Starting college is a big adjustment period. It can be similar to moving to a new town or starting a new job. There are some very normal stages which you may encounter during this time of transition. Being aware of these stages and equipping yourself with strategies to effectively navigate them will help you feel less anxious and more connected.
Most new students worry about finding classrooms, figuring out expectations, fitting in and making friends. Orientation programs are very important sources of information for these adjustment issues. These programs are designed to help students understand and successfully manage this period of adjustment. They also introduce the variety of student services that are available on campus, give comprehensive tours, explain the nuances of utilizing library services, accessing support and even buying food.
Within the first few weeks of classes, most students will have successfully navigated the first four stages of the adjustment cycle (see below.) You may feel somewhat settled in a basic comfort zone where you can find your way around campus, access most services, comfortably participate in classroom discussions and understand Clarke University’s basic procedures and routines.
After this point, some students may begin to experience a degree of isolation or increased homesickness when they realize that they do not yet feel completely connected to the university community. New and transfer students sometimes report to the Counseling Center that they don’t know how to break into social groups. Some people take longer to build friendships. Others just want to meet new people with more common interests.
It is important to remember that building friendships takes time and social groups are constantly changing. Most seniors have different friends than they had as freshmen or sophomores. The needs of resident students and commuter students are the same, but the types of strategies to help build connections may be somewhat different. The resident student has many social opportunities in the residence halls, whereas the commuter student will need to make a point of creating times and places to be involved on campus after classes are finished.
Stages of the adjustment cycle:
- Initial Anxiety
- Arrival Fascination
- Initial Adjustment Shock
- Surface Adjustment
- Feelings of Isolation
Even though Clarke University is a campus with plenty of opportunities for social interactions, it is very typical for new students to desire some extra support in building connections. There are many people on the Clarke campus here to help with this adjustment, including the Counseling Center, mentors, Tuckpointers, Residence Life staff, coaches, faculty advisers, Campus Ministry staff, Commuter Assistant and Student Activities staff.
Some tried and true approaches for meeting people and making friends include:
- Introduce yourself in your residence hall, athletic team, or classroom. Be a good friend, roommate, classmate, team member. Treat others as you like to be treated.
- Look for shared experiences or opportunities for natural connections.
- Linger after class and strike up a brief conversation with another student.
- Don’t be intimidated by the perception of cliques. Remember that groups are frequently changing and social groups realign. Find the connections.
- Invite classmates to attend campus events with you. Join others you might already know; be sure to make introductions.
- Ask students sitting by themselves at meals or campus events if you may join them.
- Plan study groups. Bring a snack or treat to share.
- Reach out to others in need.
- Volunteer on campus or in the community.
- Seek campus employment.
- Participate in a student organization.
- Play intramurals. Take yoga or Zumba classes on campus.
- Keep your residence hall room door open and post a sign inviting others to stop in and sample some fun food that you made in your microwave (puppy-chow is very popular).
- Host movie nights in your residence hall room and ask others to bring snacks.
- Hang out in common areas (lounges, SAC, Atrium) and talk to students you recognize from class or your athletic team. Suggest studying together.
- Be positive and open to new ideas. Enrich your life with new, healthy experiences and friendships.
- Smile and greet those you approach on campus. Engage with people…not your cell phone or iPod!
- Watch out for adjustment fatigue. Recognize when you need some quiet time to regroup with something familiar.
- Take good care of yourself: eat healthy, get enough sleep and exercise. Keep your life in balance.