Going away to college is scary — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. When I left my little, rural town in upstate New York and came to the big city for college at NYU, I was terrified. All of the sudden I had to live on my own with people I barely knew, cook for myself, and (gasp!) learn how to do laundry. An A+ student my whole life, I had to learn to live with B’s and professors who graded like they had a personal vendetta against me. The whole experience of being a first semester freshman at college sucked. It didn’t help that, before classes began, someone in my grade jumped out of the window of a neighboring dorm and killed himself. Within a week, I decided I wanted to change schools. But my parents convinced me to stick it out a bit longer and, eventually, I began to like my new life and surroundings.
Anyone who tells you the transition to college is easy is a straight-up liar. And while I’m not saying I can ease all the pain and stress of adjusting, I can share a few things I learned from my experience that may help you out.
- Know you’re not alone. First and foremost, keep in mind that everyone is feeling the fear and anxiety that you’re experiencing. Yes, even that confident-looking girl who always sits in the front of class and talks to everyone. Beings nervous doesn’t make you a hopeless loner.
- With that knowledge in mind, try to make friends. During the first semester of college, everyone is frantically trying to find someone, anyone, they can relate to, do things with and who can commiserate. No matter how shy or antisocial someone looks it’s likely that they’ll be relieved and open if you walk up to them and introduce yourself. Break the ice by talking about how crazy the whole experience is.
- Participate! As cheesy as it sounds, you should go to at least some of the activities your school has for new students. Whether it’s a meet and greet, tour of your new home or a silly dance, go and try to meet people. If there are activities for peeps with certain interests, like the first meeting of the LGBT club or an art workshop, head to the one that best describes you. Meeting people with common interests is a good way to start things off.
- Call home. Don’t be embarrassed and do it often.
- Ask for help. If things get to be too much, go to your school’s health center or call a hot line. Incoming college freshman are known for depression and, in really bad cases, suicide. Don’t let things get out of hand and don’t be embarrassed to get help.
- Call upon acquaintances. I dealt with some of the loneliness that being a new student in a strange place brings by finding out who I knew in the area — however vaguely — and getting in touch with them. During the first several weeks I called my ex-boyfriend’s cousin whom I’d met only once and reconnected with my half-sister who I hadn’t seen in over a year. I also talked to my mom’s best friend even though I barely knew her. Although these were loose connections, they made me feel less alone.
- Branch out. If you’re going off to college with a group of high school friends, try to break away and meet new people. It’s important to do things to make yourself comfortable, but not too comfortable. This is a new experience so embrace it.
- Discuss expectations, pet peeves and habits with your new roommates. If you get everything out in the open right away, you’ll know what to expect. Better yet, the person you live with will know that you find it super annoying when she leaves the bathroom counter soaking wet.
- Have fun but don’t go crazy. Yes, your parents are not breathing down your neck, but that doesn’t mean you have to go out and take 17 shots of tequila and chase it with a big blunt. A ton of people ended up in the ER for alcohol poising during my first couple of weeks at NYU. Not the best way to kick off the year.
- Don’t gorge on dining hall food. Not only is that crap unhealthy, drastically changing your eating habits is bad for you mentally and physically. Try to imitate the food regimen that has been working for you all along. Since my parents always fed me organic and natural foods like whole wheat bread and veggies, I tried to stay away from the gloppy trays of mac and cheese and waffles covered in chocolate syrup.
- Don’t freak out if you get a bad grade or feel weighed down with work. It’s normal — there’s a huge difference between high school and college. The professors grade harder, pile on the homework and enforce deadlines. In my experience, the first year was the hardest because they were trying to weed people out.
- Last but not least, enjoy yourself. College is freaking sweet. You can take classes in anything you want, live with people your own age and stay out late without your parents’ permission. Loosen up, because it’s nothing compared to real life.
Tell us: Fellow Frisky graduates, how did you cope with college?