High school graduates have maneuvered all the awkward, challenging or difficult phases that comprise high school. They have stood loud and proud, diploma in hand — evidence of the checkpoint pointing them to a collegiate adventure. They reveled in that moment, but now that Orientation has rudely snuck up on them, the questions come flooding and the worries emerge from dormancy.
While every high school graduate’s experience prior to arriving on Grounds is different, there are a few pieces of advice that will be helpful in their survival as a first-year. These tips and tricks hail from rising second-year students who have experienced it all first-hand this past academic term.
The beginning of the fall semester, Aug. 27, looms just two months away and suddenly, first-years will call a dorm their home, drown amongst their fellow students in the chaos of the activities fair and ready their backpack for the first day of classes. Second-year College student Catherine Renick described the nearly overwhelming experiences that can be characteristic of the first few weeks of school.
“You’re going to feel alone, and it’s going to be so much thrown at you at once,” Renick said. “You really just have to embrace it and … try and get as involved and be as outgoing as you possibly can … to make the most of your first year.”
Though no one likes to admit it, homesickness is a legitimate ailment for some. For those hailing from out-of-state and even for Virginia residents, the physical separation between home and Charlottesville can seem daunting.
Grayson Sallade, a second-year College student, Pennsylvania native and member of the Virginia men’s lacrosse team, shared advice on keeping the homesickness at bay.
“My spring semester, I got to U.Va. January 7 and left June 1 because all semester I had lacrosse, so I couldn’t go home any time in between that,” Sallade said. “Stay in contact with your family, it’s just a short phone call away. You might not be able to see them that often, but just being able to connect with people from home is always good.”
The transition from the norms of high school to the novelty of college life may take a little time to get used to. During this period of time, finding a good balance between academics and social life can be a practical goal to prioritize. Second-year College student Parsa Salehi relayed advice on maintaining sanity during this time.
“Keep the standards and morals that you’ve been raised with,” Salehi said. “Sometimes when people live alone, they tend to lose themselves and … get caught up in the whole independence thing. Remember that you still have responsibilities even though there is no one there to nag you about it.”
The prospect of a roommate is another unfamiliarity facing most first-years. Second-year College student Christian Ro discussed how the ties between roommates have the potential to either deepen or loosen as the year progresses.
“The relationship you think you have may always change, and that’s OK,” Ro said. “[It’s] all a learning process … learn to be patient and learn to communicate well, too.”
Based on the class schedule that incoming first-years arrange during Orientation and finalize before the Add/Drop Deadlines of Sept. 10 and 11, first-years may find themselves with a schedule quite unlike those from high school. Some classes begin at 8 a.m. while some discussions start at 8 p.m.
Second-year College student Taylor Barmak explained how to optimize the typical college schedule.
“In high school, you had class for most of the day,” Barmak said. “But in college you could have an hour in between classes, so you should make the most of that hour — get some work done, hang out with your friends or go to the AFC. Don’t just stay on your phone. It just makes the whole college experience a whole lot better.”
Not all of these topics will apply to every first-year though. Some will find the transition indiscernible and unnoticeable, while others will find their first year to be especially challenging.
“Step out of your comfort zone and try some new things,” Sallade said. “You definitely don’t want to have any regrets after your first or second or third or even fourth year knowing that you could have done more to meet new people. At the end of the day, it’s all about the experiences you have in college and the memories you make.”