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Student Health: How to adjust to college life


September 21, 2016

Advice to freshmen: Stay in town the first few weekends of college.

Switching gears effectively for college requires a certain level of commitment from you to make it work. The first commitment is that you be present. During the first three weekends you will be exposed to a new culture with new rules, a new social system and new opportunities. In the first few weeks there are many new opportunities to explore on campus as you move into your new college life. A rhythm is established over these first four weeks and three weekends that doesn’t stop until the end of your college career. So take advantage with your presence, be aware of your desirability, and exercise your choice. Warning: You are also very vulnerable during this time.

While I recommend you staying around college to pick up the rhythm and the culture of what you have committed to, I also feel the need to remind you that so much free choice comes with some vulnerability. Here are four rules to follow while you set the pace for your college career. By the way, they are the same rules you would use if you first visited, Las Vegas, New York City or Paris for the first time.

Rule 1: Do new things with people you know and keep account of one another. Your overall level of personal comfort with brand new social situations might leave you feeling challenged during the first week of college, and so it’s best to keep familiar people around you while you explore.

Rule 2: Avoid the temptation to just have fun for the first month. It happens, and many students never do get caught up in their classes. Spread the college fun out over your whole four or five years.

Rule 3: Do something familiar. You have preferences and experiences from your life thus far, so remember them. If you have a hobby, passion or awesomeness in an area, chances are you will be able to stay involved in that through clubs, volunteering or other student organizations on campus. Simply stated, if you have something that you do that makes you feel whole than make sure you are doing that here. This involvement with the familiar becomes your source of stability for your identity over four years of school because other areas (including floor mate friendships, majors, romances and life perspective) will be changing almost at light-speed.

Rule 4: Do something new. Keep an open mind and let the world inside. Your perception is your reality. The more you open up to new people and new experiences the better chance you have at discovering the deeper meanings inherent to our individual and shared human experience. This is why college is such an unbelievably awesome (and oh so missed by us alumni) time in our lives.

Mark Huttemier is a personal counselor and training coordinator at UW-River Falls.