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Navigating New College Waters Successfully

Mar 10, 2008
As a freshman college student, you've been waiting for that day on campus when your parents' car pulls away and you can breathe that sigh of relief that you are free at last! But after the first few days of elation pass, some freshmen discover that adjusting to college life is a bit trickier than they thought. The practical stuff like how to do laundry, registering for classes and surviving dining hall food is pretty easy, but the mixed emotions come as a surprise. They are in uncharted emotional waters and they aren't sure how to deal with the unexpected feelings of homesickness and insecurity that are new to them.

First, freshmen should understand that most college students have those moments when they realize that they have graduated from being a big fish in a small pond to being a small fish in a larger pond, and it can be intimidating. It's perfectly normal; so don't let the feeling overwhelm you. Acknowledge it and remind yourself of other times when you've faced what seemed like formidable odds and did just fine. It also helps to remind yourself that you aren't competing against the other students. You are here to learn with them. They are your classmates, not the enemy.

College is your new home. You may not be able to go home and visit as often as you'd like, so take the time to make your dorm room seem "homey." If you didn't bring photos with you, ask your family to send you some. Family photos are not only a nice touch for decorating your room, they're great conversation starters. You'll find that others miss their families, too, and sharing stories can relieve that burden and create a bond between friends. Buy inexpensive posters, tapestries and other decorative items. The more a room reflects your own personality, the more it will become a haven and refuge for you, just like your room at home. Soon it will become a small home-away-from home to you.

College offers tons of organizations and clubs; you're guaranteed to find one that offers something you miss from back home. Did you sing in your church choir? Join a choral group or look for informal quartets that post notices in the music department. Do you have a passion for volunteer work? There will be many volunteer organizations on campus through fraternities, sororities and even various departments who are looking for new volunteers. There will also be cultural clubs that offer a taste of "back home" if you come from an ethnic region that you particularly miss.

Don't allow homesickness or insecurity to stifle your sense of adventure at college. Your freshman year at college is the ideal time to try something new and exciting. Here is your chance to "reinvent yourself." Have you always dreamed of taking up fencing, but never had the opportunity? Now is the ideal time to join the Fencing Club and learn how! Imagine how surprised your friends back home in the 4H would be to see you with your rapier in hand! If you take the opportunity to try some new things and meet people you wouldn't normally know you'll soon realize that you've developed some amazing new friendships and that you've stopped worrying about adjusting and started to thrive.

With all these new adventures, it is important to manage your time wisely. It sounds like a cliche, but college is all about time management. After you've scheduled your classes, joined your clubs, decorated your room and made some new friends, invest in a calendar or take the time to use the one on your computer. Yes, you'll want to do it all. But you won't have the time or the energy or the brain cells. But if you plan ahead, you'll learn how to plan you days so that you can pack in lots of class time and studying with plenty of time left over for fun and sleep, too, so that the college experience is a wonderful one. And you may even find time to call home once in a while.
About the Author
Andy West is a writer for Career College Advisor and In A Virtual Classroom.
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