Maura was used to her high school of 500—and to knowing every person in her math, English and physics classes.
Her first day of college was a shock.
The now-sophomore at the University of Cincinnati (uc.edu) left her dorm early that first morning, eager to find Introduction to Psychology. But instead of 20 or 30 desks, a blackboard and a nice-looking professor, she found a lecture hall crammed with 300 strangers. A grad student stood at the front, preparing a PowerPoint presentation.
That’s when Maura realized she wasn’t in high school anymore.
Maura was just one of 11.3 million Americans enrolled in college that year, and to her freshman eyes, it seemed as though they were all at UC with her. The college was a far cry from the small suburban high school from which she had graduated.
But with a little work, even a big college can feel like home.
1. Be outgoing
Most, if not all, of the people on your floor of the dorm are in the exact same situation you are. They, too, are nervous and excited, disoriented and anxious.
When you move in, especially that first week, everyone is looking to make friends and form connections.
It’s the perfect time to capitalize on that one thing you have in common.
“I just wanted to meet all the people I could, wherever I could—classes, my dorm, even the gym. Those were the people that I ended up sharing notes with in class, meeting for lunch; eventually I ended up becoming friends with them,” Maura says. “I haven’t kept in touch with everyone, because sometimes you find where you belong, and it may not be with those people you met the first week. But some of those first friends are my best friends now.”
2. Learn your way around
When Maggie, a sophomore at the University of Kentucky (uky.edu), showed up on her first day, she had no clue where she was going.
“When you don’t know where you’re going, it makes it seem a lot bigger,” she says. “The unknown is intimidating, and campus felt that way until I got my bearings.”
Pick up a map of campus before your first day of classes, and walk your schedule.
3. Talk to professors
Your professors have a lot to offer you beyond the classroom.
Indiana University School of Journalism professor Jim Bright suggests staking out a particular seat in large classes. For him, seeing the same face in the same chair helps that person stick out.
He also suggests introducing yourself. You don’t have to make your professor your best buddy, but you’ll be more memorable if you tell them who you are, ask questions, and stay engaged in what you’re learning.
4. Get involved
At any big school, there’s a huge variety of interests and opinions, and with that comes activities from political groups to sports clubs.
With all of those options, it won’t be hard to find one that’s right for you.
5. Stick with it
When you get to campus and feel like college isn’t what you wanted it to be, don’t get discouraged. By sticking with it and being patient, you will eventually learn the ropes and adjust to your new environment.
Courtney Caudill hails from Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a student at Indiana University (indiana.edu).