When heading to college for the first time, one thing is crystal clear: You are leaving your comfort zone! Like all new experiences, adjusting to college life can be unsettling at first. You’re sure to feel every emotion those first few days on campus, overwhelmed with sadness and fear one minute and then excitement and laughter the next. You may find that some things are going well, while other aspects seem impossible.
Living on campus is very different from the life you led at home while attending high school. There are new living quarters, new faces, new classes, and new routines. There are decisions to make and new things to think about, like finding dinner companions, figuring out laundry and shower schedules, and determining how the next eight months will play out with your new roommate.
Whether you’re a freshman or a transfer student, there are a number of ways to feel more at home in your new environment. Here are some winning approaches from some students who’ve already made the transition.
1.) Attend “new student” events.
“I would say the most important thing for new students would be get involved early on. It is so much easier to do this when all of the other new students are meeting each other doing the same exact thing than it is to try and do this when freshmen have already made bonds with one another. I think this was one of the contributing factors that led to my transferring [schools]. I got so much more out of my experience at UNH by getting involved in intramurals, clubs, etc.”
—Amanda, University of New Hampshire
2.) Join clubs.
“I think it’s a good idea to search for clubs or student groups to join. Even if you only have a slight interest, you could end up loving it. It’s definitely been the easiest way to meet people other than in the dorms and it gives you something to do other than schoolwork.”—Shana, Binghamton University
3.) Find someone in each class.
“Push outside of your comfort zone and try to talk to at least one person in every class. It will definitely help you become more comfortable in a new environment, and you can meet up for coffee to share notes before big tests. It’s a great way to find a study buddy!”—Samantha, University of Texas at Austin
4.) Bring the comforts of home.
“To make your dorm more comfortable, bring some of your favorite items from home. For example, I hang up movie posters, display favorite pictures and souvenirs in keepsake shadow boxes, and bring a ton of comfy pillows and cozy blankets. It’s a lot to pack, but it makes my dorm feel like my home away from home and the perfect place to relax at the end of the day.”
—Susie, University of Pittsburgh
5.) Find your study spot.
“As for academics, I think one of the best tips I ever got was to find a place to study that works for you. It was hard for me to study at the library where everyone else was studying. So when I had time in between classes I went on little adventures to different smaller branch libraries, empty classrooms, cafés, any place with a chair or table to see where I could concentrate the best. After I found my spot, this is where I studied all the time.”—Amanda, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
6.) Manage your time.
“Probably one of the most difficult concepts to master your first few weeks on campus is time management. When you don’t have high school teachers telling you what is next and reminding you each day what you need to tackle, it’s easy to forget due dates. Writing down your deadlines and important dates in a day-by-day calendar can help you stay on track freshman year and beyond.”—Kenny, University of Virginia
7.) Talk to your professors.
“Don’t leave all your work until Sunday night to do. College is much harder and demanding than high school. Don’t be afraid to talk to your professors if you need help, and take advantage of their office hours. It is better for your professors (and will help you in the long run) if they can put a name to a face in a large class. If you show them that you care, they will be willing to help you.”—Brian, Boston College
8.) Don’t put off work.
“Make sure to go to all of your classes and do all of your readings ahead of time. Do not procrastinate. I would say get involved in clubs and try to talk to as many people as you can in order to meet new friends.”—Eric, University of Connecticut
9.) Look for opportunities—and free food.
“Make friends in classes; doing homework in groups is especially helpful. Don’t be afraid to go to a professor and ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to approach a professor whose work is interesting to you and try for a research opportunity. Professors are always looking for students to help (even freshmen!). And, never turn down an opportunity for free food, because college is expensive enough already. Remember to relax and don’t stress out!”—Celia, Cornell University
10.) Don’t worry!
“Don’t stress and keep in mind that it takes time to adjust to new surroundings. Nothing will be perfect right away, so give yourself a month to acclimate. Be patient and relax, because stressing won’t make the adjustment go any easier or faster.”—Steve, Texas Tech University