This summer my little sister graduated from high school. Like most seniors, she was ready to get out of there, practically skipped across the stage to receive her diploma, and then spent the next two weeks celebrating her newfound freedom with the rest of her friends. It was exciting to watch, and it brought back all the same feelings I had had three years ago when I graduated. I was reminded of how exhilarating it had been, knowing that the high school part of my life was over, and that college, a goal I had been working towards my whole life, was on the horizon. Exhilarating, and terrifying. As the time to move into the dorms grew closer, a slow but steady feeling of panic infused me. The people I had gone to high school with were familiar faces, and even if we weren’t friends I knew what to expect of them. I’d made a name for myself in the theatre department at school, so I had a place were I could feel confident about my abilities and proud of my accomplishments. And even if I had had the most horrible day in the world at school, I knew I could go home, have some alone time, and then curl up on the couch with my dog and my mom and ignore reality for a little while. Starting out at a brand new school, away from my best friends and the teachers I’d known for years, on top of living away from home for the very first time… all of those comforts were gone. I didn’t know what to expect, I was terrified I’d lost the ability to make new friends or that I’d never find connections as deep as the one’s I’d had in high school (and the idea of living with a roommate for the first time ever sort of freaked me out). People always say that you figure things out as you go, that it’s all just an adjustment, and that’s true! But here’s a list of some of the things I wish someone had told me before I came to The College of Idaho. Perhaps it can make things easier for you if you have some idea of exactly what you’re walking into!
- Keep your door open. When you’re moving in or when you’re hanging out in your room, the open door is a signal to the people walking by that you’re open to talking. It’s intimidating trying to meet new people, and when the barrier of a door is gone it makes it a lot easier to introduce oneself. For those of you who have maybe switched schools in the past, this might sound familiar to you. Everyone is desperate to make friends in the beginning, you’re all going through the same shared experience of being plonked on your butt in the middle of a situation you’ve never dealt with before. So be friendly, and talk to everyone, and make it clear you want to talk to everyone. Even if you don’t become best friends with everybody on your floor, it’s better to strike up conversation and risk a few awkward get-to-know-you chats then locking yourself in your room wishing you felt more comfortable making a move.
- 2. Go to all the school activities offered with the sort of zealous attitude you would have been embarrassed about in high school. The College of Idaho is in the middle of Caldwell. Caldwell’s not awful, but there reallllllly doesn’t tend to be a lot going on outside of campus. Our school is good about creating opportunities for people to get to know each other and have a good time, our current Student President, Miguel, is a hoot and a half, and PC is awesome. You will have fun if you allow yourself to have fun. Of course, anyone can go into anything with the attitude that “life is stupid” and “this is boring” and “blah blah blah I don’t like anything” but that is soooo lame and offers nothing positive in the long run. Go into stuff with an open mind. I’ve never regretted trying to have fun, and I’ve always regretted being the only one who can’t see the good in a situation.
- Don’t go home. You are going to feel homesick at some point. Even if you aren’t incredibly close to your parents, you’re going to miss the comfort of your favorite spot at the kitchen table or being able to stretch out in your own bed. These emotions are fine, and expected, but it can become an unhealthy coping mechanism really quickly if you aren’t careful. The thing is, the more you’re off of campus the more you miss out on opportunities to connect with the people around you, or even with the part of you that is growing as a person. Try to wait a few months before going back, let yourself adjust to life on your own, because if you go home before you’re ready, it’s going to take that much longer to get used to your new life as a college student. Call your mom though, she’ll appreciate it, and you always gotta make time for your mama.
- Don’t be shy about introducing yourself to older students. COI is small, and every year upperclassmen are excited to see what kinds of people the Freshman class is going to offer up. In high school, at least in my case, the age distinctions were really obvious, and you might have a few friends in the years ahead of you but it was easy to be separated since so often your classes tended to be by grade. College isn’t anything like that, and apart from in your orientation classes most of the courses you’ll take will be pretty mixed as far as years go. Having friends who are older can be really comforting, they know the school, they can introduce you to new people and show you around, and it’s nice to have someone to talk to who has already experienced some of the stuff you’ll be facing in your freshman year.
- Use your RA’s and your First Year Mentors. Both sets of people are there to help you, and they’re going to do their absolute best to make everything easier for you. If there’s something you’re nervous about, or embarrassed about, or even just unsure about, talking privately with one of them is a way to receive helpful advice and correct information. Any questions you have are completely confidential. It was always a relief to know that no matter what was going on, even if it was something I didn’t want to talk to a friend about, I could have an honest conversation about any problem I had with my FYM Kelsey and know I was going to get an unbiased perspective back.
- Get some alone time in. It can be pretty overwhelming being surrounded by people at school non-stop, especially in the beginning. You don’t even have a room to yourself! But there are lots of ways to take some time to recharge your batteries and get away for a while. You can go to the library to study or surf the internet, take a trip to Albertsons for some dollar soda (college kids are poor, you’ll understand soon enough), ask Justin in Hayman if you can borrow his adorable dog Ranger to take on a walk, and lots of other things. What’s important is that you take a moment to slow down and let yourself think, without the voices of all your friends buzzing in the background.
- Try not to get overwhelmed with schoolwork. This is obviously easier said than done. I expected to have a pretty good idea about what to presume college courses would be like but uh… nope. No matter how many honors or AP classes you’ve taken, college homework is on a whole ‘nother level. There will be days where you have no homework at all. And then there will be days you have a six page essay, and a three page essay, and four hundred pages to read, and laundry to take out of the dryer. Your first semester of course wont necessarily be like that, the Professors aren’t sadists and they know you need to get into the swing of things…but that doesn’t guarantee they’ll pull all their punches all the time. If you get used to barely scraping by in terms of studying and planning things out ahead of time, by spring you’ll be in a world of hurt. From the get go, you need to be ready. Be on time, take notes, try not to start all of your essays the night before they’re due, and give yourself time to revise as often as you can. COI is great in that they offer free tutoring at the academic center, and there are tutors in almost every subject. Use them! I wish I had known about them earlier.
So there are some things to be thinking about now that the school year is about to start, and remember, everyone at COI has felt or is currently feeling the same way you are. It’s okay to be nervous and scared, but don’t let that fear keep you from starting out your college life strong! Besides, pretty soon, everything will start feeling normal and way less exciting, so enjoy it while it lasts!
Can’t wait to meet all of you,