Tips for Adjusting to College Life

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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.


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

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


Find someone in each class.

“Try to talk to at least one person in every class. It helps you get more comfortable in your classes when you know someone.”—Nicole, Binghamton University

Bring the comforts of home.

“I definitely think that a great way to feel more at home is to bring some of the things from home that make your room homey. For instance, I bring my favorite books, all my [knickknacks], posters, pictures, and enormous collection of pillows and blankets. It makes the packing business a little more difficult, but it makes my dorm feel less like a dorm and more like a place I want to come back to at the end of the day.”—Ashley, University of Pittsburgh


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 Science

Manage your time.

“One thing I found helpful when starting NVCC was learning time management. Even though some tasks may be simple, when you don’t have high school teachers telling you what is next and reminding you each day, it is easy to forget important dates and when things were due.”
—Kim, Naugatuck Valley Community College


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

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


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

Don’t worry!

“Things take time. Nothing will be perfect right away, and you definitely won’t be used to anything in your new environment for a few weeks. Be patient and relax, because stressing won’t make the adjustment go any easier or faster.”—Lauren, Muhlenberg College

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