Adjustment and Adaptation

While there is a lot of excitement and anticipation that comes with starting college, there is also a great deal of adjustment and adaptation that comes with transitioning to your new environment. How ready are you for a change in your living or academic environments? You can be one step ahead by preparing yourself emotionally for this transition. Remember, this is new for everyone entering your campus this semester. You are not alone in navigating the unfamiliar. Keep a positive outlook and consider the following to help you emotionally prepare for school. 

Be realistic with your expectations.

Having reasonable and attainable goals can help you with motivation. Setting unrealistic goals can be deflating. The skill sets required to be successful in high school may differ from the study and time management skill sets required to be successful in college. A 4.0 GPA may not be realistic for everyone. Set a goal that is achievable and makes sense for you to work towards.

College life is also not at all like the movies, shows, and stories we hear or see. Don’t set your expectations for college life based on a limited view. 

(re)Define success.

What does success look like for you? Is it based on an outcome like a grade, or does it encompass the steps you take to get there? Success in your classes can be just as much about the process as it is about the outcome. You may not receive an A on an exam, but you might have learned effective study strategies or new concepts in studying. Having a combination of process goals and outcomes goals can help you redefine and identify the ways in which you are successful.  Reflecting and appreciating process gains can also help you think positively and bounce back from outcomes that may not have gone as planned. 

Expect setbacks (and have a plan for managing them).

You will make mistakes and you will fail. This is all part of learning and it is completely normal in college. Failure doesn’t always feel good, and that’s ok, too. Know some strategies to help you manage and move on from the discomfort of setbacks. 

It’s all right to feel “meh” at times. There is a natural pattern of emotional highs and lows that are a normal part of adjustment. So feel all the feels, and find a tool (like a mindfulness practice, exercise, journaling, or art) that can help you regulate your emotions. However, if “meh” feelings increase in prevalence or severity, seek care so you can figure out whether this is all part of adjustment or if something else is going on. 

Don’t compare your experiences to what you see on social media.

Social media is often a well-curated “highlight reel,” but it is far from depicting the real emotions and experiences that your peers commonly face.  

Know how to effectively communicate with others.

This may be the first time you are sharing a room or working with others on a group project. Conflict is normal and dialogue is necessary. Expressing your thoughts and boundaries in a productive way and practicing good listening skills can help you advocate for yourself and learn to respect multiple viewpoints in order to reach a common goal.  

Have a routine for managing stress.
Stress is a normal experience for college students, and it can impact your academics.  If not managed well, stress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, muscle tension, or stomach upset. For others, it can cause more emotional symptoms like moodiness or anxiety. Preventing and regulating stress, finding balance, and taking care of yourself are important skills. 

Be solution-oriented.

Knowing how to advocate for yourself and solve problems on your own is a skill that takes practice. If your default is to call a family member or friend for help every time you experience a problem, try to pause first. Come up with two to three solutions or work-arounds and write them down. Think through the outcomes of each and carefully choose which solution is your best option.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Colleges and universities have multiple resources to support your success. For some, asking for help may feel like a sign of failure, but seeking help takes a great deal of strength and self-awareness. 

Be open and curious.

Use this as an opportunity to learn about and learn from others. Being open to new ideas and diverse viewpoints. This is a time for you to discover passions, values, and your identity.