Yayayayayay you did it! You got through four grueling years of high school, persevered through college essay writing and the SAT, and finally graduated even if it looked very different this year. I know that when I was a rising college freshman, getting out of my hometown and living on my own couldn’t have come soon enough. I can’t even imagine what you guys are going through now that it’s even harder to escape due to coronavirus. And although your first year of college might look different than it would have been a few years ago, you still made it.
Regardless of how excited you are, however, I know that you are also incredibly nervous. Even when there’s no pandemic happening outside, uprooting yourself from your home for the first time is a daunting process. But I promise that you’ll get through it and even have tons of fun along the way. I speak from experience, which I want to share with you now to hopefully give you some peace of mind. While I don’t know what college will look like during coronavirus either, I will share with you what I do know: how to make the college transition a little easier.
This is the big transition that’s definitely the hardest. However, the best part about moving in your freshman year is that every single person is the new kid. Everyone is nervous, everyone thinks they won’t make friends, and everyone has a fear of being alone. And while those fears can sometimes get overwhelming, they make everyone aggressively outgoing. Here are my best tips for making the social transition a little smoother:
1. Keep Your Door Open
I’m not sure what coronavirus policies will allow in dorms, but keep your door open all the time for at least the first week. People will pop in and introduce themselves, and I encourage you to roam your halls and do the same. Get to know your neighbors, because it’s the easiest place to start.
2. Never Go Alone
Any time you go anywhere on campus, ask someone to go with you. Ask your roommates to get dinner, ask your neighbors to go to Starbucks, ask the person you sit next to in class to hang out on the quad. Never go anywhere alone if you can help it.
3. Use Your Dorm’s Lounge
If community lounges are open, hang out and do homework there instead of in your room. You don’t necessarily need to start a conversation with every person you see, but putting yourself in situations with other people is much better than sequestering yourself in your room all day.
4. Join Clubs!
This is quite a cliché but truly one of the most effective. Clubs help expand your social horizons beyond your class and also provide opportunities to enter leadership positions as you get older. Having friends that are older than you is so helpful, especially when you inevitably have questions about class registration, good professors, best places to party (after corona is over of course), etc.
College academics are definitely different than the assignments you get in high school. Depending on your major, there’s a chance that you’ll rarely get homework that’s due at the beginning of every class. In fact, many professors have a very aloof approach to assignments, and even if an essay counts for most of your grade, they might not say a word about it in class before it’s due. The academic transition is definitely difficult because you are largely your only advocate. Here are some of my tips to help stay productive:
1. Actually Use Your Planner
Buy a planner and go through all of your syllabi when you receive them. Write down every assignment on their due date. Also put down assignments on a virtual calendar. Whatever you do, make sure you won’t forget about it.
2. Office Hours Are Key
Go to office hours. Many college introduction courses are lecture heavy and so information-packed that it can be difficult to get a question in during class. Also, if you’re like me, a huge classroom filled with people can make raising your hand a little intimidating. Many professors will accomodate for this by allowing office hour meetings to count for a participation grade. They also help give you one-on-one time to get the assistance you need if you’re confused. They’re offered for a reason, so definitely use them. I guarantee you’ll need a recommendation from a professor as well at some point, and how will they know who you are if you don’t show them?
3. Work Smarter Not Harder
SKIM your readings. In college, you’re likely reading a new novel every week. You’re probably also reading multiple scholarly articles or labs for your other classes. Cumulatively, I probably read 800 pages a week for all my classes. That’s like 160 pages a day plus the essays, quizzes, lab reports, presentations, etc. that need to get completed at the same time. It’s simply impossible to read every single word. Make sure you get the gist at least, and you can always go back later if you find yourself completely lost.
4. All Nighters Don’t Make You Cool
Never, under any circumstance, pull an all nighter. All nighter culture in college is frequently perceived as cool or edgy, but if you’re down to be delusional during finals or addicted to adderall then be my guest. But I’m guessing you don’t want that. It is literally psychologically proven that it’s better to study less and get a good night’s sleep than to study everything and get no sleep at all. I’m not saying you need to go to bed at 10pm, but if you find yourself up later than 1:30am, you’re up too late my friend. Go to bed, you’ll 100% be better for it.
