The first week of college can be an incredibly scary time, but it can also be exciting and exhilarating, and a great time to learn how to be social. It is a time when you can start over on first impressions and cast off any outgrown social stereotypes from high school.
It is one of the few times in your life when everyone around you wants to make new friends just as badly as you do, and few people know any more about what’s going on than you know yourself.
Everyone is looking for a place to fit in and find friends, and you can take advantage of that fact to find a great group that will make your time at college much more enjoyable.
At the same time, anxiety about meeting new people, finding your classes, and living on your own can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are things that you can do to reduce your anxiety. Let’s take a look at some of them!
If you know going places like the campus bookstore will cause you to stress, try to do these things as much in advance as possible. Visit the bookstore the week before college starts to avoid the crowds and have a calmer experience. This will also give you more time to organize your materials and make sure you know exactly what you need.
Prior to your first week of college, walk through your schedule to figure out exactly where your classes are on the first day and anticipate problems. For example, you may find that your schedule is physically impossible to execute because you have classes that are so far apart it simply takes too long to go from one class to another. It is best to know this before the first day.
In the first week of college, get to campus early and check to make sure that there have not been any room changes; these are often posted on the doors of the classrooms on the day of class.
Get to your classroom early so that you can have your choice of seat. This is especially important if you are on a waitlist or are trying to add a class; the more committed you seem to be to adding a class, the more likely you are to succeed in getting in.
Also, when adding a class the instructor will often hand out a sign-up sheet and take students on a first come first served basis; if you came in late you are likely to be out of position to get your name near the top.
Sit in the Heart of the Class
Find a seat at the heart of the class. Even if you are shy or socially anxious and like to hide at the back, you are more likely to do well if you are surrounded by students who are more actively involved in the class.
Also, if you are too far back or off to the side, you are likely to have a weaker rapport with the instructor. Being visible to your instructor will be helpful if you need to ask for assistance at any point in class or even during office hours.
Find a Study Buddy
As the students filter in, exchange numbers with another student who looks prepared for class (e.g., has the textbook for class already, or sets out her notebook and gets ready right away rather than going to the back of the class for a nap).
Having a friend in class will help in case you miss a day and need to get notes. It may also be useful to begin forming a relationship with a classmate in case you need to do group projects or if you decide later that a study group might be helpful.
Plan Out Your Schedule
When you receive the syllabus, highlight the due dates of all major assignments and look over how much work will be necessary for them. Be especially aware of time-consuming research papers and in-class presentations.
Later, if you find that you have many of these types of assignments in your classes you may want to consider either changing your schedule or trying to stagger the due dates of any assignments when you are given the option to do so.
Having two class presentations and a research essay all due on the same day could take a real toll on your grade point average as well as your mental health, particularly if you struggle with public speaking anxiety.
Make New Friends
Very few people come to college with a group of friends already in place. Everyone wants to make friends, so the first week of college is one of the most open environments you may ever encounter. It is structured for you to meet as many people as possible, like a week-long speed dating exercise.
Chances are your school will provide events for you to attend, from giant icebreakers to concerts to the ever-popular ice cream social. Take advantage of them, because even a lame event can help you meet people; just complain together about how lame the ice breaker is! The first week of college is one of the few times in your life when complete strangers expect you to walk up and introduce yourself!
Another great way to meet people during the first week of college is to simply walk through the halls of your dorm. Many people leave their dorm room doors open during this week, and an open door should be looked at as an invitation to knock on the doorframe and introduce yourself.
These people will be living near you for the next year, after all, and even if you don’t become best friends with your entire hall, it’s good to at the least be on speaking terms with your neighbors. It gives you a good way to easily introduce yourself, too; “Hi, I’m Sally. I live next door. Nice to meet you.”
Take a Trip
Many schools also provide retreat-style trips just before the first week of college, so if you’re truly worried about meeting so many people at once, or just want a more intimate way of getting to know people, find out if your school offers these trips. They are often wilderness or adventure trips, and the bonds that come out of them can last through college and beyond.
Most importantly, try your best to be outgoing and friendly during orientation. Don’t worry that the people you meet might be judging you; if they are, there are thousands of other students to get to know as you learn how to be social in college. Plus, chances are they could be just as nervous as you are, and grateful you had the courage to say hello!