Campus Life

Your New Collegiate Universe

If you’re about to leave for college or are already there as a first-year student, your experiential life is about to change … big time … especially if you’re going to school reasonably far from home. There’s no owner’s manual for first-time college students.

Yes, maybe you have an older brother or sister who has given you some insights about what college life is like, but that can’t compete with actually being there, on campus, as an enrolled student, subject to all the physical, social, academic, and psychological effects of college life. It can be true culture shock.

One of the best ways to handle the challenges of college life is to be prepared for some of the more typical situations that may arise. Roommates (dorm life), food, dating, friends, and professors rank high on the list of variables with which you’ll have to deal. I thought I would give you some personal and actual student advice on some of these issues. Hopefully, this will ease your transition from your bedroom to your dorm room.


No blog post from me would be complete without some boring recollections about my college days (daze?). So, as I recall my transition from home to college, the one thing that I remember most is how relatively quickly I made friends, both on my tennis team (the true reason I went to college) and in my dorm. I adjusted fairly fast to the food (I’ll never forget the name of the food service director: Mr. Bloodgood … yikes).

Of course, the academics were harder than high school (no AP courses back in those ancient days, at least not in my high school) and the professors were pretty friendly, more so than my high school teachers. I enjoyed the sports atmosphere and the women seemed friendlier than I expected them to be.

The big shock for me was my de-transitioning back to home at Thanksgiving. Things at home seemed a lot different. The doors appeared to be heavier, the water tasted different, my bed was softer than I recalled, and my mother was mellower about my being around. Absence sometimes does make the heart grow fonder.

So, one thing that you may want to prepare yourself for is your triumphant return home after an extended stay on campus. That might be more than three months, if your first return home doesn’t come until Thanksgiving. Be ready for your home and surrounds to feel slightly (to markedly) different, which is a weird sensation.

Getting back to first days on campus, I came across an informative article by Ari Finkelstein And Ben Shestakofsky about just that. Here’s some wisdom of Ben and Ari’s (sounds like an ice cream outfit):

For most people, going to college means adapting to a whole new way of life. The most exciting new experiences—living alongside your peers, escaping your parents’ watchful eyes, leaving your lifelong friends and making new ones—can also be the most terrifying. Given all those changes, it’s probably a good idea to come to campus at least moderately prepared for the personal and social adjustments that lay ahead. Here’s some lifestyle advice from students who’ve been there and learned those lessons firsthand.

– “If the idea of going to some random group meeting is too terrifying, try just introducing yourself to one person in each of your classes. It’s pretty easy to start up small talk with the person sitting next to you and they’ll probably be grateful that you’re extending a friendly hand first so that they don’t have to make the first move.” – Sarah, OSU

– … “Face it. You’re going to gain ten pounds: buffet-style dining halls + substantial amounts of beer on weekends + free food handed out during club meetings and socials + late night binge eating while writing a paper + drunk munchies pizza that you always regret in the morning + napping, studying, or playing video games instead of heading to the gym = unavoidable weight gain. Just give up. Or join the crew team.” – Amanda, Brown University

– “Greek life is overrated. Going into college, I thought that you had to be a Greek in order to have friends. That’s a joke. Some of the Greek life people are good, but others are bad. You don’t have to be in a frat in order to have friends/be cool/have your own niche.” – Darren, Syracuse University

– “Drinking is overrated: It’s basically an American rite of passage to spend a good chunk of your freshman year getting so drunk you can’t remember anything. If you’ve done it once, you’ve done it a million times, and considering all the harm that can be done, it isn’t worth the few seconds you’ll actually remember.” – Anna, Sarah Lawrence

– … “Get as much sleep as you can on the weekends, because you’re not gonna get it during the week. There is something going on every night—whether it’s friends going out, movie-watching, sports, or schoolwork—and it’s hard to find time to sleep in during the week, so get it while you can on the weekends.” – Sara, RIT

– … “Eating healthily, staying fit, cleaning your living space and maintaining hygiene—all of these things sound basic, but they seem less and less important as the semester wears on. It is very easy to lose sight of these basic principles of life inside the college bubble. Do not forget the responsibility you have to yourself to maintain a healthy and well-balanced lifestyle.”

– Tiffany, USC

– … “As soon as I entered freshman year, I scheduled the maximum amount of classes, I pulled down every flier that looked interesting, I attended about 10 different organizations’ meetings, I tried out for three different dance teams, was on the swimming team, decided to try out every social outlet, and watch all the movies I wanted with my friends all night without a curfew. Life was great, until I realized I actually had to put effort into all of these things, and find the time for them all. Spend time doing the things you love, and strengthen these passions and talents. If you double-book your schedule, there will not be enough time to actually enjoy and learn.” – Chelsea, Syracuse University


Entering unfamiliar waters can be stressful. The thing to keep in mind is that you are not alone. You’ll be surrounded by many others who are also first-year students. You’ll all be in a very big boat together. Just grab an oar and try to start pulling in the same direction as everyone else. You’ll soon see progress!


Be sure to see my other college-related articles on College Confidential.