This section of the Wellness Web gives tips and experiences to
first year students from those who have survived the freshman
year and are now happy and productive students.
The jump to college can be stressful. You're leaving behind your school, friends, family, and home, and going off to explore a new place, make new friends, learn new things, and set your own priorities.
Many students overlook the stress involved in making so many big changes in such a brief period of time. Here are some realities to consider, and a few common-sense ways to help you handle them:
It can be daunting to leave the security of family and friends. When going to college, students often must leave, or give up, one group (of family and friends) then accommodate and learn about a new group. It can be stressful to analyze new social norms, learn a new set of behaviors, and consider adopting a particular identity and group affiliation. The opportunities can be exhilarating and frustrating so the choices should not be made hastily. Neumann has a culture of inclusion, which supports reaching out to others who are different from you. New social opportunities (and pressures) abound, and suddenly, you discover you can recreate yourself in any way you want.
Your Strategy for Success
While forming new friendships can be exhilarating, true friendships are formed slowly, and the beginning of college can consequently be a lonely time. If you're unsure about participating in certain social scenes or activities, don't hesitate to seek guidance about the best ways to resist these pressures. Talk to parents, trusted friends from high school, your INT professor and/or the College Counselors at the Counseling Center for Wellness. Neumann is full of resources— in addition to professors, tutors, counselors, there are resident advisors, building Coordinators and Peer Educators. In college, it is up to you to initiate getting help. The good news is that once you do adjust to college life, it opens new doors to all sorts of learning—and living.
Courses are at a higher level than high-school classes and the material is presented at a faster pace. Plus, professors are likely to assign more reading, writing, and problem sets than you're used to managing.
Your Strategy for Success
All first-year college students contend with this bend in the learning curve, so don't think having to struggle to keep up is somehow a failing on your part. Give yourself an opportunity to adjust gradually to the new academic demands. Choose a course load that includes some challenging classes and others that will be less intense.
You are responsible for managing your time in college. If you cut classes and don't do assignments, no one will nag you. You may wish they had if it comes time for the final, and you don't know the material.
Your Strategy for Success
Buy a calendar and make sure you write down when and where your classes meet, when assignments are due, and when tests will take place. Give yourself ample time to study rather than waiting until the last minute and pulling an all-nighter.
You may not have the same day-to-day support system as you did in high school. For example, how will you manage your money and debt, especially when credit card companies are bombarding you with offers? Who is around to make sure you're not getting sick or run down? Factors like stress, late-night parties, and generally pushing yourself too hard can take a toll.
Your Strategy for Success
Don't always do what's easiest at the time. Make smart decisions. For example, when it comes to your money, stick to a budget and use credit cards wisely. When it comes to your health, get enough sleep, eat well, and pay attention to what your body tells you. You'll need energy to enjoy all that college has to offer.
College offers an assortment of opportunities for advancement and distraction -- there are so many potential friends, parties, courses, things to do, places to go. Not knowing what direction is best and not wanting to miss out on anything, students often try to be included in everything. Not a good idea!
Knowing when help is needed
Students often doubt their ability to handle their course work and may be bothered by new and unexpected feelings, precipitating a downward spiral. There is also an increased risk of certain disorders in the teen and young adult years (e.g.
depression, manic depressive illness, and anorexia). Students may find themselves seeking out Neumann’s Wellness Counseling center for the first time. The right help at the right time can prevent problems from snowballing. Choosing to address concerns is a sign of maturity and responsibility.
Explore new interests, discover new places, and meet new people. These experiences contribute to college life, but getting an education should remain the student's foremost purpose.
Before committing to any one group or trend, students should take their time getting to know other students, investigating different activities, and deciding what makes them feel most comfortable. Affiliations change a great deal over the course of the first year as students become more knowledgeable and confident.
Participate and prioritize. No one can do everything. When students narrow their focus they often feel less overwhelmed. Finding a passion is one of the most exciting aspects of the college experience.
Personalize the experience. Even though Neumann is a friendly place, it's easy for students to feel lost in the crowd. Students who take responsibility for themselves by seeking out particular adults often have the best experience. Getting to know professors will personalize college and help the student feel connected. Reaching out to other students increases the feeling of belonging in yourself and in others.
Be patient. It takes time to understand the rhythm of a new academic life and for students to develop a personal learning/studying style. Over the first semester it becomes easier to understand the flow of work and realize how to accommodate different teachers' standards and course requirements.
Evaluate the fit. Assessing how expectations meet reality during the first year is a necessary process. Some disappointment or surprises are not unusual and may require some fine tuning; adjusting one's course load, changing majors, rethinking involvement in activities. Never ignore a problem. Both academic and emotional challenges are most successfully managed early.
Go to all orientations. Do you really need to go on yet another campus tour? Yes. The faster you learn your way around campus -- and around all the red tape -- the more at ease you'll feel and the better prepared you'll be when issues arise. Neumann is a friendly place—ASK where something is.
Get to know your roommate and others in your residence hall. The people you live with, most of whom are going through similar experiences and emotions, are a safety net -- not only this year, but for all your years. You may change roommates after the first semester or you may stay roommates for all four years -- just take the time to get to know your fellow first-year students.
Get Organized. In high school, the teachers tended to lead you through all the homework and due dates. In college, the professors post the assignments -- often for the entire semester -- and expect you to be prepared. Buy an organizer, a PDA, a big wall calendar -- whatever it takes for you to know when assignments are due. Neumann professors are glad to help those who request it but the responsibility for your education is yours.
