Every major change in our lives brings with it a certain amount of stress. Whether a good change, like marriage or a new home, or difficult changes, like death of a loved one or loss of a job, stress will be part of the package.
Going off to college is one of those stress-laden changes, but it can be manageable. While there's no secret formula that ensures a totally smooth transition, we can suggest a few things to think about before walking into a new dorm room to meet the strangers you’re about to live with.
You Will Have Buyer’s Remorse
After any big decision, there’s a period of soul searching. Everyone who’s been to college will look back and remember a day when they asked themselves, “What the hell am I doing here?” Many kids wait until they visit home on Thanksgiving to express this. They walk into the house, drop their bags, and say, “I’m not going back.”
First of all, it’s already the end of November. Christmas vacation is mere weeks away. Get your butt back to school, knowing full well you’ll have another vacation soon. And by the time you’re on semester break, you’ll have forgotten why you didn’t want to go back in November. Instead, you’ll be pissed that your parents are trying to tell you what to do and when to do it. And you will begin yearning for your rickety bunk bed before you can say, “curfew, schmurfew.”
We know, we know, it’s easy for Michael Jordan to talk about failure in a Gatorade commercial when he’s got a trillion dollars. The fact remains, he didn’t make the varsity team in high school. Failing, or, as we like to call it “not getting an A” is not the end of the world. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s time for you to get comfortable with trial and error, because that’s what the rest of your life is going to be about. So enjoy your B, maybe even a C. But, don’t get drunk with power and shoot for F’s. And, for what it’s worth, don’t get drunk.
Try New Stuff
You didn’t go to college to continue to do all the things you’ve already been doing. This is one of those magical times designed for risk taking, for diving into material you know nothing about. Take classes that take you out of your comfort zone. You’ll have, heaven forbid, fun! And you’ll meet people you might not otherwise bump into.
Take Care of Yourself
Brush your teeth, eat veggies, get some sleep. Seems ridiculous to have to be told to think about these simple tasks, but when you’re bombarded with new demands every day, the simple stuff can fall through the cracks. The kinder and gentler you are to yourself, the happier you’ll be, and the happier you are… you get the picture.
Get Involved in Stuff
You can’t be part of a community until you get involved in the community. Join a club or group that’s examining something you’re interested in. If the first thing doesn’t work, try another. The point is, if you do, you’ll find your peeps, and you’ll begin to add non-academic achievements to your life story.
Annoying Things Will Happen
You will not be the first person to have a problematic roommate, to not get the courses you want, to drop your iphone in the toilet, or to run a fever on the day of your first exam. Sh*t happens, no matter where you are. So why shouldn’t it happen at college>
You need to be ready to look at day to day life as a series of problems that can be solved.
Guess what? Your RA, your academic advisor, even your iffy roommate, will most likely be able to help – if you ask. If you don’t ask, as my mother used to say, “you won’t get.” And ask locally, first. People right there, on campus, are more likely to know the ropes than your parents who live 3000 miles away.
The adjustment to college is just that, an adjustment. Know that before you’re 25% of the way through, you will probably have adjusted. And you’ll wonder why it all seemed so imposing and scary. The answer to that is, you’re human. And humans, while resilient, need time to adjust in stressful situations. Even the good ones.