Adjusting to College Life Can Be Easier Than You Expect

Starting college is a major life transition. It’s exciting and scary all at once. There are new freedoms to explore, friends to meet, classes to take, and seemingly endless amounts of fun to be had. But it can also be challenging. Adjusting to college life takes time and actual effort as you find your way.

As a freshman, I vividly remember my parents dropping me off at my college dorm. I met my roommate and quickly realized we had drastically different ideas about cleanliness.

My first few weeks in college were by far the hardest socially. I went from having a close-knit group of friends and a clear identity to being a small fish in a very big pond. I remember feeling out of place. I hung out with people in my dorm, but didn’t really enjoy the same things as them or share the same ideals.

It wasn’t until the spring of my first year that I began to form closer relationships with people when I joined a group of student-athletes. I finally felt like I belonged; I felt connected. Not only did I develop lifelong friendships, but I met my future wife.

So how can you, a new or soon-to-be college student, make adjusting to college life smooth and enjoyable without conforming to something you don’t believe in or losing your identity?

Find Your People

As humans, we are communal creatures. We like to be around others and feel we fit in. It’s normal to seek out a group of like-minded people, so it’s important to find a group you identify with. The connection can be a sport, hobby, or something else. What’s important is to make genuine connections with people and feel like you are known. Look into joining ethnic organizations, performing arts clubs, social clubs, service clubs, academic clubs, honor societies, or athletic clubs.

Find Your Place

With so many groups to choose from, it’s important to try out a few. This is where effort comes in. Be patient, as you may not immediately find the group that’s right for you. Getting involved in activities and clubs can help make your college experience what you imagined it to be. I remember talking to a friend who had dropped out of school after his freshman year.

“I just didn’t feel like I connected with anyone,” he said.

“Did you join any groups, play intramurals, or check out any clubs?” I asked.

“No, not really,” he replied.

These experiences are integral to feeling at home and immersing yourself in the community. They will help you to connect, and stay connected.

Find Your Mentor

Having someone who has gone through what you are going through as a resource can be a big help. During a time of transition, a mentor can help you navigate change and simply be there to listen to your thoughts and concerns. Peer-to-peer mentoring programs that start as early as the first day of school can be a huge help. If you find a group you like, plugging in with juniors or seniors who are members of that organization can also be a great way to learn the lay of the land.

In the midst of classes and all the requirements of college, the weeks and semesters can seem long and arduous. But, in the end, it goes by quickly. College can and should be one of the most enjoyable, transformational, and memorable times of your life. It’s a time to connect with peers, experience new things, and make memories. Be vulnerable, get involved, and make the most of your time. You won’t regret it.