Find the ideal place for you to study. It may be your dorm room or a cozy corner of the library, but find a place that works best for you to get your work done -- while avoiding as many distractions as possible.
Go to class. Obvious, right? Maybe, but sleeping in and skipping that 8 am class will be tempting at times. Avoid the temptation. Besides learning the material by attending classes, you'll also receive vital information from the professors about what to expect on tests, changes in due dates, etc. If you are taking care of yourself and getting enough sleep, you will be able to make the early classes.
Become an expert on course requirements and due dates. Neumann Professors spend hours and hours preparing course syllabi and calendars so that you will know exactly what is expected of you -- and when. One of the lamest excuses a student can give a professor: "I didn't know it was due today."
Meet with your professors. There are only upsides to getting to know your professors, especially if later in the semester you run into some snags. Professors schedule office hours for the sole purpose of meeting with students -- take advantage of that time.
Get to know your academic advisor and your INT teacher. These are people who will help you with course conflicts, adding or dropping courses, scheduling of classes for future semesters, getting past social and relational issues. Advisors are the key resource for you -- and should be the person you turn to with any academic issues or conflicts. The Counseling Center for Wellness is a key resource for relational, emotional etc. issues.
Seek a balance. College life is a mixture of social and academic happenings. Don't tip the balance too far in either direction. “Study hard so you can play hard."
Get involved on campus. A big problem for a lot of new students is a combination of homesickness and a feeling of not quite belonging. A solution? Consider joining a select group of student organizations, clubs, or sports teams. Neumann has various and diverse activities where you will make new friends, learn new skills, and feel more connected to your school. It’s ok to feel uncomfortable in reaching out and getting to know people. Your classmates feel this too even if they don’t show it.
Strive for good grades. Another obvious one here, right? While good grades could have come naturally to you in high school, you will have to earn them in college -- and that means setting some goals for yourself and then making sure you work as hard as you can to achieve them.
Take advantage of the study resources on campus. Neumann has a learning lab and tutors available. If you're having some troubles, these resources are another tool available to you. Another idea: form study groups in the dorm, Counseling Center or Café. Learning together can be fun and beneficial to all.
Make time for you. Be sure you set aside some time and activities that help you relax and take the stress out of your day or week. Whether it's enlisting yoga techniques, watching your favorite television shows, walking the Labyrinth, or writing in a journal, be good to yourself. Reflection settles us down and helps us evaluate our day.
Don't feel pressured to make a hasty decision about a career or a major. It doesn't matter if it seems as though everyone else knows what they're doing with their lives -- they don't. College is the time for you to really discover who you are, what you enjoy doing, and what you want to be. It's not a race; take your time and enjoy exploring your options.
Take responsibility for yourself and your actions. Don't look to place the blame on others for your mistakes; own up to them and move on. Being an adult means taking responsibility for everything that happens to you.
Make connections with students in your classes. One of the best techniques in the first week of classes is to meet at least one new person in each of your classes. It expands your network of friends -- and is a crucial resource at times if you have to miss a class.
Find the Career Services Office. Regardless of whether you are entering college as undeclared or have your entire future mapped out, seek out the wonderful professionals in your Neumann’s career services office and get started on planning, preparing, and acting on your future.
Don't procrastinate; prioritize your life. It may have been easy in high school to wait until the last minute to complete an assignment and still get a good grade, but that kind of stuff will not work for you in college. Give yourself deadlines -- and stick to them.
Stay healthy/Eat Right and Get Enough Sleep. A lot of problems first-year students face can be traced back to an illness that kept them away from classes for an extended period of time that led to a downward spiraling effect. Get enough sleep (7-8 hours/ night) take your vitamins, and eat right. If you haven't heard the jokes about college food, you soon will. And without mom or dad there to serve you a balanced meal, you may be tempted to go for those extra fries or cookies. Stay healthy and avoid the dreaded extra "Freshman 15" pounds by sticking to a balanced diet.
Learn to cope with homesickness. It's only natural that there will be times when you miss your family, even if you were one of those kids who couldn't wait to get away. Find a way to deal with those feelings, (Counseling Center, Peer Educators - W.E.) can help as well as making a phone call or sending some email home. Don’t hesitate to chat with someone in the Counseling Center, a LISN student, or a favorite teacher.
Stay on campus as much as possible. Whether it's homesickness, a job, or a boyfriend or girlfriend from home, try not to leave campus too soon or too often. The more time you spend on getting to know the campus and your new friends, the more you'll feel at home at school. And why not take advantage of all the cultural and social events that happen on campus?
Seek professional help when you need it. If you're sick or feeling isolated or depressed, please take advantage of the many services the Counseling Center for Wellness provides students. They are there solely to support you. You don't have to face these issues by yourself. And a sign of a responsible adult is seeking the help one needs on their journey.
Keep track of your money. If you've never had to create a budget, now is the time to do so. Find ways to stretch your money - and as best you can, avoid all those credit card solicitations you'll soon be receiving. The average credit card debt of college grads is staggering.
Don't cut corners. College is all about learning. If you procrastinate and cram, you may still do well on tests, but you'll learn very little. Neumann highly values integrity, so don't cheat on term papers or tests. Being a healthy adult means accepting consequences for mistakes and being responsible.
Be prepared to feel overwhelmed. There's a lot going in your life right now. Expect to have moments where it seems a bit too much. As one student says, "be prepared to feel completely unprepared." The trick is knowing that you're not the only one feeling that way.
College is a time to grow physically, intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. Your faculty, staff and the counselors at the Counseling Center for Wellness encourage you to take this opportunity to become the best person you can be, one who is happy, productive, and gives back to society.