Getting Acclimated: Resources to Know and Pitfalls to Avoid
You finally made it to orientation and cannot wait to grab a selfie with the campus mascot. But you are probably wondering why the crazy packed schedule these next few days and why the activities are mandatory. New student programs and orientation events are designed to help students get acclimated to campus and academic life and create opportunities for students to develop connections with new peers. During this time, it may be helpful to “disconnect” from home life in order to start connecting with other new students at your school. It will be hard to meet new people when you are still immersed with friends from back home, so try to withhold from texting and chatting with friends from home. Campus orientation programs are intentionally designed to help you meet people, get acquainted with campus, and prepare you for campus life and classes.
While you should be hopeful and optimistic about the semesters ahead of you, there are probably some campus resources covered during orientation that you don’t think you will ever need. While they may seem irrelevant now, given the connection between well-being and academics, chances are you will utilize one or more of these resources when on campus.
Academic Support Resources
There are definitely differences between high school and college and sometimes, students need a little support to increase subject comprehension and prepare for exams, or they may need a one-on-one learning environment. To help students succeed in their academics, campuses typically have tutoring programs, specialty learning labs, faculty office hours, and academic advising services. Disability Services are also present for students with diagnosed learning disabilities. Learn what services exist on your campus and how to access them. Talk to your orientation leader and resident advisor about how they or their peers utilize these services. They are here to help you succeed as a student.
Student Involvement Opportunities
Getting involved on campus via a student club, intramural team, volunteer project, job, or leadership role can help you develop your identity and leadership skills, connect you to other students, and provide a co-curricular experience to supplement your classes. Learn what is offered on your campus, how to get involved, and talk with students about their involvement experiences.
Campus Well-Being Resources
There are a lot of departments that can support aspects of your well-being. Learn where to go if you are not feeling well or need medical care and how to access counseling services, campus dining options and nutrition support, fitness facilities, and more.
Ask your orientation leader to tell you about campus-wide traditions or any athletic- and spirit-based traditions. Traditions provide a common community-wide experience that can help you build a sense of pride in campus and a sense of identity as a new student in the community.
Transition Pitfalls: Maximizing Your Experience
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid in order to support optimal well-being and help you make the transition to campus life.
Going home too often. For some it is a privilege to be attending college close to home and live on campus. It will be tempting at times to head on home to do laundry, escape from roommates, or have a nice meal with your family, especially if you are feeling lonely or homesick [link to homesick]. Try to avoid this. Heading off campus, especially on weekends, can inhibit your ability to develop relationships with peers at school and develop a sense of community belonging. It’s best to plan ahead for any breaks where you can visit home but focus on making your new campus feel like home.
Only focusing on studies. “I just plan to focus on my studies this semester.” Does this sound like you? While focusing on your studies is important, there will still be about 80 hours each week outside of classes, sleeping, eating, and study time that are unscheduled. Students involved in extracurricular activities tend to have higher GPAs than peers who are not involved. Participating in activities outside of class also fosters a connection to campus, provides a community, supports your resume development, allows you to apply classroom learning and can help you further determine your leadership strengths.
Getting too involved. Overcommitment can be a challenge for some students and can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out about all you have to do. It can also cause deficits in self-care because you are overscheduled and can’t find time to eat, study, or sleep. Set limits and stick to one to two activities outside of class. It’s better to do one thing well than five things haphazardly. It’s also important to learn how to say no.
Socializing too much. FOMO is real, and when you are trying to meet new friends and enjoy the freedoms that come with college, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment staying up late chatting, going to parties, or simply heading off campus. Most faculty recommend that you spend 2-3 hours per week per class studying and working independently. Students who study less than this or sacrifice sleep or study time for social time perform lower academically than peers who manage their time well and plan out social time. And if your socializing includes the consumption of alcohol or marijuana, your academics may be impacted even more.
Not taking self-care seriously. It’s developmentally appropriate to feel invincible; however, you need some basic care to perform at your best. Having a plan for well-being and following it will go a long way in supporting your success. Taking care of yourself by getting adequate sleep, managing stress, managing time, eating healthfully, seeking care when needed, and preventing illness will arm you with a foundation for being successful in school.