeling like your college is your new home away from home. If you’re looking for further recommendations or help please give a call. I’m here to talk and you can contact me directly.