Surviving College: Week One
The first week of school, no matter what grade you're in, can definitely be scary. Remember your first day of kindergarten, or that crazy first day of high school? You might have been terrified that no one would like you, or you would get lost looking for your class. You didn’t know the teachers and were probably worried about how much homework you would be assigned. Well, the first week of college isn't necessarily going to be any different.
The first thing to remember is you are not alone. There are thousands of students who are feeling just like you -- they are going through the same emotional roller coaster, trying to ‘fit in’ and navigate a new environment. Regardless of the size of your college, one thing remains the same: taking that first step in getting to know others and getting adjusted to your new college life is the hardest part. Just think of college as the greatest adventure of your life. There are bound to be some bumps in the road, but the ride will provide memories that will last forever. But before you start your college journey, take some advice from students who have actually traveled that road. With a little preparation and insight, your trip can be smooth from the start.
Leave the Lanyard at Home – Don’t announce to everyone that you are a freshman. Lanyards were great for high school, but unless your college requires you to wear an I.D., keep the student card in your wallet. There is no sense in walking around with a neon sign flashing NEW STUDENT!
Parking Sucks – If you are allowed to park on campus (some colleges reserve campus parking for upper-classmen only), remember that multiple passes are often sold for each parking spot that actually exists. This is because most schools don’t expect every student to be on campus at the same time. In reality, parking is usually a nightmare at almost every campus. If at all possible, walk or bike to class or take the bus to avoid the hassle and expense. If you still insist on bringing your own vehicle, anticipate delays and come to campus at least an hour before your class starts to give yourself time to find a space.
Morning Classes are NOT for Everyone – Was mom your alarm clock at home? Did you wait until the very last moment to roll out of bed and then run to the bus stop? Don’t enroll in an 8:00 a.m. course if you know you are not a morning person, especially a class that is lecture-heavy. You may find yourself hitting the snooze button, or worse, sleeping through the class. Unless you're an early bird by nature, enroll in classes that begin after 9:00 a.m., allowing more time for sleep. You’re going to need it.
Read the Syllabus – One of the biggest mistakes college freshmen make is not thoroughly reading (and understanding!) the syllabus for each class. You’re not in high school anymore, so don’t expect the professors to hold your hand. Your syllabus will include everything you need to know about the class, including requirements for class participation, attendance, assignments and exams. Read it completely to ensure there are no surprises during the semester. You don’t want to earn straight A’s on your exams and course work only to find out that you’ll be awarded a B because you missed too many classes. It’s not uncommon for professors to set limits on the number of missed days, so know this from the beginning and be sure to adhere to the class requirements as stated in the syllabus.
Have Fun – It’s okay to smile and have some fun. The first week on campus is almost always stressful, but it’s good to take a break from all the chaos. Make time to attend a welcome party, housing mixer or campus event, even if it is only for a half an hour or so. You may find it comforting to hear other students talk about their experiences thus far, and you may even make a new friend or two.
Making that leap from high school to college can be intimidating. It’s okay to be a little nervous during your first week at college, but remember...life can be quite an adventure. Take this opportunity at the beginning of your college career to step outside your comfort zone: try new things, embrace the diversity of the campus and, most of all, enjoy the ride!