How to Tackle the Transition to College

As a second-year student at UVM, I went through one of the toughest changes in my life last year: moving out of my family’s house and onto campus. Like many other first-year students, there were a lot of tears and one am phone calls home when I missed my parents and dog. However, when moving back onto campus during year two there were a lot fewer tears and a lot more rejoicing that I was finally “home”. 

Over the span of one year, my idea of UVM as “campus” changed into me thinking of Burlington as my home, and a year later, I can look back and see that there were many things that helped to make my transition to campus easier. One of the most important things for me was finding a new community. When I left high school, I had been a part of every single aspect of my high school community: I was an excellent student who was involved in theater, choir, band, national honors society, and three varsity sports teams. Coming to UVM, I didn’t have any of that. The giant group of friends that I had back home stayed back home and I traveled four hours north of everything I had ever known. 

friends road trip california fall break windows down music Molly Peach / Her Campus

One of the most important things when transitioning to college is balancing and keeping control of your schedule. In my first semester, I tried to keep the same schedule that I had when I was in high school, and found myself overworked, having little time to explore my new community. An off-campus job, four different clubs, and a schedule of 17 credits all culminated in multiple stressful nights, little sleep, and a lot of frantic calls home to my parents as I tried to convince them that I was going to “fail college” and that I missed them too much to remain four hours away from home.  girl stressed at computer energepic.com

In my second semester, I (finally) learned how to balance my schedule, and got in some extra time for sleep and exploring the beautiful city of Burlington. Everyone tells you that balancing your schedule is one of the most important parts of college, and to be honest, I chose not to listen. I thought that if I could come out at the top of my class in high school and be busy with extracurriculars and homework every night of the week, that I could do that in college, however, this proved untrue. After balancing my schedule I began to feel more comfortable on campus and learned that one of the first steps to successfully transitioning to college is to not try and take on too much too soon.

Another important part of the college transition is making a new group of friends. For me, it was incredibly hard to decide to go to school four hours from all of my friends and to be one of a limited number of students from my high school to go to UVM nonetheless (I was the only one in my graduating class). With a support network that was four hours away, I had no choice but to build a new one. While it wasn’t easy, I luckily lived in a suite my first year with a wonderful roommate and four other amazing girls, so I immediately had some points of contact on campus and felt less alone. However, I still wanted to make friends outside of my suite. I quickly joined HerCampus last fall and met some awesome girls, as well as joining the campus radio station where I found people with the same interests as me: playing alternative music to the greater Burlington area. I also joined the pep band as it was something that I already felt comfortable with from high school. Joining new activities, or even joining activities on campus that I already felt comfortable doing, helped me make new connections to other UVM students. By simply participating in campus life, you can easily grow your friend group and meet other students with similar passions. 

Another easy way to make friends is to sit with new people in your classes! It’s a little different this year because of social distancing and COVID-19 regulations, but I found a great group of people in one of my intro classes last fall. A plus side to meeting people through class is that you have someone to turn to if you have a particularly tough assignment or are struggling with a topic in the class (or if you need more members for a group project). While it might not be as easy as just making friends with your suitemates like I did, reaching out to other people in your class via email or social media helps you feel less alone in your classes. I’ve seen some incoming students recently post their course schedules in their class groups and ask others to reach out if they have any classes together. Whether you’re on-campus or at home this fall, that can be an easy way to make connections with others!

Laptop and Phone Photo by Austin Distel from Unsplash

One last tip that I learned was to have fun and live in the moment. Put your phone down and just go with the flow. My first semester was so hard for me because I was constantly texting or calling my mom and dad every other day, and didn’t think that every moment was its own special experience. A year later, I learned to take every day as it comes, and live it to the fullest. I took a lot of time this summer to try to detach from technology in general (which was super hard with the number of online courses I had taken since March) and try to live my life without distractions. Yes, there are still perfect times to call my mom and dad and talk to them about a new development in one of my classes or something new that I tried for dinner, but I don’t feel compelled to check in with them about everything anymore. One of the easiest ways to avoid feeling homesick is to start branching out on your own and try to find your place in your new space. After a year of being a student at UVM, I can say that I have found my space on-campus, and that it does get easier to say goodbye to your home and hello to your new adventures.