Preparing for College Transition

Chris Boehm
Tassels have been turned and after the summer you will be off to a new home. You spent four years working hard to gain admission to, and succeed, at a wonderful university. After spending almost 18 months or more on the college search, application, and selection process, we recommend you focus on the words of wisdom below and specifically prepare for the transition process to college. Why? Well, nationally almost 40% of students do not return to the same school they were enrolled at as a freshman. And how you go to school matters much more than where.
 
You have the ability and motivation to succeed. We’d like to make you aware of the best practices to make the most of your abilities and the resources at your disposal to have the best possible first year of college.
 
  1. Know yourself and have a you-take-care-of-you attitude (and practice it). Think about what’s important to you and what you hope to accomplish and experience over the next four years. What will your priorities be? What do you value and what is your moral code? What’s your beacon or ‘North Star,’ that guides you to make good decisions and directs you to happiness? Remember what helped you be successful up until now and continue it. This will influence all other recommendations on this list. Focus on your body, mind and soul, and faith. All are important and if there is an imbalance, it will eventually lead to problems. Eating right, exercising, sleeping, and practicing your faith are things you have to do and manage for  yourself, perhaps for the first time in your life. This doesn’t need to look the same as they did in high school. Example – exercise doesn’t have to be in a gym, you can observe your faith on days other than Sunday and you don’t have to be dressed nice to do so, and naps can be invigorating.              
“Take care of yourself! It is so incredibly important to keep checking in with yourself, as freshman year is a rollercoaster of emotions. You might be homesick, overwhelmed, excited, and nervous all at the same time.” – Archmere Class of 2018
 
“Throughout this year I finally learned that if you aren’t happy or healthy or well-rested, the odds you can reap the full benefits of the activities you partake in are minimal, and you won’t be able to put in your best effort either.” – Archmere Class of 2018
 
2. Reflect on what made you academically successful at Archmere and follow that road-map. Buy your books, go to class (prepared), work on assignments in advance, seek assistance. The additional freedoms of college life will require you to practice self-discipline in completing these items, but you know the formula to success, make it part of your routine. It will be impossible to stay happy if you aren’t prospering in the most important part of your college experience, academics!
 
3. Prepare for an adjustment in your mindset from Archmere. Many of you succeeded a lot during high school. Some of you were considered the best in a subject, activity, or other things. Perhaps you even feel your talents define who you are. Sustaining this expectation in your new community may be difficult, if not impossible within a community of thousands of students from across the world. Straight A’s are probably not possible, is an unhealthy expectation, and not achieving this doesn’t mean you are inferior. Learning, growing, and discovering is more important than being the best or grasping for perfection. You’re starting with a clean slate in college without a reputation, you can put your energies toward things that are different than high school. Experiencing and reflecting on new things, meeting different people, and gaining a better understanding of yourself is an important part of your education.
 
4. Get involved in extracurriculars, experiential learning, and/or get a campus job. Getting involved has so many positives. It helps you meet people and begin to create real relationships, it adds structure to your day and helps you manage time, it requires you to make priorities, gives you responsibilities, introduces you to classmates in a medium other than social media, and can turn a huge campus into more easily managed small neighborhoods. Students who actively engage in campus life in and out of the classroom are those who are happiest with their college experience, least likely to transfer, and more likely to graduate (Strauss). Don’t overextend yourself (perhaps you did in high school) and search for activities and experiences that provide fulfilling rewards – this may take time.
 
“When I came home from Christmas Break I did some reevaluation of my attitude and came back in January with the goal of putting more effort into being active. Staying busy with clubs and staying out of my room as much as possible helped me find my place.” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
“I did often question what my purpose on campus was. First semester I joined a range of clubs and discovered many of them weren’t for me. I felt so beaten down, I knew I did the right thing by putting myself out there, but was frustrated because I wasn’t finding my ‘thing’ as fast as other people…many of these clubs although not working out for me, allowed me to meet people who were involved in other things, and talking to these people helped me to get involved with activities more suited for me!”
– Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
5. Make connections with adults on-campus. Having an adult presence in your life is important. Think about all the time you spent talking with or seeking advice and praise from teachers, coaches, mentors, parents and relatives. Adults on campus are motivated to help students, have experience doing so, and will provide sensible advice that can help you focus on what is important without being influenced by outside pressures. These mature relationships keep you grounded and can further develop into a mentor-mentee relationship that can will provide validation when you’re doing well, help you cope in times of trouble, and give you unfiltered mature advice when you need it.
 
“Making use of Professor’s office hours was very helpful to me (and my grades), especially in the beginning of the semester.” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
“Widen the circle of human beings who know you and care about you.” – Eric Johnson, Assistant Director for Policy Analysis and Communications at Univ. of North Carolina
 
“I think the best thing I did was talk to people I knew at the college before I got there. Whether this was my peer advisor or a distant family friend, having someone who knew about the school gave me some confidence in making my choices at the start.” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
6. It’s ok not to be ok. But it’s not ok not to talk about it--ask for help, commit to getting help, and be a friend to others. Colleges are continually improving their counseling and mental health services. For good reason, more than 60% of college students indicated they experienced “overwhelming anxiety” in the past year (American College Health Association). If you don’t feel ok, please don’t feel this is a struggle you have to fix by yourself. Colleges provide individual counseling appointments, counseling groups, drop-in clinics, relaxation stations, anxiety reducing skills workshops, and many other services to help students. Use them, and recommend friends and classmates seek assistance as well. Try not to use social media as a remedy, controlling your image and messaging online (and observing others doing the same) only masks your problems and prevents others from knowing you might be struggling. It creates a disconnection with the real world and envy that others are having more fun and are happier. Comparison is the thief of joy, don’t fall into this trap.
 
