The 5 Phases of Adjusting to College Life
Boise State is kicking off its fall semester this week, and students are going through a roller coaster of emotions. Excitement, fear, and culture shock will all play a role over the next few weeks, but there is a way to get through it.
I remember the emotional swing I felt during my first few days at college at the University of Nebraska, and sure I wouldn't want to relive it. I was a scared, shy little thing from a town of 720 people, and moving to a campus of 25-thousand students was a smidge intimidating, plus the bed in my dorm was uncomfortable and I barely knew my roommate. College life turned out to be great and it ultimately gave me a big confidence boost, but the first few weeks were an adjustment for sure.
There are several phases that students will go through this semester, according to the experts, and they'll especially hit first-year students hard.
1. The honeymoon. Everything is exciting and new, and by everything, we mean the classes, living space, friends, the cafeteria, and maybe even the city. It's a totally new world and that can be exciting at first, but it can turn to a freak out in a hurry once the realization sets in that the situation is going to last a good while.
2. Culture shock. The culture isn't created by fellow students alone. The campus rules, values, programs, and systems also help create the culture, and again, it's all new and different. That can lead to frustration and fear, and a panicked call to mom. I made that call on the second day of my college career when an intimidating syllabus put me over the edge, but Mom calmed me down and I got back to work. It's a process.
3. Recovery and adjustment. Did I mention that it's a process? Things start to improve and students get to a little plateau where it gets easier to maintain the schedule, classes make sense, and the grades start rolling in and they're great, which creates momentum. Yes, that's how it's going to work.
4. Isolation. College Parent Central says during this phase, students "begin to confront some deeper, more personal differences between their values, expectations, and lifestyle." Sometimes that brings the need to turn inward to understand it all, and that leads to isolation. And sometimes it brings a change in major, a breakup with a boyfriend back home, or some really introspective blogs and social media posts.
5. Assimilation and adaptation. It would be great if we could launch ourselves right to this phase on the first day of class, but we're usually a few weeks in by the time we accept reality and feel adjusted.
Looking back at my college years, I would tell my freshman self to persevere, not take the whole thing so seriously because it's temporary, and surround myself with encouraging, inspiring people. The college experience is what you make it, and the right people help.
Good luck! It's gonna be a great year.