Back to School: Beat the Freshman Butterflies
If you’re heading to a college for the first time as a transfer or freshman, chances are you have a case of the butterflies. Heck, entering new situation is always a bit nervous-making.
Questions are jumping into your head, probably in the wee hours of the night. Will you hate your roommate? Will you feel like you fit in, or did you choose the wrong college? How bad will the food be? Will those clothes you bought fit with campus styles of dressing, or are they headed to the dumpster? Is your alarm clock really loud enough, or are you going to sleep through half your classes and flunk out after a month? Are you too dumb for the school? Too smart? Are you going to gain weight during your first semester? Was the college right when it placed you into Advanced Accelerated Nine-Credit-Hour Spanish, or are you going to have to drop the course and take something simpler?
Questions, questions. Everybody who ever went to a new school felt the same way. But here are some strategies for keeping your head on straight, and your mind calm, as you head off to your new school . . .
- Don’t catastrophize or get ahead of yourself. I just spoke with one freshman woman, for example, who went to a first-night party in a dorm at her new college, where just about everybody was smoking pot. She doesn’t like to smoke pot, and worried that “everybody at this schools is a pothead.” But then she realized that she had only gone to one party, and that it would take time for her to find the right circle of friends at the school. The lesson? Try to remember that it is going to take a little time to sort out where you fit into the social scene. Somewhere on that campus, your new best friends are waiting for you.
- Remember that your roomie and you will probably only be together for a year. The best strategy is not to count on becoming best friends or to overreact if there are small ways in which you don’t get along. It’s kind of a détente situation. If you can just get along and not trash each other’s social schedules or dating life, you will have succeeded.
- Skype with your old high school friends every few days. They are the people to count on during your transition period to your new college. They love you, you love them, and you will feel a lot more supported if you share stories of your transition period with them. In time, you will come to love people at your new school just as much as you love your older friends. But at this moment, your old buddies are your safety net and you should stay in touch with them.
- Sign up for some clubs and teams. It doesn’t matter whether you stick with them for all your college years. Use them now to find other people to hang with during the first months at school. Could be that one or two of the people you meet will become your very best friends.
- Think about setting your own path instead of fitting in. Remember, other students are looking for people like you to befriend – whether you are an athlete, a hiker, a literary type, a scary black belt, a gay or lesbian crusader, a medieval reenactor, a computer game aficionado, a rock guitarist, a yoga practitioner, or an actor. So instead of trying to fit in, try to stand out. You’ll build a network of good friends faster.
- Keep an open mind. Transition periods can be unsettling. But you didn’t really want to stay in your old school forever, did you? Of course not! As the old saying goes, change is good!
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