I’m just going to come out and say it: No matter how many college visits you make during your senior year of high school, going on campus tours and sitting through information sessions, there’s still a chance that you’re going to feel lost in your new setting come the fall of freshman year.
Unlike a typical three-story high school, a college campus consists of various buildings, meaning you’ll no longer have the luxury of just going down the hall for your next class. And with a larger catalog of opportunities, deciding what to get involved in or experience requires much more thought and research—especially if you want your resume to reflect that you’re interested in a certain career.
Although it may seem like administrators are throwing new students into uncharted territory, in reality, they want to make each entering class’ transition as seamless as possible, which is why many universities have introduced college transition classes, classes in which freshman can become more familiar with their school and acquire different skills that will help them to succeed over the next four years.
Because a course like this can seem pointless—there’s always going to be some students who think navigating college is a solo undertaking—schools might include an elective within the college transition curriculum, in the hopes of attracting more student interest. But when it comes down to it, the course’s primary focus remains on the college adjustment, and students will be thankful for all the information a college transition class has to offer.
Even after going on thorough campus tours during school visits and orientation, it’s going to take a few days—or weeks—to become familiar with a school’s surroundings. And there’s no dearth of buildings to keep track of in college: academic buildings, residence halls, dining facilities, libraries. To be honest, it’s pretty likely you won’t even know half the places on campus come graduation day. (More so if your school has one of the largest campuses in the country.)
While my school remains on the smaller side as far as college grounds go, I still had trouble finding my way around when I moved in, even with Google Maps acting as my personal tour guide. Luckily, my professor in my college transition class showed us a tool that made navigating campus a lot easier—the university’s mobile app. Not only did the app have a more detailed depiction of the campus layout, but it offered plenty of other services that were beneficial to students, including dining menus, bus schedules and laundry availability.
One of the top musings on any incoming freshman’s list is what they should get involved in their first semester. For students who’ve grown up doing a certain extracurricular, such as sports or theater, the decision is usually simple—continue playing or performing. But in college, there’s no longer one path to resuming a favorite activity: Sports can be done on the competitive or recreational level, and schools may have their own community theater groups alongside the mainstage theater productions. Basically, students may feel conflicted about what to choose with all their different extracurricular options, especially when they have a pretty packed class schedule as is.
When trying to narrow down what activities might be the best fit, a college transition class certainly comes in clutch. During my experience, my classmates and I discussed what kinds of extracurriculars we wanted to get involved in, as well as how important pursuing that activity was for us. And with our professor’s extended knowledge of the school website, we were then able to discover all the options our university had to offer, and figure out which activities were right for each of us.
In addition, colleges offer a multitude of opportunities that can help jump-start any student’s career. From study abroad to out-of-class research, there are ways to gain real-world experience and skills before you complete your bachelor’s degree, and as a result, become a much more desirable candidate for potential jobs in the future.
However, just like extracurricular activities, finding the right opportunity can be a challenge. While in my college transition class, my professor explained all the different ways we could go about the search: looking through our school’s internship/job database, developing networks with peers and professors, even just using Google. Although the process seemed simple—I mean, we all practically use Google—I wouldn’t have known about my school’s local opportunity search engine if I didn’t take the course, and really, I’ve become a regular user ever since I learned about it.
It’s no secret that the college transition can take an emotional toll on students. Between the heavier course load, unfamiliar surroundings, and lack of seeing people you’ve known for years every single day, you’re bound to feel lonely and distressed, and might want to talk to someone who can give you advice about adapting to college life.
Because of an assignment in my college transition class, I was able to learn about different services my school had, including mental health counseling (which I hardly saw advertised on campus to begin with). Knowing that I could go talk to a counselor if I needed to definitely helped ease a bit of my freshman anxiety, and also helped me realize that I didn’t have to go through my first semester of college alone.
You might not know it on your first day of freshman year, but the people you meet in your four years of college can have a significant impact on your professional future. Every day you go to classes or meet up with other students, you are building a network of contacts, and these contacts can sometimes lead you to incredible opportunities.
The importance of networking early, however, seems to skip many students’ minds. My college transition class professor always emphasized how me and the other students should begin making professional contacts; in fact, she gave us an assignment to reach out to a current student or alum who was pursuing a career we were interested in ourselves! As a freshman, I was very nervous to get in touch with someone, considering I still hadn’t made it through half a semester. But after doing so, I was grateful I made the contact, and started to think that being in college wasn’t actually so bad.