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To Anyone Starting College in January, Here’s My Advice

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Oswego chapter.

This time a year ago my mom and I got up at five in the morning and left to start a long drive to the other side of the state, why you may ask? The answer was to gather all of my belongings from my dorm on Long Island after deciding to transfer to a different school. After an almost 14-hour trip and some bagels to break the hunger, I was home and had a few weeks to prepare to start all over again. With that being said, I decided to write about some things I found out starting new, during a spring semester. 

More students usually start their college education in August when the fall semester starts, but there is still usually a large number of individuals who come in January to start their journey. Though from my experience and a few of my friends, we’ve had a difference in approach than when starting in the fall. 

The first piece of advice I have is don’t be bummed by a smaller orientation. Most schools will host their main orientations that often range through a whole week in August and usually as it is a much sunnier time, there are more events and tables set up around campus. Whereas winter orientation is usually set up in a smaller setting and inside. Compared to my fall orientation at a different school, this was a big difference regarding the setup, length, and overall experience.

When I attended my previous orientation it was sunny, and multiple events from meeting professors and staff, mixers in the middle of campus, football games, free t-shirts, and a mascot walking around everywhere. Whereas when I went to spring orientation here, we gathered in an auditorium and then would be split at some parts of the day to tour campus, try the dining hall, and win some small school spirit items. The orientation also fell at a colder time of year and given the campus sits right against Lake Ontario, it made for a more gloomy atmosphere when traveling through parts of the event. 

Though there were some positive aspects of it too, such as the length. Luckily this orientation was shorter to go through and wasn’t mandatory. At my previous orientation, the events might have been fun at first, but having a full week of mandatory events to go to was a lot right before a semester was starting. Whereas here, I was able to deal with the gloomy weather and walk for just a few hours, giving me still the weekend to settle in before classes began the following Monday. I also forgot to mention that during my winter orientation they gave us free food, which in a time of being a college student, you always are grateful for. 

Although this might have been a smaller piece than what is offered in the fall orientation, do not be bummed about this. Instead look around campus your first few weeks, likely any institution at this time will have countless parts of campus with clubs and organizations doing tabling. Campuses usually also put on events throughout the beginning of the semester to start students off on the right foot. Especially with it being a new semester, many events are usually hosted to get students more engaged. As well as, if you feel like you’re still missing out on what happened in August, many orientation events are open to all of campus for their “welcome week” in August. Such as this past August, I went to some of the events hosted for the welcome week that I didn’t get to experience in January and it helped me with that previous “fomo” feeling when comparing orientations.

My second piece of advice is do not feel like you are going to be “the new kid” of the school, especially when it comes to going to your courses. I think when we make such a big change like this, we feel we are new to everything or everyone, especially in the academic setting. Maybe it is because we are entering new buildings or classrooms we’ve never walked or sat in, but you don’t have to feel like you’re out of place. This is because most of the time, your peers in your courses will also be going to these classrooms and interacting with these professors for the first time. 

Unlike high school, colleges usually have a wider variety of courses, multiple professors in different departments, and allow students to take courses based on their major, minor, or electives they want to take. So, depending on some courses you might notice a few people who will be seen again later on, while others might have started like you, or might just be taking it as an elective. In any of these situations though, you shouldn’t have to worry about being the student that just got there, because that is how the system of college is. Each semester you reset to a new classroom with a new set of opportunities, assignments, and ideas. So rather than think you might be not in the loop with others who have been on campus longer, just think of it as you getting past a level through a video game or completing your next goal; it’s not feeling behind, but simply everyone is on their own path. 

Similar to the feeling of being an “outsider” my third piece of advice is don’t feel nervous about finding friends, you will. Now maybe it was because I first went to community college and then university, so I knew I would click with people eventually, but it is bound to happen. You might feel that everyone already found their group of people in the fall or has had them since before then, but that is not true. Friendship windows will always open, they are not just a bracket that opens and closes at certain times of the year.

I will add that I was lucky enough to go into this new institution that some of my friends from community college transferred to as well, but I also made a lot of new friends too. One way was to make friends with my housemates. As I was midway through junior year, I was able to be accepted into a forming style that gave me my own room with a shared living space and kitchen. Even though we all got the privilege to have our own spaces, I was worried this also might have meant that I wouldn’t have as much social interaction with them, but I was wrong. Once I moved in, I was given their numbers and we all would occasionally hang out and go to some events throughout the semester. This is also where I would start a friendship with three of my current housemates I’m living with this year. How our friendships came to really start you may ask, besides the fact I was hanging out with them more? Well, they all were also formed based on our similar music taste for Harry Styles, Mac Miller, and MF Doom.  

I also was able to gain friendships through clubs and organizations. Such as I joined a dance club, Del Sarte, and the HER Campus organization, which has granted me multiple friendships while also getting to take part in hobbies I enjoy dance and writing. Friendships also can happen after the first-semester mark, such as I am friends with some of my new housemates this semester and our neighbors. So, even though the transition to starting school in the spring might feel like it could be harder to meet people, it will all come together, you just have to trust the process.

My final piece of advice is not to wait to start or get involved until the following semester. I was hesitant to do a lot when I first started in January, but I’m glad I got past that. As said previously, I was able to get involved on campus, go to events, and make friends. Though doing these things also allowed me to feel better mentally overall. I left my last institution for financial reasons, but also mentally it wasn’t the best fit for me. So, even though it felt different at first, I’m glad I got more involved on campus because it made me love going to college again, getting up for class, to getting dressed for the day, it just allowed me to feel good again. 

So, in the end, as you start this new step in your journey, you might feel out of place for a second or just feel like you’re behind everyone else, but that is far from the truth and you will see that unfold with time. I mean take it from me, a girl who a year ago hadn’t even moved in yet, knowing maybe three people on campus. Fast forwarding to now, with many friendships and memories made. 

Hello, I am Leila LaJoie (she/her). I go by Leila, but sometimes people call me Laine. I am a 22-year-old senior at SUNY Oswego. I double major in Journalism and English, so I have always had a love for writing in general. In my free time I enjoy writing, reading, dancing, listening to music and going on walks. As far as what I focus on while writing, I'm very open, it really depends on what I'm into at the moment as well as what is going on around my environment. I am grateful for the opportunity to start this journey on Her Campus, as it will allow for me to have a writing outlet that can kickstart and further me into my career. It also will allow me to hear more about others' stories and experiences. A stepping stool if you will to my future and connections to be made.