Helpful Advice for Freshmen About College Life
Attending college is a major milestone in your life as a teen. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2012, 66.2 percent of 2012 high school graduates were enrolled in colleges or universities.
Attending college is a major transition that comes with excitement, but you might also be apprehensive as you leave the security of your family and friends. The transition to college requires changes in every area of your life, and you will need support to develop your identity as a student and as a young adult.
After you move away from home, you will meet new people, have greater responsibilities, and have new demands on you. This requires major adjustments on your part to deal with the opportunities and challenges for a successful college life. If you read this article on teen advice about college life, you will find that the following five suggestions will help you to effectively transition from high school to a successful college experience.
1. Adapt to Your New Environment
It is likely that you will feel lonely when you are separated from your family and friends. One way to overcome this loneliness is to get involved in college life. Start participating in school activities; choose activities that you enjoy and are comfortable with. You can also use them as an avenue to develop your interests.
In your new college setting, you will learn a new set of behaviors, adopt a particular identity as a college student, and begin to associate yourself with new groups of people. An important aspect of adjusting to your new environment is making new friends who could serve as a support system for you.
You will be confronted with pressures in your new social situation, and the choices you make could have far-reaching implications on your life. Also, within your new environment, you will need to take steps to protect your safety and use the safety resources available at your college.
Importantly, Stephanie Kaplan and colleagues in their book, The Her Campus Guide to College Life, encourage college students to make every effort to stay safe. They describe how to be prepared for worst-case scenarios such theft, intruders or even sexual assaults.
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2. Set Your Priorities and Manage Your Time
Your schedule in college will be different from high school, and so you will need to balance your time, which includes giving enough time to your assignments, clubs, work, and social life. In this context, it might seem that you have so little time to do all the things you need to do, and this could be a source of stress for you.
Begin by scheduling your time, and prioritizing your commitments to make college life more manageable. Assess your situation to ensure that you do not take on too many obligations. One way to do this is to ask yourself these two questions: What are my long-term goals? What activities best fit into these goals?
After you have honestly answered these questions, make a schedule that reflects how you want to spend your time at college to get the best from your college career. Then use your day planner to organize your day, so that you balance your school work with your other activities.
In all of this, recognize that pursuing your education should take priority. Use your schedule to organize yourself, so that you can manage your time effectively and achieve your goals. As you forward, adjust and fine-tune your schedule so that it works for you.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.— Nelson Mandella
3. Maintain Acceptable Academic Standards
College is demanding, and you could find it difficult to keep up with the increased academic pressure to maintain high grades. Even more, the high expectations of your parents and the requirements of the college could leave you feeling under intense stress.
You can take several steps to stay on top of things. Start by budgeting enough time for study. Also, be careful to attend class and keep up with your reading and assignments. Importantly, you will need to learn to ask for help when you need it.
You can't do it alone. So you might need to contact the Dean’s office or access your campus resource center which offers help to students who are experiencing academic difficulties. Besides, you could become a part of a study group which provides you with academic and social support.
4. Learn to Handle Your New Freedom
As a college student, you will have greater personal freedom. It’s an exciting time, but it could be overwhelming because you might not be used to this level of freedom. You could find managing your newfound freedom difficult.
Leaving home means that you become more independent, and you get opportunities to make more choices and decisions without the assistance of your parents. However, your inability to use your freedom in a responsible way could result in your making poor choices, which could have a negative effect on your grades, and your overall success in college.
You have the responsibility to make choices that will give you the results you want. So you will need to evaluate your behavior in college and make decisions to move in a productive direction in your college career.
Healthy choices would include managing your money well and avoiding risk taking behaviors such as drinking and drug abuse. Unhealthful behaviors could lead to more problems such as anxiety, depressions, and health issues. With the demands of college, stress can build up, but find self-enhancing ways to cope with it.
Stick to a schedule that balances your social life with your school work. For example, getting regular exercise, and practising deep breathing, could help relieve the pressure that might build up. Also, reviewing and changing your self-talk could affect how much stress you feel. Also, take steps to find out where to turn for help, for example, your school counseling and/or wellness center.
5. Build and Maintain Healthy Relationships
While you need to maintain relationships with your family and old friends, you could find it difficult to maintain some of these relationships because of the distance that separates you. However, open communication is very important to continue your relationships, for example, with your best friend who is enrolled at another college. Stay connected through phone calls and emails.
You also need to build new relationships in your new setting. However, this sometimes poses a problem. For example, there could be the challenge of adjusting to a new roommate, who is likely to have different habits, boundaries, and value systems from yours.
Learning to live with someone new might be challenging, but communicate with your roommate. Both of you need to establish rules from the start, for example, the need for quiet time, personal space and so on. Also, remember that showing respect is always very important.
Become involved in organized campus activities. As you increase your involvement in college life, you will build new friendships and relationships, which will have a positive effect on your well-being. You will maintain and improve your relationships, as you build your communication skills, show concern for others, and develop your problem-solving skills.
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Summary: Teen Tips for Successful College Life
Seps to a Successful College Life
Steps to Overcome Challenges
1. Adapting to your new environment
Loneliness resulting from separation from family and friends
Get involved in college life
Choose activities you enjoy.
New social pressure
Make right choices.
Take steps top protect your safety.
2. Setting priorities and managing your time
Overwhelming college schedule
Strive for balance: academic vs, social activities
Proper assessment of your situation
Shedule your time and prioritize your commitment.
Use your planner to organize each day.
3. Maintaining acceptable academic standards
Increased academic demands; high expectations from parents
Budget time enough for study.
Attend your classes and keep up with assignments.
Ask for help when you need it.
4. Learning to handle new freedom
Difficulty managing new freedom; making poor choices
Make decisions that get you the results you want.
Manage your money well; avoid risk taking behaviors.
Change self-defeating self-talk to self-enhancing ones.
5. Building and maitaining relationships
Difficulty maintaining old relationships and forming new ones.
Communicate your needs to your family and old freinds.
Collaboratively set ground rules with your roommate.
Get involved in campus activities, and form new friendships.
Moving on in Your College Life
The way you transition from high school into your first year of college is likely to have a great impact on your life. The key is to use your increased personal freedom and greater responsibility to organize yourself to get an education because you recognize that this is your primary purpose for your being in college.
While maintaining acceptable academic standards is important, you must find a healthy balance in your college life. Balancing your academics and your social life means that you take care of yourself, get involved in college activities, and seek help to address any problem you may face.
References and Further Reading
Bureau of Labor Statistics of the US Department of Labor (2013).College enrollment and work activity of 2012 high school graduate. Accessed July 9, 2013.
Lefton, L. A., Brannon, L., Boyes, M.C. & Ogden, N. A. (2008). Psychology. (3rd. ed.). Toronto, Ontario, Pearson Allyn and Bacon.
© 2013 Yvette Stupart PhD