The college process is pretty stressful for everyone, no matter your circumstances or the schools you’re looking at. For this reason, it’s really disheartening when all of the work doesn’t quite pay off and you don’t get into the school you were aiming for.
Maybe you didn’t make it off the waitlist, or you ended up at a safety school. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) make the most of the college you are headed to! It’s time to get excited about where you are going to school, and here are seven ways to do that.
1. Do more research
More knowledge about the school you’re going to attend can only help you once you get there. From knowing how to get around to having the scoop on the best nearby restaurants, researching your school and the area it’s in will ensure that you have plenty to do when you get there. Look up activities on and around campus, plan day trips for the weekends to nearby cities or towns and find a great off-campus cafe to study in when you need a break from campus life.
According to Kristen Harris, a freshman at Florida Southern College, researching the area made her college experience much better. “I fell in love with my second-choice college when I learned that there were two Targets in the city, a Starbucks on campus and a library within walking distance,” she says. Knowing your surroundings is a great way to make a college feel like home.
It’s also a good idea to figure out what clubs you may be interested in getting involved in! Club fairs and other orientation events can be really overwhelming. You might sign up for a dozen activities, but it’s hard to actually get into them if don’t have a genuine interest or if you don’t know what an organization actually does.
2. Start reading the school paper
This is a great way to get invested in your school. If you keep yourself updated, you’ll probably become more interested in the ins and outs of your college. Plus, this also gives you plenty of topics for conversation with all of the students you’re going to meet!
By keeping tabs on student publications, you can learn useful information about student-loved activities and traditions. You can also get familiar with any new lingo the school might have, so you don’t feel like the odd one out when these kinds of topics come up. If you’re interested in sports, the college newspaper should be a great resource for getting to know the teams and for planning the games and matches you want to go to!
Additionally, following your college’s various social media accounts can help you get a better feel for campus life and create some attachment to the school. Mara Hyman, a recent graduate from the University of Southern California, says, “I surveyed my school’s media presence before I attended and it got me really excited!” Twitter and Instagram accounts for your school will give you an inside glimpse into the daily experience of students, and will help you keep up with your college’s news.
3. Get in contact with people through Facebook or discussion boards
There are usually Facebook groups made for class years once people start confirming their matriculation at college. Look out for yours, and once you’ve joined, let the stalking begin. If you see someone who looks interesting, just go ahead and send a friend request. This phenomenon is well-known and completely acceptable to do, especially your first year.
Helmi Henkin, a sophomore at The University of Alabama, suggests this exact thing! “[I recommend joining] any Facebook groups meant for people in your class, so you can start to get to know the people you’ll be going to school with,” she says. “You never know who could end up being your best friend for life, and it’s always nice to have some familiar faces in your classes.” It might seem daunting to start talking to people online that you have never actually met, but remember that these people are in the same situation as you—nervous and looking to make friends!
Once class registration has taken place, you should also post your schedule! Find someone to sit with or form preemptive study groups. These pages are also really helpful for finding a roommate or for reaching out to them if you’re assigned one randomly, which you should also do.
4. Figure out your courses and get the details on professors
Check out RateMyProfessors.com to get the lowdown on the best professors at your college, as well as the ones to avoid. Your school might have its own version of the site, so you may have to do some extra searching to find it, but this information is really useful when you’re planning your schedule. Reach out to these professors for syllabi or additional information if you feel so inclined––this way, you’ll stick out on the roster and feel more comfortable asking them questions once you get to school!
Researching classes and programs of study on your own, while daunting, is really useful in terms of getting your footing with what your school has to offer. Missy Rose, a high school college guidance counselor, says, “If you have a clear enough interest in a discipline…talk with professors.” Acquainting yourself with the department you might be interested in majoring in, or just getting a better general idea of what you might want to study, will make things far less overwhelming when the time comes to declare your major!
5. Take advantage of orientation (or plan a separate visit)
Why not get more acclimated to your future home? If you’re up for it, you can contact folks in the groups or clubs you are thinking of joining or the people you’re rooming with to coordinate meeting up! Actually walking around on campus gives you a much better sense of its feel and of the student vibe, and it will make things feel less crazy on move in day!
“At orientation, talk to everyone you meet,” says Helmi. Even if you don’t necessarily hit it off, it always makes school feel like a warmer and more welcoming place when you find all the people you’ve met wave to you while you’re walking to and from classes!
Rose suggests talking to as many students as possible, as well as “with advisors and…the study abroad person and with people in the career center.” Reaching out to upper class students while you’re on campus will be really informative as well! Get an idea of what they love about the college and what they discovered was different once they actually got to campus compared to their expectations of the school.
6. Make plans for when you actually arrive on campus
Why not get started on planning your dorm room décor? Pre-college shopping is not only an effective way to take your mind off the second-choice woes, but envisioning your living space and perfecting this sanctuary will force you to view at least one part of your future school with a positive attitude! Don’t forget to get pictures developed and bring some of your current room’s little trinkets to make your dorm feel more homey and less foreign.
You can also look up what will be taking place when you get to school. During syllabus week, you will have plenty of free time to get to know campus and check out special events taking place. Your college and its student organizations pages will likely have events planned for at least the first week or two of the semester.
Whether they’re information sessions or parties, commit yourself to at least a couple and force yourself to go once you actually get to school. Try to spend as little time in your room as possible so you don’t have the chance to be sad about being at a school you didn’t plan on!
7. Consider the opportunities your school has that your dream school did not
No two schools are exactly alike. Programs of study, student organizations and abroad programs differ widely between colleges and universities. So, chances are, the school you’re going to has some incredible opportunities that your dream school did not have! Rose has seen “a decent percentage of students who fixate on a first choice…and it doesn’t live up to their unrealistically high expectations.” It might be the case that you were interested in a certain school for the wrong reasons, and your second-choice might end up being fulfilling in areas where a dream school would have fallen short!
For this first-year graduate student at Florida Atlantic University Sydnee Lyons, ending up at a second choice school was due to financial reasons. While at first this may have been disappointing, it meant that Sydnee was later able to travel to Italy and France and to volunteer in Honduras. “If I’d gone to the private schools I’d initially been accepted to at the time, I wouldn’t have been able to afford all of the additional trips I got to go on,” she says. Talk about a great silver lining!
College is completely what you make of it. Take advantage of being in a new place (even if you’re close to home), and make it your own. Remember that if your experience does not get any better, transferring is always an option. Give your school a chance, and remember how many people would love to be in your position at all! Rose says, “If you go in expecting the worst, that’s most likely what you’ll find, because that’s what you’re looking for.” This means it is essential to get ahead of the game and conquer any negative vibes you may be having.
There are plenty of opportunities after your undergraduate years to go after what you want, as well. Second-year graduate student at Emerson College Alaina Leary says, “I told myself I could always attend my top choice for graduate school, and that’s what I did! I just finished my first year there.” Don’t forget that college is not the last exciting thing you’ll do in your life!
More than anything else, it is important to keep an open mind about where you are going to school in the fall. If you don’t at least attempt to like it, there is no way it will be enjoyable at all, and that is not what you want! Don’t forget to check out these first week tips once you get there!