Acclimating to College Life
New college students are often apprehensive about losing the support that they've counted on during high school from their family, friends, neighbors, teachers, spiritual advisers, and others that they will no longer be seeing on a regular basis. We all face those concerns as we grow up and move on; it's natural to be a bit anxious about what we might find to fill the void.
College can be overwhelming without a center to call home; everyone needs a place to rest their head, let off steam, and experience a feeling of belonging. The good news is that there are almost limitless possibilities for finding your center at college. Most universities offer programs and resources to help make it easy for incoming students to identify and develop resources, services, and a new support structure on campus.
Where's your center?
Some college students discover their center in a close group of friends met during freshman welcome events or in their residence hall. For some, their center is an engaging honors program and the intellectual community found there. For others, a sense of belonging is based on leadership and taking on independent projects toward their career goals; meeting challenges through teamwork can create strong bonds.
Some students are searching for a spiritual or cultural center to keep them connected to the strengths of their upbringing or family community. College campuses offer spiritual and religious organizations, churches and centers that cater to the student population.
A center could also be an outward exploration, such as studying abroad and learning a foreign language, or an effort to make beneficial changes in the lives of others, such as volunteering and mentoring.
Not sure where to start?
The key to becoming acclimated to college life for most students is to decide what they need, do a little research about what's available, and then go for it. Ask yourself these questions to explore the centers that may be best for you:
What activities do you think you'll miss now that you're in college?
What activities make you feel joyful? What have you always wanted to try but haven't had the chance?
Are there ways you can positively affect other people's lives?
What are you curious about? Are there questions on your mind that you'd like to ask others?
Is there anything you might need to figure out in order to feel like you belong?
See what direction these questions may take you, and talk over the possibilities with a counselor or someone else you trust.
Take the first step
Choosing your activities and taking the first step toward finding your center can be as simple as attending the welcome events your college organizes and seizing the opportunities for friendship that come your way.
At large universities like UT Austin, welcome events for entering freshmen can be huge, but they're also great fun. Just remember that many new students feel the same way you doa little lost and overwhelmed, but looking to find their center. And if the whole-campus events seem too much at first, pick out a group instead and attend an event on a smaller scale. For many students, the first step is to check out all the student organizations on their campus. Often colleges will have a Web site to make that easy, such as UT Austin's Student Activities and Leadership Development. Use the search function to type in key words of organization categories, such as religious, cultural, volunteer, academic, and leadership. Or type in your specific passion and see what comes up.
Check out Student Life and Student Resources in Be a Longhorn for more information on acclimating to college life at UT Austin