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What Is College Like?
No matter how prepared you think you are for college life, you may feel anxious when you arrive on campus—even flat-out panicked. But not to worry. Here's some advice from those who have "gone before."
You may wonder about making friends at college. Many people do. But you'll discover soon enough there are plenty of potential friends to meet.
Meeting Like-Minded People
What do you enjoy experiencing with others? Whether that's rock climbing or the camaraderie of a Greek society, chances are excellent you'll meet people you have much in common with. On the other hand, one of the big benefits of college is meeting new kinds of people, so going outside your comfort zone might surprise you. If you are a gamester whiz, maybe a rock climbing class will open up a whole world for you.
Even in bigger colleges, you will see the same people in your dining hall, dorms, and classes. In one of our Student Profiles, a student describes making friends while studying in the library. Even hanging out with students you meet in your dorm hallway is an easy way to make friends.
The important thing is to take that first step. Don't hole up in your room. Cut back on solitary amusements, such as computer games. Introduce yourself. Invite new friends out. Even something as simple as wearing a friendly face can get the ball rolling.
Getting Over the First Semester Blues
It typically takes a semester or quarter to hit your stride. Looking back on those early days you may very well shake your head and wonder what all the fuss was about. You might even feel a little nostalgic! A few students, however, may feel overwhelmed and homesick for a while. They may miss their parents, friends, even the family dog. They may find that going to college is not quite what they expected.
If this turns out to be you, take advantage of on-campus counseling services. Virtually all colleges have such services. Your health center staff can help you get started. They are highly experienced at helping students just like you.
Managing Your Time at College
Students report another source of freshman anxiety: the amount of unstructured time. This is one of the major differences between high school and college. In high school you may have felt that you were constantly scheduled, with very few breaks. In college your classes may be spaced out during the day, with free time between each class. Or they may be bunched up into a few days, mornings, or afternoons—leaving large periods of "leisure" time.
Sound good? The challenge is managing your "free" time. There can be many demands on this time: studying, attending clubs, eating, working, and exercising, just to name a few. It is up to you to work it out.
Here's a bit of advice many experienced college students offer: Don't procrastinate. There is nothing worse than approaching the end of a semester and realizing you have an impossible mountain of work to do. By all means, have a good time—but keep in mind why you are in college in the first place.
What Does a Typical College Day Look Like?
One image comes to mind when college students describe their days: pinball. Students bounce back and forth to class, dining hall, dorm, meetings, library, sports, etc. all day long. They may get up early and stay up late to get it all done. It takes some getting used to, but busy as they are, most college students come to appreciate the freedom they have to manage their own time.
This is how one student described her day:
- Get up at 7 a.m. so I won't be late for my 8 a.m. class in English Lit.
- Check out some required reading from the library and get to my American Studies class by 10 a.m.
- Meet some classmates at 11:30 a.m. to prepare a team project in Women's Studies, and then go to the cafeteria for lunch at 12:30 p.m.
- Rush to my Journalism class at 2 p.m., followed by a seminar on Shakespeare's tragedies at 4 p.m.
- Work on a term paper and study for a quiz until dinner.
- After dinner, catch up on some reading for the next day's classes, check the schedule for my upcoming intramural soccer game, watch the 10 p.m. news with my friends in the dorm recreation room, and get ready for bed by 11
- Tomorrow's Friday, so I've got to be rested for the weekend!
If you want to learn more about how some college students survived and thrived during their freshman year, check out our Student Profiles. Many of these students reported back to us after six months in college. Find out how it all turned out!
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