Whether you moved across the country or down the street, transitioning into college can be a challenge. For the past two years, I have been a freshman resident assistant helping students make the transition to living on their own. In my time, I’ve seen students get in the swing of college life easily, while others have taken more effort to figure it out. No matter how these first few weeks have gone, there is still plenty of time to get your feet under you and have a great freshman year. Below are a variety of do’s and don’ts to start your first school year off right.
Do: Get Involved on Campus
In all likelihood, there is a huge variety of organizations and clubs to choose from on campus. Although sometimes the number of organizations can be overwhelming, pick three to five that really interest you. Go to their first meeting and see if it seems like a place you could belong. If you don’t feel like the organization is for you, cross it off the list and dedicate your time to something else.
Clubs, Greek Life organizations and sports are a great way to make friends in your first year. Most likely, you already have at least one interest in common, whether that be painting or dodgeball. If you feel like you are struggling to find people to hang out with, go to campus events and see if you can find some. On every college campus, there is tons to do if you go looking for it.
Don’t: Ignore Your School Work
College provides a lot of great opportunities to get involved, have fun and have once in a lifetime experiences. Add the responsibilities of lots of activities to a job, and suddenly your school work becomes second priority. Although it is important to get involved, you pay quite a bit of money to go to school.
Hopefully, in addition to a piece of paper that says you graduated, you will have learned something. That becomes a lot harder if you aren’t going to class, doing homework or keeping up with the reading. Though assignments here and there will get missed, if you do most of your work most of the time, you will be set for school.
Do Communicate with Your Roommate
For many first-year students transitioning to college, it is their first time living with someone in such small quarters. Whatever your living situation, make sure you and your roommate communicate with one another. You don’t have to be best friends and hang out every day (though that is nice!), you just need to be able to talk about the basics. Make sure you can talk to your roommate about the state of the room, cleaning, your schedule and if you won’t be home at night.
If you find that your roommate won’t listen or you’re uncomfortable talking with them, check out your school’s procedures on changing rooms. Some schools only have specific times when you can change rooms, while others are more lax. No matter what, you need to be comfortable in the space you are living and if for any reason you aren’t, talk to your RA or someone on campus.
Don’t: Forget Your Health
While you are getting used to your new environment, it can be difficult to figure out your new routine. While you do so, don’t forget to take time for yourself and your health. Although it might seem second nature, make sure you are showering, sleeping, eating and hydrating. In a new place, everyday things can sometimes be a struggle.
Almost any college has a gym, and it is great to get into a routine of heading over there. If this is a challenge for you, find one of those new friends from your new favorite club and head over together. A lot of schools also offer classes and group fitness if that is more your speed. Check out your fitness facilities to upkeep your health.
Do: Take Time For Yourself
In addition to keeping up your basic health routines, make sure you are taking time for yourself to de-stress while transitioning to college. Whether that is the occasional nap, watching a trashy movie, doing a facemask or drawing, it is important to have some “me” time. Because you will be living and working with the same people every day, it is good to get a little distance when you need it.
Don’t: Let Others Define You
With making new friends and finding new relationships, I have seen a lot of freshmen lose themselves in the people they surround themselves with. Whether that be a boyfriend or girlfriend, a particular friend group, or in trying to be someone they are not, sometimes freshmen begin to define themselves by their relationships to others.
In college, it is a great time to explore who you are and what you want. This might tie you closely to other people, but make sure you keep your own sense of identity. You have the opportunity to do and be a variety of things, without becoming someone you are not.
Do: Ask For Help
The biggest struggle I have seen freshmen have is in thinking that now that they are on their own, they can’t ask for help. Your college is designed to help you succeed, and there are a variety of places to go for help. Whether you have questions about classes, living on your own or where to print stuff out, there are people you can turn to.
If you aren’t sure where to go for help, always stop by your RA’s room or shoot them an email. If they know the answer, they’ll let you know, and if they don’t, they likely know where to get the information. Transitioning to college is hard: Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it because even though you are on your own, you’re not alone.