Tips to Prepare for a Successful Transition from High School to US University: Part I
After having been accepted to a US university or college, you are likely spending much of the summer before your freshman year preparing to enter university or college in the United States. For some, this may mean enjoying time with family and friends; others may be getting ahead with some of their studies or attending a pre-college summer camp. Regardless of what you are doing individually, most of you are probably feeling pretty excited — and also probably a little apprehensive. What will my classes be like? Will I get along with my roommate? How will I make friends? The transition from high school to college is a huge step and being nervous about this transition is completely normal. Don’t worry, to some degree every high school student experiences pre-college fears.
Orientation is the first place where you can begin to have some of your questions answered and the first step towards making the most of your university experience.
Arrive at your new school and freshman orientation with an open mind. You are not going to truly learn until you expand beyond what you already know. You may have a preconceived notion of what types of people go to your school. Open your horizons and don’t just seek out people who look like you or think the same. Instead, give each person you meet an opportunity. Learn about where they come from and what interests them. Try to meet people who have had different experiences from your own, join new clubs, or take a class on a subject that you don’t know about.
New students may arrive on campus a week earlier than returning students to participate in a Student Orientation Program. Plan to go to orientation and approach it with a willingness to get a little outside of your comfort zone. These programs are designed to help students acclimate to their new surroundings. Be ready to be asked the same questions over and over. Where are you from? What is your major? Which dorm are you living in? Everyone is feeling the same sense of nervousness and uses questions like these to try to find a common ground to build upon. As an international student, you may find it helpful to know your American states. For example, if someone you meet tells you they are from Kansas, it is helpful to first know that Kansas is a state, where it is in the United States, and a little about the state. Just a side-note, Kansas is in the Midwest and is known for it’s farmland because the state grows more wheat than any other state in the US.
Orientation leaders usually arrive to campus even earlier than new students and undergo a training program to become student leaders. It is their role to try to facilitate your adjustment to a college student. They are usually very enthusiastic about their school and their duties as student orientation leaders. With a week full of icebreakers and exercises designed to get everyone acquainted with each-other, it seems like their job description contains a mandatory statement about making you feel awkward. Ice breakers can be fun, silly, and always seem a bit awkward, but go with it. You might meet your best friend for life, or at the very least have someone to walk into the cafeteria with for dinner that night!
It might be helpful to prepare some responses to some of the typical ice breaker questions that appear in college orientation, like, “What is your favorite book? Another favorite is “Alphabet Freeze,” in which students are asked to recite the alphabet in unison, and when the orientation leader yells freeze, every shares something that they are looking forward to at school that starts with the last letter. Also, student orientations may contain a game of sentence completion, in which students are asked to complete sentences in a group setting such as:
Before I came to college, my main interests were...
The way I would describe my family is...
Five years from now I hope to be...
Arriving after having spent some time getting to know the school during the admissions process, some students feel that they know all they need to know about their school. We recommend that you attend the information sessions. You will be surprised about the breadth and depth of services that most colleges and universities offer to their students. You may think you will not need to know about the health center or that utilizing the career services program is still a long way off, but it is good to know what resources are available to you. Chances are, at some point in 4 years, you will need to know these things.
Take a Tour:
If they are offered, take another tour. Orientation tours are usually a lot more detailed than admission tours, and could include the local area attractions and restaurants. Orientation tour guides can probably tell you which restaurant has the best of your favorite food, the places where students like to hang out and even the dorm with the shortest queue to do your laundry!
Most colleges and universities will have some sort of activities fair for new students to introduce them to the clubs and activities that are available on campus. Attend the fair, as it is an opportunity for you to meet students with similar interests, and if an activity or club seems interesting, sign up and keep a look out for an email with specific information regarding that activity. After all, you’ll never know if you’ll like something until you try it.
You are not the only one who is adjusting to a new situation: your family are also getting used to having you away, and are likely very worried about how you are doing. Call home occasionally!