*A little side note to this: I have a feeling that in the age of coronavirus, many assignments will have flexible deadlines due to differing timezones for those taking classes online and those who might have coronavirus, etc. Professors are just as new to this experience as you are, and if you’re desperate for an extension, I’m sure they’ll be a little more lenient than usual. Nothing is so important to lose sleep over.
TW: weight changes, brief mention of eating disorders
Let’s get one thing straight: it is NORMAL AF for your body to change when you go to college. The negativity surrounding the “freshman 15” and weight gain in general is so gross. I don’t know what people expect to happen to their bodies when you drastically change your environment. Odds are in high school, you ate largely at home which tends to be better for you, you probably played some sort of sport with a regular practice schedule which guaranteed exercise, and your access to alcohol was probably pretty limited. All of a sudden, you go to college and dining hall food is packed with preservatives and salt, you probably aren’t playing a sport or following a regular exercise routine, and alcohol is very accessible.
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try to care for your health at all in college just because it’s harder to do so, but I’m merely trying to say that there are multiple factors outside your control that can contribute losing your healthy habits from high school. While there are things you can do to reset yourself within your new environment, I want everyone to know that little weight changes in either direction are perfectly normal and not harmful to your health anyway. Here are some of my best tips for regaining your healthy routines that you might have lost somewhere in the transition to college:
1. It’s Normal! Not Weird! People Will Help You!
Understand that some weight gain/loss is normal when drastically switching your environment. If you feel it might be getting out of hand in either direction as eating disorders often develop starting in college, know that there are people available to help you.
2. Find What Works For You
While these probably aren’t available right now due to coronavirus, I love attending group work out classes like spinning or pilates to stay in shape. I’m a horrible self-motivator, so if I have somewhere I need to be I’m much more likely to go. This semester, I’m going to try some online workout sessions outside on our quad with my roommates or by myself to stay healthy.
3. Get Creative With Your Meals
Find a way you enjoy eating vegetables. I can’t deal with the unseasoned steamed broccoli or cauliflower that’s rampant in school dining halls. Fortunately, there are tons of other veggie options and you just need to find what works for you. Last year, I tried to have a spinach salad with every dinner, I put veggies in my scrambled eggs, and I tried to include one veggie in all of my smoothies.
4. And the Biggest Cliché Of All…..
Stay hydrated! Carry a reusable water bottle with you everywhere. Staying hydrated helps fight off illness (college is a legit petri dish), keeps you energized, and helps with digestion. Trust me when I say you’ll need all the help you can get on the digestion side of things.
Like the physical changes you’re bound to go through in college, your brain goes through some changes too. Like I said, it would be foolish to think that your mind and body would stay the same when everything else around you is changing. But, once again, these changes are NORMAL. No matter how excited you are for college, the transition is difficult for everyone. You’ll probably hit a bump in the road somewhere which could have some lasting effects.
The good news is that because mental health problems are so common in college, there are multiple resources to help you out. I’m pretty sure every university has some sort of psychological services. I know that sometimes these services can be inadequate, but in a college town there’s bound to be a psychologist(s) near campus that specializes in college mental health. If you have a therapist from home that you love, ask if they would be willing to continue their services online over video chat. I’m sure now that coronavirus has normalized telemedicine that this option might be more accessible. But even attending to more “minor” or common issues like everyday stress or anxiety can be difficult. Here are some of my favorite ways to check in on myself:
1. Mental Health > Academics
If you need to take a day, do it. Fordham has an attendance policy that allows 5 skips, but I know that many schools don’t have a policy at all. While this isn’t a free pass to skip class whenever, it does mean that taking a day for yourself if you feel really overwhelmed comes with little consequences.
2. We’re All In This Together
Everyone is going through something, so know that whatever you’re feeling that you aren’t alone.
3. Move It Or Groove It
Really try to make an effort to get outside or to exercise regularly. Like I said earlier, I’m a terrible self-motivator so I have trouble with this myself, but I know that I always start to feel better when I prioritize physical activity.
4. Treat Yo’ Self
Find a way to treat yourself at least once every day. Whether that means getting a coffee or watching a few episodes of a show on Netflix, a little me-time a day helps keep the burn out away.
While I know some of these college transition tips might not be completely applicable this semester, especially if you’re taking it from home, hopefully everyone got something out of this. Even if you’re college is going 100% online, it’s still important to prioritize your mental health, use the virtual office hours that your professors provide, and engage in virtual “campus” activities. If you are going to campus, be smart, have fun, don’t party, and know that this will pass 🙂