Social Transitioning for College Freshmen
Social Transitioning, Tana Taylor-Juko
One of the most satisfying aspects of college life is that it is nothing like high school. Academically and socially, college is better. Period. College offers an opportunity for you to take your own life by the reins and determine where you go and whether you succeed or fail. Not only that, but when you succeed the reward is far greater. Academically, you have the freedom to choose your own classes (the whens and whos) and the liberty to determine your most effective study habits. Here, the responsibility is on you, and tackling this responsibility head-on is a huge part of becoming an adult.
Socially, college is a wonderful experience which promotes growth, diversity, and independence. Once you enter the realm of college, high school is left behind. Of course there will be a select few who will reminisce over the high school years, and there is nothing wrong with that, but most of us will be, and plan to be, over it. In college, you don’t have to worry about who’s cool, or who’s an outcast, or who you can and can’t be seen with; you certainly have a choice in who you spend your time with, but no one is really going to place judgment on you for choosing to hang out with the mechanical engineering students or the athletes. The choice is yours.
Where do you start? There are a number of places in which you will encounter the same people, and this is essentially how new friendships form. Your roommate is someone you will likely see often, so be open to both the similarities and differences you share. Stand by your morals and beliefs, but welcome someone who is not just like you. My roommate was probably my EXACT opposite, but she was amazing and we shared great stories between the two of us. Another place you will encounter the same people is in the classroom. When you decide on a major, you will often run into the same people over and over again regardless of the size of your college or university. These people will become study partners, mentors, and friends. One semester in 2005, I was in a large biology class and met a girl who sat in the row in front of me. We talked often about the course and then eventually became good friends. Seven years later, and we are still great friends and even live in cities across the state, but have maintained a close-knit friendship.
So for those of you who may be worried about keeping your high school friendships, I am here to tell you “fear not!” Don’t worry about how you will keep in touch or when you will see one another again. The truth is – good friends will keep in touch, and the others you will likely never see again. Speaking from my own experience – I have only three friends with whom I still speak from high school. We don’t see each other every weekend or talk on the phone regularly, but we’ve kept in touch over the years and we make an effort to catch up with one another every so often. The interesting thing, though, is that that is not the case for a majority of people I know. Most people don’t talk to anyone from high school, and a majority of their close friends are people they know from college or have found within their profession.
- Your first emotion may be fear, but try to convert that anxiety and use the adrenaline to explore the world outside of parents, teachers, and friends. Use this time to get to know yourself – who you are and who you want to become.
- Be yourself! You’re not confined by cliques anymore, so find people who like the things you like and really embrace the freedom of enjoying things you may have not been able to do under that high school microscope of the “in-crowd.”
- Be proactive. Consider one or more of the following:
- Attend events on campus. This is a great way to meet people. This is how I met my best friend, and we have been the best of friends since the day we met so many years ago.
- Join organizations. What better way to make a difference in the community and find people who are dedicated to doing that with you?
- Form a study group or join one. You can form a study group with random friends, and you can all study your own subjects to be sure you’re getting work done before you play; or you can form a group for a specific class which is useful in better understanding the material by getting other perspectives.
- Initiate conversations. I’ll be honest this is a tough one, but once you start doing it, you realize that everyone is just as nervous as you are, and you were the one to break the silence. The best approach (without being too intrusive) is to ask questions like “Where are you from?” and “What are you studying?” These usually lead to other questions and before you know it, you’re scheduling a coffee date.
- Find a job. If you can manage working and maintaining your grades, this is a great way to get to know people and the city you are in (if you are away from home). I wouldn’t recommend getting a job in the first semester because you probably want to get a feel for how your schedule works, where you can fit study time in, and when you will be socializing. The second semester is safest to look for work, but if you can manage waiting until your second year, you can focus on doing well in your classes. I found a job on campus during my second year and met so many new people.
- Be open to other perspectives. This is a chance for you to grow, so look for those teachable moments in which you don’t close your eyes or your ears to what or who is different from you.
*Tana Taylor-Juko is a College Counselor and teaches English composition and technical writing. Tana hosts Unigo Live Sessions on Getting In, Paying For It, and College Life. Tana Taylor-Juko on Unigo