Freshman year of college is the first taste of adulthood for many. For nine months of the year, you’re on your own. You can go out on the weekend and you don’t have to text your mom to let her know where you are. You can eat pizza for dinner every night. And that 8 a.m. class? Nobody is making you go to it.
The freedom of college, as awesome as it is, can also be a difficult transition for many. The absolute autonomy, coupled with being thrust into a brand new environment in which you are essentially friendless, can prove to be a challenge to even the most social and motivated people.
Here are some tips to make the transition to college easier:
Leave your door open
I can’t stress this enough. Freshmen year of college, I looked at all the people on my floor meeting and assumed we would never be friends because I wouldn’t see them in class every day. Twenty minutes later, when the meeting ended, a few of my neighbors walked into my room to see what a triple looked like, and I made friends who I still talk to this day. It’s as simple as that. The people living on your floor or in your hallway are in the same situation as you. They have no friends. They want to meet people. The college atmosphere is even more conducive to making friends than high school because you’re living with them. Leave your door open, introduce yourself to your neighbors and let people know that you’re not some loner who would prefer to sit in his room alone playing Call of Duty.
I’ve noticed in my two years of college that those who are involved in clubs and intramurals are almost always more satisfied with living at school than those who aren’t. Not only do clubs provide you with a way to meet people, but they also give you something to do. If you spend your free time watching television or napping, your college experience is guaranteed to get really dull, really fast. Play an intramural, write for the newspaper or rush a fraternity or sorority. Do something.
Go to class
I’m not going to sit here and say that the occasional skipped class used to catch up on sleep or homework isn’t beneficial—that would be an idealized portrait of college life. With that being said—make an effort to go to class. I’ve witnessed numerous people who were chronic skippers, sleeping through their 8 a.m. classes every day or only showing up to a class for the midterm and final. Although there are many distractions that come with living at college, keep in mind that you are there for an education and that you are paying thousands of dollars for it. Plus, no matter how much of the course content you think you can learn from reading the textbook or viewing the Powerpoint online, going to class and listening to a professor teach it helps a lot.
Communicate with your professors
In every piece of college advice, communication with professors is always stressed, but it’s easier said than done. Professors can often be intimidating, and you spend enough time with them in the classroom, why would you want to talk with them one-on-one? Professors are required to have office hours. They want to talk to you one-on-one. If you’re in a big lecture, meeting with the professor one-on-one can do wonders to help you understand a lesson you might have not fully understood. If you’re in a smaller class, meeting with a professor to discuss a paper can prove invaluable, and the benefit is twofold: you receive specific feedback and insight into what the professor wants, and you become a name to them. A lot of people in larger universities complain of anonymity, but that doesn’t have to be the case. From personal experience, all of my one-on-one interactions with professors have been turned out to be overwhelmingly positive.
While you’re at school, your only responsibility is to learn, but it shouldn’t be a full time job. Don’t spend your four years as an undergrad wasting away in front of a laptop writing lab reports or 12-page papers. Take a break. Have some fun. Spend all night playing Xbox. Go to football games. Order calzones at 2 a.m. Go to parties (but don’t get arrested). You’re at college to work, but you will be working for the rest of your life, so make sure you have fun too.
Steven Gillard is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]