First Year Survival Guide!

Well, you made it! After SATs, application forms, campus visits, and those unforgettable “mailbox jitters,” you’re finally starting college. Despite some anticipation, you’re probably tired and confused by all the conflicting advice you’ve received. It’s natural to feel proud of what you’ve accomplished and excited about all that awaits on campus. It’s also natural to feel scared and overwhelmed, even though nobody talks much about those feelings. But let’s be honest ….you’re leaving home, saying goodbye (for awhile) to family and friends, moving away from familiar places and comfortable roles and relationships, and heading into…the unknown! Who wouldn’t be nervous?!

“Will I get along with my roommate.. I’m not used to sharing a room…What if they’re sloppy (or a neat freak)?”

“What if I can’t handle the classes?”

“No one I know is going to UMW …how do I know I’ll make friends and fit in?”

“It’s embarrassing…I don’t want to be a baby, but I’m afraid I’ll be homesick!”

Even though you’ve been making some decisions for yourself for some time now, college catapults you into young adulthood. Expect to be challenged intellectually, personally, socially and emotionally. Here are some tips to help you survive (and even thrive!) :

• Be prepared… Plan ahead!
Successful adjustment starts before you arrive. First, figure out what you need to bring (clothes, toiletries, linens, computer stuff, etc.) and what you need to leave home (your pet python and your candle collection). Residence Life staff can help with hall policies (e.g. no halogen lights, microwaves, incense etc.) and general advice. Contact your roommate ahead of time, if possible. It’s a great way to get acquainted…and you won’t end up with two of everything. Don’t forget reminders of home. Favorite pictures and photos can help ease loneliness and will remind you that the folks who care are still “out there.”

Have realistic expectations.
Students who are usually earn As and Bs often earn Cs. New friends really DO await, but just as it took time to form close bonds with your friends at home, it will take time at college too. Remember, don’t compare your “insides” with everyone else’s “outsides.” No matter how together others seem, all first year students feel out of place, and all are as eager to make friends as you are. Reach out, connect, try new activities, join clubs, get involved in your hall or do community service. It works!

• Life 101
If you don’t know how to budget, now is the time to learn. Talk over financial matters with your parent(s) before you get to school… don’t wait until you’re overdrawn. Be careful with credit. "Plastic” is easy for students to get but much harder to pay off. While you’re at it, if you don’t know how to clean your room or do laundry, learn now.

• Life 102
Take care of yourself. Exercise, rest, eat healthy foods, make time for “down-time” as well as study. Think through decisions about alcohol, tobacco, drugs, and sexual behavior. Whatever your choices, you can be sure to find others who share your values. If you need more information or someone to talk to, consider the staff at the UMW Health Center, Residence Life, or Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

• Stay in touch.
Write, email, call friends and family. Staying in touch makes the transition to campus life easier.

• The X (roommate) – Games!
It’s not easy sharing limited space with a complete stranger! Talk early, openly and often about key issues: sleep/study habits, cleaning, tobacco, alcohol, sexual behavior, overnight visitors, sharing possessions, etc. Look for common interests and negotiate the rest. Be respectful of each other. Use resources to help mediate, if necessary.

• Get familiar with the terrain.

Many of the stresses associated with college are expected and predictable…and UMW has plenty of resources to help you cope and adjust.
Academic Services can help with course-related issues, study skills and academic requirements and policies.
Career Services office helps with job placement and career development throughout your four years.
The Health Center provides care if you’re sick, and is also a great source of information about wellness and prevention.
The Residence Life staff can help you settle in, connect with others, work through problems, mediate issues with roommates, or just provide a friendly ear when you’re homesick or blue. CAPS (that’s us) provides individual and group therapy, consultation and workshops for concerns ranging from adjustment difficulties to more serious psychological or mental health issues.
And that’s all just for starters.
Be sure to check out the people and places involved in community service, student activities, campus recreation and athletics, multicultural events and spiritual life, too. The faculty and staff are here to help you make the most of campus life at UMW. It may sometimes be difficult to reach out, but it’s never a mistake.

• Recommended Reading:
Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds. Light, Richard J. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.2001.

Been There, Should’ve Done That: 505 Tips for Making the Most of College. Tyler, Suzette. Haslett, MI: Front Porch Press. 1997.

Been There, Should’ve Done That: More Tips for Making the Most of College.(2d Ed.). Tyler, Suzette. Haslett, MI: Front Porch Press. 2001.

Beating the College Blues: A Student’s Guide to Coping with the Emotional Ups and Downs of College Life. Grayson, Paul and Meilman, Philip. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

How to Get the Most Out of College. Chickering, Arthur and Schlossberg, Nancy. New York: Simon & Schuster. 1995.