Transition From High School to College: Adulting 101

College is here!

Whether you just moved into your residence hall or have been in college for over a month, this  “college adulting” thing is probably starting to feel pretty real!

It seems like just yesterday you were brainstorming ideas for your college essays and contemplating where you might end up.  And now you are there- at college.  You may be having the time of your life, or struggling a bit (probably somewhere in between).  Either way, here are some reminders as you continue your transition to college life.

Find a Peer Mentor

During my first week of college, my roommate and I decided we wanted to go to the beach.  We both had cars, but we didn’t exactly know how to get to the beach or which beaches to head to (remember, I am old, and this was in the days before the internet and Google Maps).  I picked up the phone and called an older student I met on a pre-orientation trip. This was out of my comfort zone, but I wanted to go to the beach, so it had to be done.

Growing up, you always had people around you to offer guidance: coaches, teachers, parents, etc.  Now that you are in college, it may be less obvious who you can go to for help.  Finding a peer mentor, who has “been there, done that,” can be an essential resource for your transition to college.  It can take some of the small stressors away (like how to get to the beach).

How to find a peer mentor:

  • Look at the mentors around you that you may already know: orientation leaders, resident assistants, teaching assistants, etc. If you are not connecting with those individuals, ask if they know other students who are interested in something you are interested in. Ask them to introduce you.

  • Talk to older students in your classes. What do they know about the professor? What other classes have they taken that they have found interesting?

  • Connect with students from your high school or state.

Revisit Your Expectations

It is ok to be lonely, overwhelmed and experience setbacks. College is an exciting time of your life, but no one tells how lonely it can be! You are going from a place (home) where you are close to several people (parents, friend, siblings, teachers, etc.). Now you are starting relationships from scratch, and they are not at the same level as your relationships back home.  Also, you may not make your closest friend right away.  Like high school, your relationships in college will change and evolve.  The hard part is that this takes time and it can be a lonely reality.  For more perspective on expectations vs. reality, check out this video, My College Transition.

Stress may also be an unexpected aspect of college life.  You may be overwhelmed by the amount of studying you need to do or you may have already received a less than satisfactory grade.  The trick is to determine what resources you need to use to help you deal with stress.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help!

What you can do:

  • Get involved. Everyone tells you to join clubs and organizations, but you can also join a study group, attend campus events or get a job to find other outlets.

  • Be careful with social media.  Don’t compare yourself to everyone else.

  • Use the resources available before you need them.  Visit the math tutoring center.  Take your next paper to the writing center.  Go work out!  Remember that most resources are widely available at this point in the semester.  As things the academic intensity increases (hello midterms), it will be more difficult to get appointments.  So start now.

  • Remember everyone around you is in the same boat.  As the video above says, “It is possible to be surrounded by people and still be lonely.”

Connect with a professor 

If you want to get into the nitty-gritty of why this is important, feel free to read Frank Bruni’s New York Times article, How to get the Most Out of College. He provides several examples of individuals who took full advantage of the opportunity to connect with a professor. This may seem intimidating, especially if you have large classes. However, research shows that connecting with a professor is one of the most significant predictors of college satisfaction.  It will help you feel more connected to the college community and academic life.

How to connect with a professor:

  • Identify a professor that seems approachable and brainstorm some conversation starters.  This may be questions you have about the class, a topic that interests you related to the course material or a question about academic life (i.e., thoughts on a particular major). You can also simply ask the professor what advice he or she has for first-year students.

  • Find out when the professor has office hours and show up!  You can also email the professor to schedule an appointment or approach him or her after class.

  • Send the professor a thank you email after your meeting.  Make sure to mention what you learned from the interaction.

Learning to be an adult is difficult and things are not going to change in one day.  Initiating just one of the tips of above can help you get the point where you are no longer transitioning to college, but finally feeling settled.