College presents new students with some innate challenges. Let's consider some of the initial messages or issues facing students:
- You are leaving friends you've known for years and starting from scratch with new friendships (we forget sometimes that it took us 4-12 years to gather our last group of friends).
- There is a message from (some) parents, TV and movies that college is about being "free", partying, and going wild.
- You are paying (or taking out loans you will pay back later) up to $40,000 a year to grow, learn and develop into a "new" person ready to enter the working world and adult life.
- The way you learn and study at college is substantially different from the way it is done at the majority of high schools, so even a big fish can feel out of water here.
- Your parents and their ability to cook, do laundry, clean out a fridge, and balance your bank account are now gone, leaving you to learn many new skills "on the run" once you arrive at college.
So, when you arrive at college, naturally you are a bit unsure which new challenge to tackle first. Below are some recommendations for you as you prepare for your first block, based on years of working with students as they transition to college (some who failed, some who thrived).
- You could stay home from college, work a minimum wage job and party all you want. So, you don't have to pay faculty and staff to educate you if partying is your biggest goal. Recommendation #1 - move that to the back burner...for a few blocks. You'll end up with a social network and plenty of social activities by spring anyway.
- College is a new way of learning, so try to be very intentional about how you approach your studies. Make no assumptions. Talk to the instructor, talk to your R.A., talk to the office of Academic Support in Cole Library and learn what tips they have for studying or to request a tutor to meet individually with you. Visit the Writing Studio and the Quantitative Reasoning Studio in Cole Library. Start by doing more than you think you should have to and then ease off as you get a feel for it and what actions yield which results. Don't try the same old way and then be surprised later by disappointing grades - assume you need to try some new techniques (maybe using writing assistance even though you've always aced English class, etc.).
- Use a calendar on your phone, laptop or even the paper version to get organized before class starts. Your faculty member will give you a syllabus. Write due dates for every assignment, paper, or project. Write in exam dates. Write in your practice times for sports or theatre. Write in some time for exercise and eating. And even block in study time. Try to start with 6 hours a day for reading or studying and then adjust in block 2 or 3 after you see how that works for. It is better to start with too much than too little.
- In terms of your social life, spend the first block focusing on a few relationships. First, your roommate. You don't have to be best friends, but work on getting to know them well enough that you know how to avoid irritating them and they know the same about you. Become good "teammates" at the very least. Then try to find at least one other person on campus with whom you feel some connection to help you navigate the system and blow off steam. In the first few blocks, investigate campus organizations that interest you and join one or two of those. If you start by focusing on just a couple relationships, your studies will take priority and by the time you have the academics in hand, you will have naturally built up a few more acquaintances.
- Be intentional also about your life skills. Don't ignore the things you don't know how to do. Talk to your P.A. or R.A. or other staff to learn about how often to clean your fridge, the best way to save $ and yet not ruin your laundry, the quickest time of day to eat in the Thomas Commons and where to find that organic food in the Hilltop Café.
Give yourself time! Most people expect to feel right at home in two weeks. Think about the time it took you to adjust to kindergarten or a new house? There are a lot of changes happening in your life right now-give yourself at least a full year to truly acclimate to Iowa, Mt. Vernon, Cornell, your classes, your residence hall room , and your new friends.