“Make sure you really make sure that you personally are doing alright, and don’t be afraid to reach out if you aren’t.” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
7. Find ways manage your time. Fact, you have more independence in college and you’ll be required to provide some of your own structure and discipline in order to succeed. Talk with your parents over the summer about time management in a new environment, be true to yourself and your priorities, and pay attention at orientation when people discuss time management. The quicker you find your new routine (after four years of the same at Archmere), the more confident you will be in and outside the classroom. Carve out set hours for your priorities and work everything else out around them. Your new home will have resources to help you manage your time – ask an RA, the Career Service Office, your advisor, or a professor for help and they will be happy to point you in the right direction.
 
“I did not feel prepared for having so much free time. In college I have a lot less hours of class and a lot more to do outside of class, so planning out my day is much more important so I get everything done.” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
“Finding a routine and sense of familiarity helped me so much!” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 
8. What do you want from your social life? Spend some time thinking about this over the summer. How will you stand by your values? You may be put in awkward and difficult situations in-regards to alcohol, drugs, and sex. The decisions that you make are your own and deciding to stay out late or to give into social pressures may have consequences. Weekends don’t start on Wednesdays, stay true to #1 on this list, and know there’s thousands of things to do outside the classroom at all hours of the day. Know that overindulgence can be an indication of unhappiness in other areas.

“Seek out ‘friends of the good’ rather than simply settling for ‘friends of utility or pleasure’ (a few of those are important too, but don’t settle for only these).” – Dr. Elizabeth Bracher, Director of Courage to Know Seminar Program at Boston College

9. Prepare for the little things. There’s comfort in familiarity. Sometimes the simple things can cause or prevent stress, they can also be the things that make a day go smoother. Some examples: learn to do laundry, set up a bank account at a branch close to your college, teach your parents about Venmo if they don’t know about it, and learn to cook a simple dinner that may remind you of home. Re-visit your college over the summer to learn about the transportation system, find a comfortable study and destressing spots off-campus, talk to some college employees, and learn where everything is. This will probably happen during orientation; however, it’ll seem slower and less intimidating on your own.
 
10. You don’t have everything figured out, that’s why you’re going to college and living your life. Be patient and resilient. It’s ok to make mistakes. Think about this, how long did it take you to be truly comfortable at Archmere? A semester? A year? More? The transition to college can be an even greater challenge because it comes with less direct-support, more freedom, and less structure. There will be moments of homesickness, when you question your decisions and direction, and miss Archmere. Know that everyone else (your Archmere friends and new classmates) are experiencing the same. College is a unique experience and in time you will become more familiar with your new environment, more confident in your space, and happy within the amazing community you’ve chosen. Good luck!
 
“The biggest thing I struggled with was being homesick and I questioned a lot should I have gone (to school) closer to home. But I realized I wouldn’t be going home any more if I was closer, and branching out really allowed me to grow as a person. And you always have FaceTime!” – Archmere Academy Class of 2018
 

 
Resources:
 
Archmere Class of 2018 “Re: Requesting Some Post Freshman Year Reflection” Message to Chris Boehm. May 2019.
 
Bracher, Ph.D., Elizabeth “Re: NACAC Session” Message to Chris Boehm. January 2017. Email.
 
Bracher, Ph. D., Elizabeth “Re: Transition Guide” Message to Chris Boehm. June 2018. Email.
 
Bruni, Frank (August 2018). How to Get the Most Out of College. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/17/opinion/college-students.html
 
Coleman, David (May 2019). There’s More to College Than Getting Into College. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/05/david-coleman-stop-college-admissions-madness/589918/
 
Fagan, Kate (August 2017). What Made Maddy Run. New York, NY: Hachette Book Club.
 
Going to College: 7 big Talks to Have Before they Leave. Retrieved from https://grownandflown.com/going-to-college-7-topics/
 
McCarthy, Michelle (February 2018). How students can ease the transition from high school to college: More self-care, less stress. Retrieved from https://news.usc.edu/135202/how-students-can-ease-the-transition-from-high-school-and-adjust-to-college-life-with-help-of-occupational-therapists/
 
Selingo, Jeffrey (August 2018). Have fun in college, freshman, but read this first. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2018/08/17/have-fun-at-college-freshmen-but-read-this-first/?utm_term=.cefcb0ed0f5a
 
Strauss, Valerie (August 2017). Getting into college was the easy part. Staying there is becoming harder than ever, expert say. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/08/14/getting-into-college-was-the-easy-part-transitioning-to-college-life-is-becoming-harder-than-ever-experts-say/?utm_term=.a27ad6d237e9
 
Wolverton, Brad (February 2019). As Students Struggle With Stress and Depression, College Act as Counselors. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/21/education/learning/mental-health-counseling-on-campus.html
 
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A private, Catholic, college preparatory co-educational academy, grades 9-12 founded in 1932 by the Norbertine Fathers.