Nick Herberger is a speaker and life coach who helps students through their transition from high school to college and from college to the real world. Author of The Freshman 40: Everything You Need To Know About Your First Forty Days In College, Herberger has been working and living with students for almost 20 years, giving him an insider’s perspective on college life. He offers this advice to students embarking on their first 30 days of college.
“This just isn’t at all what I expected” is a comment that I’ve heard from literally thousands of new college freshman. I ask them, “What were you expecting?” The answer I get almost 100% of the time is, “I don’t know exactly, but I do know that this wasn’t it.”
Entering the unknown is often the biggest hurdle that individuals face when heading off to college. There is this perception of what college will be like as portrayed by the media. That image is very one–sided, often showing only the fun. Granted, college is fun—a lot of fun—but there is much more to it than that. In the midst of their first 30 days in college, these new freshmen typically find themselves disappointed and surprised.
Once the dust settles and they are in the midst of those first few weeks, they start to wonder whether or not they can be successful in college or even just survive.
There are two words that are key here—simultaneous and combination. These fledgling adults are hit from all sides in a simultaneous occurrence of events: They have been told by society that they are now adults and are essentially on their own; they have moved into a new “home,” typically a very small room, with a complete stranger, their roommate; add the strange sleeping hours and even stranger food options; and don’t forget the classes, where they meet professors who expect them to read and understand more information than seems humanly possible. Combine all of this with an overriding pressure to succeed, expectations and anticipation for the future, and finally the excitement of this newfound freedom of being on their own. This is the convergence of multiple storms during those first 30 days.
In those first days, it is vital that you take your time. Take it slowly. Don’t try to get involved in every opportunity that is presented. During orientation, you’ll be presented with so many options for extracurricular activities, and all of them will sound great. But you need to pace yourself and take it one step at a time.
It varies for each individual. First and foremost, talk to your parents to clarify expectations. Communication is the key here. You need to be clear on who is expected to pay for what. Don’t necessarily plan your entire four years in college, but do talk about the first term of your freshman year. You can and should revisit this topic during winter break, before you head back for the rest of your freshman year. Although you may have some issues and questions that are specific to you and your family, generally you’ll need to discuss the following:
Car: If you’re taking a car to college, who will pay for maintenance, gas, and insurance?
Phone: How will you deal with the “land line” and/or cell phone bills?
Clothing: You’ll need to purchase some clothes over the next four years. How will this be handled?
Laundry: Each load you put in the washing machine or dryer costs money, and so do all the laundry supplies. Is that something you’ll need to pay for?
Personal Supplies: Who will cover personal supplies—i.e., deodorant, hair products, medication, etc?
Food: Although you’ll probably be on a “meal plan,” what about other food and snacks, or eating out on occasion?
Social Stuff: Who foots the bill for going out with friends to movies, concerts, parties, and other social events?
School Supplies/Books: Each term will bring the substantial expense of new books and possibly other school supplies. Will these be your responsibility?
Miscellaneous: This is a catchall category for everything from CDs to your mocha latte. Set some guidelines for these random items.
The more that you can lay out on the table and discuss with your parents, the better.
Orientation is one of the most important things to take an active part in at the beginning of your first year. Freshman orientation is the only time in your entire college career that is totally and completely dedicated to you and your transition from high school to college life. Orientation is vital to your success as a college student. It’s a lot fun and at times may seem a bit cheesy, sort of like summer camp, but understand that everything done during orientation is intentional and has a purpose.
Beyond the first 30 days you’ll find yourself getting into a groove. Academically, you will likely be getting your footing and beginning to feel more comfortable with the rigors of the college classroom. If you’re struggling, you need to be willing to ask for help. Take advantage of your professors’ posted office hours. If you’re uncomfortable doing that, find the student learning center or the office where you can get additional help in the areas of study you’re struggling with the most.
Whereas residential students need to be careful not to get too involved, if you’re a commuter, you’ll need to be careful to get involved enough. You have the advantage of being able to get off the campus to do homework or to have a life beyond the walls of the school. But on the flip side, it can be more difficult to find ways to plug in. Typically there are opportunities available in the form of a commuter council or lounge. Take part in these, but also try to get involved with students that are living on campus.
Personally, I’ve found that I can’t do it alone and that I shouldn’t try. I need others and others need me. This is especially true in times of change, great or small.
…it always brings about growth and it always opens up new opportunities that simply wouldn’t have been there without the change!
The best change I ever made was leaving my position at Seattle Pacific University and moving with my wife and 2 children back to Spokane, WA. I had no job and no direction. But we did have a firm faith and a belief that this was where God was leading us, so we did it. It hasn’t been easy at all, but it has been an amazing time of growth, and we are beginning to gain an understanding of why we are here and where we are headed!
For more information on Nick Herberger, visit www.liveyourjourney.com.
"The Freshman 40" will give you the information you need so that you can be fully informed and will have realistic expectations of what your Freshman Year will be like....