The transition from senior year of high school to freshman year of college is undeniably a rite of passage. As every parent, teacher or counselor will tell you, freshman year represents a blank slate. Back in high school, everyone knew everyone, and while that sense of camaraderie can be comforting, by graduation you were probably ready for a change of pace. And you definitely got it, but based on the fact that you’re living out your college dreams socially distanced and over Zoom, it’s probably not exactly what you imagined. But that doesn’t mean your freshman year can’t be enjoyable and memorable!
If you’re feeling down or lost about how to find the silver lining and embrace the virtual reality of your freshman year, don’t fret. Chances are you aren’t the only one having mini-panic attacks about finding friends, getting the most out of classes, dating, joining clubs etc. No one can deny that your freshman experience is far from ordinary, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it special. Here are four ways to feel connected to your college, even when you can’t be there.
1. Facebook is your friend
Most colleges and universities have a pre-made Facebook group for incoming freshmen. If you aren’t already joined, try searching up your school name and graduation year. These Facebook groups can be a great place to learn more about both your school and your classmates. If you have logistical questions about where to buy your textbooks or how to login to your Zoom account, utilize the Facebook chat to get in touch with your classmates. You may even find someone who is taking the same classes as you or who’s interested in the same major!
2. Attend all of your Zoom classes (yes, even the lectures)
It can be tempting to ignore the emails you get that aren’t from your professors, but don’t do it. Especially freshman year, lecture halls with 200+ students are quite common. While you might have been tempted to skip a lecture or two back when they were held in person, now that everything is on zoom and there is limited communication with professors and other students, you should just bite the bullet and attend those bigger classes. Trust me, your GPA will thank you at the end of the semester.
Keep in mind that you don’t have to use Zoom just for class. You can also use it to form relationships outside of class. Send a message in the class chat to see if anyone is up for forming a study group for your introductory economics class. You and your group members will help each other study and, added bonus, you may even find a friend or two!
Academic work aside, given the remote learning environment, now is the time to get connected to clubs and other university organizations that you’re interested in. While most student organizations are likely not meeting in person, taking the initiative to go to the mass meeting for the debate team or the newspaper can be a smart way to build up your network on campus. Connecting online over Zoom can be awkward at first, but you never know; you may fall in love with a club that you never thought you would, or meet some new friends. Even though it’s a little intimidating at first, it can’t hurt to put yourself out there, and remember that your new classmates are all in the same boat.
3. Try to meet up in person
If you’re physically on campus for the semester with your classes online, you can and should try to incorporate some in-person interaction into your daily routine [safely, of course]. Invite the friend you made at orientation to have a socially-distanced lunch outside, or send a message in the class Facebook group to see if anyone wants to grab a coffee. Take lots of walks and seek out your favorite spots on campus. By finding your favorite places now, you’ll have a whole list of go-to study spots ready when classes are in-person again.
Not every school has a campus opened up for freshmen. If that’s the case, don’t panic. There are still opportunities for you to get to know new people in person. If you’re staying back home for the semester, consider reaching out in the Facebook group (seriously, this is your holy grail resource) to see if anyone at your college or university is from your home state. Who knows, someone who goes to your same university or college could be living a block away from you!
4. Accept the imperfections of the year
This school year presents a unique set of challenges for us all. Whether you’re on campus or off, across the country or in state, keep in mind that no one’s freshman year experience is panning out to be traditional, or easy. So here’s the bad news: you may not have your dream freshman year. Whether you were looking forward to frisbee on the quad, small class discussions, Greek life, joining club soccer,or being surrounded by new faces in the dining hall, there are just some things you won’t have this year. But here’s the good news: you have three more magical years of college ahead of you! Now, it’s certainly not to say that this year of college is doomed to go awry, but it’s still reassuring to know that this semester is only a blip in your college journey.
So, the best advice I can give is this: try not to stress too much, aim to enjoy yourself, and keep it all in perspective. Your journey at college is only just beginning.