Transition with Ease into Your First Semester of College


With my thanks to Jeff Levy, CEP, for his contribution.

Here are some suggestions to help you with the transition into your first semester in college. Know that it may feel like an emotional roller coaster; those feelings are understandable and common.

Get to know your academic advisor.

You will likely have been assigned a pre-major advisor who will serve as your advisor until you later declare your major(s). Introduce yourself as soon as possible. Since this person is a resource to help you with course selection and registration and your overall transition, you should continue to stay in touch during your first year and until you identify an advisor in your major(s).

Take a first year seminar course.

First year seminar courses provide a great introduction in a small and supportive environment to the academic demands of college. Intended only for new students, they are taught by faculty members interested in helping students with the transition. Since they are often thematic in content, you will also find classmates who share your interests.

Register for more classes than you will be able to take.

Register for more classes than you intend to enroll in and use those first few weeks to try them out. You may be surprised to learn which ones you will want to continue with.

Don’t overload your schedule with introductory classes.

Research shows that students who start their college career in classes they want to take, and not necessarily the ones they have to take, are happier with their choices. Take several prerequisite courses in areas you think you may want to major in. Try to also take classes that sound really interesting! Many students discover new possible majors by choosing courses this way.

Avail yourself of the resource that faculty members represent.

You should begin to avail yourself of the tremendous resource that faculty members represent. They post regular office hours in which they are available to meet with undergraduate students. To ensure that students can reach them as questions arise, many also share their email addresses and cell phone numbers. Begin by introducing yourself to those faculty members who share your academic interests. Give yourself the chance to start to form relationships. If you find that you’re falling behind in a class, seek out your instructor early on. That is one of the many reasons they hold office hours.

Find study partners.

Students who study in groups learn the material faster and have less difficulty in class. It can also be a great way to make friends. Be proactive. After one or two of your most difficult classes, invite a few new classmates to study with you.

Be easy on yourself.

Leaving your friends from high school and living away from home represent a major transition in your life. Don’t be surprised if you sometimes feel overwhelmed or lonely. While you may think that you’re the only one having those feelings, know that many other students are feeling similarly. By sharing those feelings with roommates or classmates, you will learn how common they are. You may also find that sharing strengthens some new friendships. However, if those feelings persist, schedule an appointment with a campus mental health counselor, who is an important and available resource.

Leave time for other activities.

College is about more than academics. It’s about doing things you love, finding the right balance and becoming engaged in your new life. Early on you should familiarize yourself with the array of student activities and sign up for more than you’ll actually have time for. Whether you join an improvisational, political, literary or volunteer group, you’ll find others who share your interests and who may later become your closest friends.

Published in the Back to School editions of The Scarsdale Inquirer / The Rivertowns Enterprise, 22 August 2014.

The CEP is the Certified Educational Planner which Jane holds, and is the mark of distinction for independent educational consultants and high school counselors.

Jane Hoffman is a Certified Educational Planner (CEP). The CEP is the mark of distinction for independent educational consultants and high school counselors. It reflects the highest level of professional achievement and signifies extensive knowledge and commitment to the profession and to providing the highest quality of service to students and families. It is conferred only after demonstration of expanded institutional and professional knowledge.

CEPIECANACACJane Hoffman is an active member of a number of professional associations in college admissions and counseling, including the American Institute of Certified Educational Planners (AICEP), the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). Jane is a graduate of IECA’s Practices and Principles Training Institute and adheres to IECA’s Principles of Good Practice. Since it is important to remain current, Jane frequently attends national conferences and participate in professional exchanges that provide the latest information on admission policies, practices, trends and developments. Jane regularly visit colleges and meets with admissions officers to learn about each school’s culture, educational programs, institutional priorities and admissions practices. Ongoing professional development activities also include taking courses online, completing webinars and consulting with colleagues.