We completed the drop.
We unloaded the car in the treacherous Florida heat and we set up their rooms. The bed was made, everything had been put away and it only took two trips to Target for things we didn’t realize we would need. We said our see-ya-laters and shed the appropriate amount of tears. It was when I got into the car without our new college freshman, all the advice we meant to give them about those first few weeks lay dormant somewhere between the big lump in my throat and my empty heart. Forgive me if I sound dramatic, but the truth is there is a great deal to be said at that time. Whether or not they take to heart is another story. Perhaps starting the conversation a few weeks before drop-off is a better idea.
Those first few weeks of college are a crucial time for students. Navigating the transition from high school to college comes with a definitive sense of independence that includes both new rules and no rules. Even if your student was raised where the rules were intimated rather than written in stone; their newfound freedom comes with none. For instance, students have to learn that staying up until what used to be referred to as the middle of the night does not make getting up for class easy.
This brings us to another important point. Class counts; as in attendance is important. And no one is going to make them go. It is all on them now. It is easy to fall into the habit of not attending that 300 person class and hopefully getting the notes later, particularly if it is an 8 am class – which most freshmen should not take. Tempting as it may be to sleep in, being there is important. You know the saying; you’ve got to be in it to win it. This may be what they were talking about.
Encourage them to Get to Know the Professors
While they are in those classes, encourage them to get to know their professors. The fact that they are professors probably means they are pretty smart and will undoubtedly have some good advice throughout their college career. Besides if a student ever needs help in a class and the professor doesn’t recognize their face they are not going to be apt to help them much.
To our dear students…
Meet and Greet
Meet other people too. Step outside of that comfort zone. Join clubs and attend an event that is different and new. Explore and get involved. It is tempting to stick with the crowd from your high school, but branching out can open up so many new and exciting things. Find a niche that is comfortable.
Work hard at getting along with your roommate. It is great when your college roommate becomes your best friend but this isn’t always the case. Accept and respect people’s differences and think of it as a learning experience. Work at establishing a good relationship with your roommate. Someday your student will have co-workers that they don’t get to choose either. It’s a great life lesson to learn to get along with others.
You Are Not Alone
Investigate all of the support available on campus. There is so much right at their fingertips to make college life easier. Students need to learn to advocate for themselves and this may include looking for help when needed. There is support for studying, stress, even ways to help find a ride home. FSU has a program Coping Through College to help incoming and current Florida State students cope with college whether they are stressed out, lonely, overwhelmed, nervous, or homesick. They have events such as campus walks, massages, trips to the FSU Reservation, yoga, ice cream socials, coffee hour, speed dating, and even support dogs.
But…avoid going home, at least for a little while. As much as we miss our students; the first few weeks of school can be critical to their success. Again, they have to be in it to win it.
We always hope that our students will make wise choices once out of our reach. It can’t hurt to pass along a little encouraging advice right at the start though. This is their chance to meet new people, to get involved on campus, to find the support they may need, to cope with the inevitable stresses of college life, possibly to deal with homesickness and to form new habits and find a fresh routine for their new, independent life.