Shifting Gears: From High School to College Life
This is part two of my blog posts this week for pending college freshmen. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is following up with my former high school students after they’ve completed their first year in college, and hearing how they’ve made the shift from high school to college life.
Not all the feedback I get is positive. Often former high school students struggle to make the shift. Here are some of the comments I’ve gotten and how you can avoid the same mistakes.
“It was so hard to make new friends!”
The social transition for college is tough. High school student go from being a big fish in a small pond, to a small fish in a huge pond. Add to that the new environment, the course load, living on their own for the first time – it’s not surprising that freshman find they don’t have the confidence to make new friends in college.
Remember that your fellow classmates are experiencing the same thing! While you may be hesitant to introduce yourself to someone new, just imagine that they’re probably feeling the same way. Get to know your dorm mates, even if it’s just your next-door neighbors. It’s better to introduce yourself during the afternoon in the first week than it is at 2am a month later when you’re trying to sleep and they’re playing music. Per my last blog, seek out study buddies in your classes, and offer to host a study session at the library once a week. Finally, check out the different interest groups that are available on campus. Virtually every hobby, sport, and interest is represented in campus life, so whether you’re into model trains, Jane Austen books, or rugby, chances are you’ll find a few people who like the same thing.
“I gained the Freshman 15!”
The hectic lifestyle of a college freshman, combined with more study time, (often) less exercise, and a self-reliance for food choices often contributes to what’s known as the Freshman 15 – a significant weight gain over the course of 8 short months.
You can combat this with some pretty common sense advice. First, make smart food choices. Just because your meal plan on campus is all-you-can-eat doesn’t mean that you should! Just like your mother told you when growing up, eat your veggies. Although late night cram sessions may be more frequent, avoid late night binge eating and sugary snacks just to stay alert. Stock up your dorm room with good food so you’re not tempted to hit the vending machines or local fast food joints. Ask your parents to send a care package of healthy snacks (I’ve never seen a parent yet that didn’t love to do this!)
“I was so overwhelmed and homesick for the first month!”
Although it’s exciting, transitioning to college is tough – you may be homesick, you may be overwhelmed with studying, you may feel like you just want to crawl back home where everything is familiar and comfortable.
When you find yourself overwhelmed, remind yourself that this feeling generally only lasts the first couple of weeks of college, when everything is new and the longer you stick with college and get to know the environment, the easier it will be. If it helps, call your former high school friends and family more often, to give you a sense of familiarity. Post tons of pictures of your high school friends and family members around your dorm room, so you’re constantly reminded that you’re not alone, even if you’re living alone for the first time.
Finally, if the feeling goes on past the first month, consider talking to a counselor at your college. I guarantee you they’ve seen hundreds of students go through the same thing, and they’re there to help you talk through your feelings and devise a strategy to help you make the transition to college more enjoyable.