My first day on campus created a huge range of feelings in me: excitement, happiness, sadness, and loneliness all in that order. A new student steps onto campus and immediately is excited to have all these new experiences and to finally live on their own. I felt exactly like that. I remember walking around with both my parents going to orientation smiling and laughing. Everything was new, different, and good. We took pictures of how happy I was when I got my dorm room key and moved in, but nothing prepared me for the goodbyes and the unbelievable void that followed as my parent’s car pulled away and out of sight. I was alone.
It is hard to pick yourself up from these feelings and get moving into your new lifestyle and routines. The four important things parents and high school seniors should know going into the college transition are: look for a good and healthy friend group, school always comes first no matter what, never leaving your dorm room is unhealthy, and how to resolve conflict with roommates. I knew some of these things because of my Dad’s research, but putting them into action was harder than I anticipated.
Finding a Friend Group
Finding a healthy friend group should be one of your top priorities when you first get to your college campus. Using social media and keeping in touch with friends from back home will not fulfill your need to have new friends to do things with on campus. It is really easy to get wrapped up in being friends with your freshman roommate and not create relationships outside of those in your dorm. Becoming part of a group that involves your interests and or beliefs is extremely important. It is within these groups that you will find the close and long lasting friendships that will help you succeed in your first semester. Avoid escaping feelings of loneliness by participating in things that will lead to failure. Surrounding yourself with peers and even mentors that will help with your major and or beliefs is important because they will be there to help you through everything and guide you in the right direction.
In my first semester I became best friends with my roommates and a friend that I met at orientation. They were fun and we always had a good time together, but they weren’t the right group to help me succeed. Not only did I not find the right close friends, I also only went to one campus ministry group and stuck with it even though it was not the right fit for me. I kept ignoring the signs. Both my freshman friends and ministry were wrong for me but I kept sticking with them because I felt like I was part of something and belonged somewhere. Because of the connections and friendships I now have on campus, I regret not becoming part of a college organization or searching harder for the right campus ministry for me in my freshman year. Don’t allow the feeling and emotions of loneliness to get in the way of finding your true place on campus.
Focusing on School First
Being new to campus life, it is easy to get wrapped up in activities, sporting events, parties, and hanging out with new friends. School should always come first! Don’t blow off doing an essay until late at night or stay up late watching Netflix or being “social online” when you have an 8:00 am class. Use your time wisely and schedule your activities and other events around your class work. As a college student you have more free time than you may ever have in your lifetime because your classes are spread out through the week and are not every day. A normal class schedule in college is three one-hour classes a day. This is why time management is a very important skill to master before the college transition.
I definitely had issues doing this during the first half of my first semester. Schoolwork has never been my favorite activity, but college is different. You are paying loads of money for every class and this all pertains to your future occupation. One of the things that finally hit me around this time was that this is my future; this is not time to mess with my long-term goals. Time management was also a big issue for me as I enjoy sitting down to watch my favorite TV shows on Netflix. It is so easy for me to get sucked in and lose track of the time. Within the past semester I weaned myself off of my video addiction. So my advice to you is to make school and class work come first. Once you’ve completed your work, you can enjoy things like Netflix, video games and social media.
Getting Out of your Dorm Room
My freshman year, my roommates and I never left the building or did any fun activities that didn’t involve sitting around our dorm room. I went to class, came home, got food, and brought it home. Everything revolved around that room and it seems to be the only thing I remember from that first semester. This was a very unhealthy lifestyle for me. I was not connecting with enough other students. I rarely went outdoors and never exercised. We were in close quarters. Adding all these factors led to illness, weight gain, and limited social activity. By the end of the semester both of my roommates were irritable and got in fights with each other leading to stress not only due to upcoming finals but from our living situation.
The main issue with spending all of your time in your dorm room is your health. Becoming ill while at school can create loads of issue, as most professors do not allow that as an excuse for late assignments and or giving out attendance points. Missing one class is like missing an entire week of high school. This past semester I had to go to class and take tests while having a fever so I would not fall behind and lower my good grades. Above all else take care of yourself by eating right and exercising.
Roommate Conflict Resolution
Getting along with roommates is one of the most challenging parts of living on a college campus. While I was prepared for this given my family resolution process and having a sister in my room my whole life, most of the students around me were not prepared to resolve issues in a healthy manner. I have found that roommate conflict is one of the biggest issues with freshmen on campus. Many do not know how to live with someone as they have grown up having their own rooms at home or were never taught how to solve problems on their own. Parents often step in when their kids are fighting and solve everything, which leaves kids unable to solve issues on their own. Learning how to talk through my issues with the other person has been a very helpful tool. Because of my upbringing I never needed to get my RA (Residence Hall Assistant) involved in any conflicts within my room.
This past year I went into a second blind roommate situation and ended up in a apartment style dorm with two other girls that wanted to have the option of having guys spend the night, which made me uncomfortable. We fixed our disagreement with a system; if they came home from a party and I was asleep they would shut my door and put a sticky note on it telling me who had spent the night. To my delight we only used this system three or four times the whole year and never had any fights about it because of how I approached it with them. The first thing you should do when approaching an issue is to bring it up calmly and with reasonable options to fix it so that both parties involved are satisfied. Don’t forget to stay calm and keep a cool head about you; try not to let your emotions cloud your thoughts. Also if your roommate is being unreasonable and not budging don’t be afraid to get your RA involved; it is okay to get help after you have tried everything.
College is a new and exciting place to learn how to live on your own and let yourself shine. There are many things that you can get wrapped up in your first semester, but they are easily corrected with small changes and adjustments. It is vital to get prepared for life on your own.
Parents, how you approach your kids will determine if they are more ready like I was or lost, confused and pursuing the wrong things like so many I saw on campus. If you are looking for a parenting approach that results in more mature and capable kids, visit Revive Family’s website for more information and listen to the free webinar.