I lived in the same house in the same small town for most of my 17 years before my parents dropped me off at college. Coming from a close-knit family and having the same friends since kindergarten, I was not prepared for the newness of every day. Freshman orientation programs taught me about campus resources, whom my advisor would be, and about opportunities on campus. And then it was up to me to get through each day and to make my first choices as an adult. The choice factor was both inviting and frightening.
Leaving your childhood behind, starting freshman year of college is one of the greatest stepping stones in a person’s journey through life. For most students, it’s the first time that everything is new. Here are some thoughts that will help you to create a happy and fulfilling life on campus:
Divide your days into the following areas: academic time, social time, wellness time, and the business of living time.
Academic time-the percentage of your day that you spend in classes, meeting with tutors/professors, and on outside work. The general rule of thumb is that successful students spend about two to three times the amount of time doing homework as compared to the time they are in class, though this varies depending upon the week. At the beginning of the semester, there is a lot less to do than at the end. Generally, if you are in classes for 12 hours a week, plan on spending another 24 to 36 hours on schoolwork. This makes for a 40 to 50-hour workweek, just like the real world. Still, there is plenty of time outside of these hours to explore other parts of campus life.
Social time-the most exciting part of college, but also the greatest detractor from student success. Social opportunities pop up everywhere, including where you sleep! From managing social time with roommates and hall-mates to figuring out how many parties to attend, it can be difficult to navigate the social opportunities in college, especially for an extroverted personality type. A good rule of thumb is to plan out the hours in which you will spend on academic time and then you will have the freedom to enjoy time with new friends. If you are on the more introverted side, making new friends can be a challenge—it’s a good idea to plan out some activities that you would like to become a part of, from intramural sports to volunteering. These are all listed on college websites so you can decide what appeals to you before you land on campus.
Wellness-a huge key to success in college: eating healthily, sleeping well and exercising will make you enjoy your experience. Wellness can overlap with social time as you can exercise with friends. Eating is a big deal in college as the infamous ‘Freshman 15’ can attest. Colleges now have so many opportunities for health choices—just stay away from the carbs and sugar! And to reduce stress—exercise!
The business of living-so now mom and dad are not around to do your laundry, buy toothpaste, and take care of you. Once a week it’s a good idea to regroup and make a list of things that need to get done and then figure out when to do them. You may want to take advantage of local laundry facilities where you can pay to drop off your clothes and retrieve them neatly folded! That said, dorm laundry rooms can be great places to meet new people…or study for that next exam. Figuring out where to spend your time and money is all part of the college experience.
It’s ok to regroup! Each day will meet with excitement and challenges. And if you feel that things are not going your way in any of these areas, it can become overwhelming. Remember that it’s never too late to start over. If you feel behind on your academics, make a schedule. If you feel lonely, join a new club. Finding solutions to obstacles is part of the excitement of becoming an independent adult.
Good luck and enjoy the journey!
Nicole Oringer, one of Ivy Ed’s partners and the Head of College Counseling, conducts these workshops in both offices. Please contact 908.322.0533 for more information.