It’s the day after move-in – your family is gone and your room is all set up and decorated. As you lay in bed that morning, you are faced with the daunting task of trying to convince yourself to leave your dorm room and go mingle so that you can make some new friends. So far, you know next to no one, the polar opposite of your social life back in high school.
Before you know it, the first day of classes are here and you’re running late because Mom wasn’t there to wake you up after you intentionally snoozed your alarm ten times. You barely get to class on time and are then subjected to a two-hour lecture where you have to pick out the important parts to write in your notes.
Flash forward to the day of the first test in class. Your nerves are wild, partly due to the surrealism of having your first exam in college, but mostly due to the fact that you didn’t realize how much material had been covered. Back in high school, the tests usually covered one or two subjects, and you could easily get away with looking over the information the night before.
Next thing you know, you go home with a failed test to see that your laundry basket is overflowing and your dorm room is a mess. Between making sure you got yourself to class every day while still maintaining a social life, you seem to have forgotten the simple, but important, matter of chores.
It seems amazing that so much could result from one simple move into a dorm room. Not everyone’s beginnings of freshman year will turn out the exact same way as the above plays out; there are variations, and it all depends on each individual.
For most of us freshmen though, I think the hardest part of the year is going to be moving on from our relatively safe and comfortable lives back home. It may get to the point where stress kicks in and affects us negatively.
There’s no real warning before we are suddenly burdened with all these great responsibilities like getting to class on time every day, completing assignments according to the syllabus and doing laundry frequently. Mother isn’t here to remind you to do things anymore – it’s up to you now. We’ve been told how it was going to be, but there’s nothing like actually living it.
Most of us are being thrust into a world where lectures dominate class time and syllabi dictate the breakdown of each class and its criteria. No one is forcing you to go to class or do homework. Instead of knowing dozens of people by name, you may recognize a couple of faces but not truly know anyone.
Some of us may not know how to handle this sharp turn of events, and when confusion and nerves start to combine, stress starts to form.
Before I left home to move in to my dorm, my friend, who’s a sophomore at another college, began to hurtle tips at me to help me overcome the inevitable stress that accompanies the transition from high school to college: Visit the professors during their office hours and to ask any and all questions that I may have. Instead of studying for a test the night before – start prepping myself a day or two, maybe even three, before the exam takes place and constantly review the material for the class. Manage my time well so that I can balance out my social, personal and academic responsibilities so that I’m on top of things.
Her last piece of advice was to not be afraid to try new things and put yourself out there, but also to be yourself while doing it. College is a fresh start, a “new chapter,” and some students may want to completely change themselves around so that they fit in more or so that they may seem more appealing to fellow students. But you don’t have to change completely. College is a big place with a diverse range of people; someone here is likely to have the same interests as you.
The stress of being in a new environment and away from the shelter of home and predictable routine of high school can be challenging for some of us freshmen. But all we need to do is breathe deeply and remember that we’re the ones who write the stories of our lives, including this new chapter called college.