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Adjusting Socially

Goal

To learn what steps you can take to help your transition to college life socially go more smoothly.

Increased Personal Freedom (Transition Year, pp. 13-14)

How to Adjust to College Life SociallyCollege students are navigators in the difficult waters that separate adolescence from adulthood. As you take more responsibility for your daily lifeand develop life skills that are as vital as any academic coursework, you may find yourself feeling both thrilled and frightened. Increased personal freedom results in adjustments in your relationship with others, particularly with your parents, in addition to the growth and maturation you’ll experience as an individual.

To keep the lines of communication between yourself and your parents going strong, establish expectations for how and with what frequency you will communicate with one another. Many families agree to once-a-week phone calls. E-mail and texting also works well, especially given how different your hours can be from your parents. It’s also helpful to discuss with your parents what types of decisions they expect you to seek their input and for what types of circumstances they want you to ask them for help.

The First Few Weeks (Transition Year, p. 16)

Adjusting to college life often means dealing with many things for the first time-all at the same time: learning to live with roommates socially, handling finances, taking care of household chores, interacting with people from other cultures with differing beliefs, trying out romantic relationships, etc. This is in addition to new academic demands, such as learning how to study effectively, getting work done on time, and navigating the bureaucracy of a big institution. Through these tasks, you’ll learn how to respond to life’s daily challenges and find the social and emotional support you need from the campus community, friends, and family to make your way.

Many of your initial concerns likely revolve around forming friendships. As you look around, it may seem as though everyone else is self-confident and socially successful but in reality, everyone has similar concerns. As regular patterns start to set in (e.g., walking the same route to classes, and eating at the same time with certain people), it will become easier to make connections. Keep in mind, however, that new relationships don’t develop overnight. Try these ideas to help you in your relationship-building endeavors:

  • Invite people to join you for a meal
  • Get involved in campus activities

At the same time you are trying to make connections, you also need your own space. Living in close quarters with peers leaves you with little privacy but plenty of interpersonal challenges. For many students, the college dorm may be the first time in their lives that they’ve had to share a room. Discovering what makes your roommate tick and finding ways to live together can be one of the most important learning experiences college provides.

Greek Life, Service, & Clubs (Transition Year, p. 17)

How to Adjust to College Life SociallyJoining an intramural club or the Greek system-that is, fraternities and sororities-on campus can give you a running start and provide rewarding opportunities for campus involvement, community service, and social development. Students who are involved in campus activities or service work often report having a better overall college experience, so long as the organization or activity is a healthy environment that allows for balance with other obligations. Don’t be surprised if it takes you most of a semester to be able to properly evaluate your emerging interests and capacity for extracurricular involvement. A time table can’t be put on becoming an authentic person.

Tip: Try to associate with groups of people with whom you feel comfortable and who bring out the best version of you.

Academic Pressures (Transition Year, pp. 17-18)

College work is not just greater in volume than high school work; it’s more intellectually demanding. Doing more work, more independently, is stressful. Think carefully about your academic course load. Even if you were in the top of your class in high school, college courses are more challenging, and they happen in the context of a variety of other new pressures and experiences. If the demands are great and you need extra support, consider doing the following:

  • Form study groups with other students
  • Seek out teaching assistants, advisors, and mentors
  • Get help from the campus learning center

Academic adjustment takes time but most students succeed with the right resources and support system.

Alcohol & Drug Use (Transition Year, pp. 18-19)

Studies suggest that college students tend to overestimate the level of drinking among their peers, potentially leading them to drink at higher levels. Drinking or using drugs may seem like the popular thing to do but intoxication decreases inhibitions, increases aggressiveness, and impairs judgment.

Alcohol & Drug Use25% of all college students report academic problems because of alcohol use. Thus, the more you drink, the lower your overall GPA is likely to be.

If you choose to abstain from drinking, you will have lots of company. Research shows that nearly 1 in 5 students (approximately 20%) abstain from drinking. If you find yourself turning to alcohol or drugs to cope with a problem, such as loneliness, fear of failure, or depression, know that there are other options. Take advantage of the many campus resources available to help.

Take Inventory Exercise (Transition Year, p. 11)

Instructions: In choosing a college, it is common for students to consider academics, tuition, student life (e.g., Greek life, clubs, sports), and proximity to home. Important areas that are not as commonly evaluated are the college’s provision of transition support and emotional wellness. Do some research and complete the following tables to find out what resources are available to you.

Transition Support
Date and time of new student orientation: 
Names of people you know who are also attending the college: 
Describe any programs the college offers that support freshman: 

Emotional Wellness
Cost and hours of the campus gym: 
Health center information: 
Counseling center information: 
Describe any wellness/mental health programs the college offers: 
Describe any nearby mental health resources: 
Describe fees you may incur for the health and counseling centers: 

Next Step

Hear college students talk about better ways to deal with pressure and stress than turning to prescription drugs:

better ways to deal with pressure and stress

Which of the following are things many college students have to deal with for the first time?

Which of the following is not often considered when evaluating and choosing a college?

Talk to an expert therapist
Talk to a Therapist
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Student & Career Support