In just another couple of months, a new “flock” of our college clients will be heading off to their first year at college. Most of them while a bit nervous, most feel ready to take this big next step in their lives and are looking forward. However, while on some level they might be prepared, on numerous other levels, they may not be as ready as they think.
Hopefully, counselors and parents are doing their best in these last couple of months to ready their college bound students to manage this new journey. Having some benefit of what many former and returning clients have said, we are only too happy to share a few thoughts worthy, we think, of sharing with your neophyte.
Learn that being able to say “No” is a healthy first step at independence. Every freshman student gets bombarded with numerous opportunities. It is near impossible to do them all and yet, many find it difficult to simply say “No,” fearing perhaps, that they might disappoint someone. Knowing when and how to say “no” is difficult. However, it is more difficult to manage the pressure of saying “yes” only to discover there are only seven days in the week. We suggest that, especially in the beginning, take it slower than you might otherwise and avoid anxiety producing activities. Students must take adequate time to get comfortable with new friends and a new routine. Know and protect your limits. Your good friends will understand and will be both supportive and protective.
It’s possible that you may find yourself overwhelmed by the number of classes in which you have enrolled. Know the deadline for dropping a class. It’s not a failure to take a lighter load. It can demonstrate strength of character. There is no deadline date on graduation. Many students take more than four years to complete college. It’s far better to take it slow and have a meaningful experience that results in positive outcomes.
Freshman year is generally viewed as the most difficult by the majority of students. Everything is totally new and requires considerable getting used to. Having to acclimate to being on one’s own, making new friends, having a roommate, living in a dorm for the first time, managing reading assignments and a workload that is overflowing are just some of the challenges. The good news is that everything will get much better. You will discover your comfortable groove. Be patient.
It’s not okay, however, to keep your frustrations and anxiety to yourself. If you are normal, you will second guess yourself and question if you made the right school choice, the best course selection or professors. Chances are, you did. It is okay to feel inadequate and to worry but it’s important to recognize and to be open and honest about your emotional health. Seeking someone to talk to is the best “medicine.” Every college we know has a counseling office with highly skilled professionals who “get it” and are very willing and capable of helping. It’s also okay to share your feelings with your very best supporters and cheerleaders – your folks.
And then what we think may be our very best advice: College is not solely about academics.
Your college experience needs to be so much more than academic studies. It’s a time to discover new interests, make new friends, and learn life lessons. Make your college experience a time of discovery. Indulge yourself. In fact, we know of many students whose academic studies improve once they are taking full advantage of a broader college experience.