For many first-year students, the University is the first experience living away from home for an extended period of time. As a first-year student, your usual sources of support will no longer be present as you are adjusting to a new environment. Increased personal freedom can feel both wonderful and frightening. You can come and go as you choose and make decisions on your own. At the same time, things are no longer predictable. New people and new kinds of procedures can create the sense of being on an emotional rollercoaster. This is normal and expected. Below is a list of several changes to expect in the first year of college.
Increased personal freedom and responsibility
Many students welcome the freedom to make their own decisions about what they want to do each day (and night) while in college. Others may find this level of freedom to be strangely unfamiliar or difficult. You may maintain frequent contact with family by way of phone or computer, but you will make many more personal decisions and choices than you did in high school. Along with an increase in personal freedom is greater responsibility for one’s daily schedule. You must make choices about when and how to study, socialize with new friends, become involved in activities, budget money, exercise, and make time to eat and sleep. You will be faced with the challenge of learning how to balance your time well.
Most freshman typically experience changing demands on their time. Days are less routine and predictable. Some freshmen feel they have virtually no time for themselves because of the time and energy needed to manage multiple obligations. College classes may seem difficult and draining, and/or may involve more hours of studying. However, other students may find the academic workload manageable, but then feel they have too much free time that isn’t relaxing or comfortable.
Different surroundings and relationships at college
As a freshman, you will have to adjust to new surroundings and relate to unfamiliar people. Other students often seem very different from family, friends and acquaintances from home. You will have to adjust to living with a new roommate and ways to negotiate conflict. There may be the hope that one’s roommate will be a close friend, and it can be disappointing if this kind of relationship does not develop. Freshmen also experience new expectations from adults at college. For example, professors typically do not call if a class is missed, but will likely grade for attendance. In college, there is usually less interaction between parents and the school, and students are faced with the need to work out problems or concerns themselves.
Changing relationships with family and friends from home
As you experience more freedom and responsibility in college, your relationships with parents and other significant people change. Freshmen, as well as their parents, may fear losing aspects of their relationship with each other. During the first few months in particular, you may find yourself frequently calling home. It may be very hard to say goodbye at the end of holiday or semester breaks. When you are home, it may also be difficult to re-adjust to rules at home, such as curfews, chores or responsibilities for younger siblings.
Many students leave high school boyfriends or girlfriends when they go to college. There may be disagreement about whether it is ok to make new friends or see other people. One, or both, partners may struggle with feeling lonely, sad, or jealous, especially if the other partner seems to be happier and adjusting better.
Freshmen may also find that their relationships with friends from home are different after the time away at school. Some individuals feel closer and more appreciative of friends at home, and may stay very connected to them. Other students find they have less in common with friends from home after being away at school, or may be hurt by a friend becoming distant with them after high school. Remember all this is a part of gradual growth into an adult.
Tomorrows post will tell you how to cope with these and many other common problems.