June 6th, 2019
BY GERALD M. BRADSHAW
Bradshaw College Consulting
As an adult, I used to find it difficult to understand why young people who are admitted to the very best colleges and universities fear that they will not be able to adjust to campus life. They talk intelligently, score off the board on the admissions tests and are tops in their high school class yet they freak out at the thought of being on their own in a strange environment.
I have found that students have wildly different expectations about college life. Some look forward to having more freedom, others fear that the experience will not meet their expectations, and still others will find that the move will produce stress and feelings of loneliness. These feelings are typical of the developmental transition to the college experience.
Finding a niche can be key
to college success
To many students, their college years will be among the best in their lives. To those who struggle with the transition, they need to know that there are a number of ways to help avoid the freshman jitters and have fun doing it.
Your dorm’s Resident Assistants can help you cope with the adjustment, as can upperclassmen and faculty. Before you even leave for college, it is important that you explore your school’s organizations and resources that can assist you with the transition.
I suggest that you take advantage of freshman orientation programs — both those prior to arriving on campus and those when you arrive. Attend activities and events that are designed for freshmen to get to know one another. If you are into exercise, find an exercise buddy and use the student rec center — in most cases it is free of charge as a part of your tuition package.
Seek out and join a student organization — especially one that feeds your academic passion or a hobby interest.
I always remember the experience of a new freshman at Harvard, which was related in an alumni publication.
Let's call her Carol. Carol's first weeks at Harvard were packed. Placement tests, proctor meetings, losing her cell phone and finding it, and choosing classes all while "feeling lost, overwhelmed, and homesick." These comments pretty much summarize the experience many freshmen have during their first weeks on campus.
To add to her stress, she ran around frantically auditioning for different singing groups. She was accepted by several and now faced an "agonizing" decision.
But, as fate and good fortune would have it, something happened that made her selection obvious and easy. It was called a Sing-in.
One Sunday night, two students knocked on her door. After guiding her down four flights of stairs from her room, they led her outside. In front of her were 60 students holding candles and singing Claude Goudimel's magnificent "O Combien est Plaisant." They then went to a reception for more singing.
Carol returned to her dorm that night, euphoric: "I knew then that I would join the Harvard-Radcliffe Collegium Musicum."
Sing-in was just a glimpse of what makes Collegium extraordinary for her. Carol met a wonderful group of friends, and eventually decided to live with two of them her sophomore year. She became involved with the Collegium Executive Committee and served as Sales Manager for their CDs and other Collegium merchandise. She also auditioned for and joined the Chamber Singers, a 12-person subset of Collegium.
The point is that it is easy to get lost at college in the whirlwind of overwhelming workloads and intimidating, brilliant colleagues not to mention the universal difficulties of transiting to college life. To any incoming freshman, Carol has this sound advice: Find something you love doing and wholeheartedly devote yourself to it. Immersing herself so completely in Collegium has provided relief from the stress of academic work, insights into the field of music administration and a possible career path.
Most of all she met a wonderful group of friends.
"Thank you," she says, "for helping me find my place at Harvard."
Gerald Bradshaw is a top US college admissions consultant with Bradshaw College Consulting.
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