I’m going to college…now what?

Here are some articles I wrote around various issues when students are making the transition to college. They were originally posted on Examiner.com, which is no longer online. The articles on this post are Making a Successful Transition to College, Considering Greek Life, and Winning the Roommate Lottery.

Making a Successful College Transition

Originally published June 20, 2016 Examiner.com

For the recent high school graduates moving on to college next fall, there are several things you can do to make a successful transition to college. According to Harlan Cohen, author of The Naked Roommate, identifying people you can turn to as resources and places you can go to on campus before you get there in the fall can make a huge difference. Also, realizing that college life will be a big change and to be patient with yourself in the process.

Your college success begins with your transition. How can you be successful? Cohen says to think about the three “P’s.”

People – figure out who are the 5 people in your corner (or who you want in your corner).

Places – where are your 3 places on or off campus for you to find connection, community, and support?

Patience – how much patience will it take for you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable? Impatient people panic, blame, hate, hide, run and give up. Give yourself some time and space to feel uncomfortable – others are in the same boat though they may be hiding it!

A great opportunity to help you start to find your “people” and “places” will take place during any summer registration or orientation program you attend. You will probably be both nervous and excited attending such an event, and may come out of it dazed from all the information you received. Try to make a mental note before you attend the event to keep an eye out for some people you might meet and feel like you’ve made a good connection with, or places on campus where you feel particularly comfortable (or want to explore more). After you attend the orientation or registration program, talk to you parents about some people you might have identified as resources (i.e. did you meet your faculty advisor, a peer mentor, another student in your major?) or places you thought especially spoke to you and your interests.

Considering Greek Life?

June 5, 2016

As high school students prepare to head off to college next year, many may be considering joining Greek organizations on campus. Some will be making the commitment before classes even start. Here’s some basic information about Greek life.

Not all colleges have Greek systems (fraternities and sororities) and those that do can vary in how the Greek system is run. In general, the Greek system is made up of chapters of either national or local fraternities and sororities. Most have some central theme, as their mission might be as a philanthropic, service or academic organization. All have some sort of leadership structure and even though they may have been created as an academic fraternity, they all have a component of fellowship (i.e. social life).

Some campuses have “houses” for their Greek organizations, where members can choose to live with their chapter members. Often these houses are adjacent to or even on campus. Other campuses might offer the fraternity and sorority members options for living in the residence halls on specific floors or wings of the dorms. Some do not allow Greek housing but offer chapter rooms where the groups can meet.

Most of the social fraternities and sororities get new members through a process called “rush.” It is basically an opportunity for you to check out the Greek chapters and for the members of those organizations to get to know you to see if you’d be a good fit with their group. There is either formal or informal rush, and it can happen during fall semester, spring, or both.

Some things to consider about joining a Greek organization include cost, commitments and motivation. First off, some students think that by joining a Greek organization and moving into the chapter house, they will be saving money. It is true that you could save on room and board, but most Greek chapters have national and local dues each year or semester. Most have some sort of pledge fee (that’s what they call new members). You could have weekly, monthly or semester “activity” fees, along with any other fees for special events like formal or informal dances, etc. So, don’t join a Greek organization because you think it will save you money; it won’t.

Time commitment is another big surprise for most new students. When you join a Greek organization, you will have not only your weekly chapter meeting, but as a pledge you will also have your pledge class meetings and time needed to complete the tasks set out for each pledge (including studying for your initiation test). Often you will have a big brother or sister in the organization that you will meet with, on top of whatever weekly “activities” are scheduled (think of not just parties, but if your group holds any fundraisers, events, etc. and the meetings that go into planning such things). So it’s not often just a once-a-week commitment. For this reason I encourage students not to rush until the spring semester, as it gives you time to get into the groove of being a college student and see how much time you need for studying before you commit to lots of extra mandatory hours as a Greek life member. Many campuses have moved to offering rush only in the spring just for this very reason, however there are still many colleges that have rush in the fall.

Finally we come to your reason for joining a Greek organization. What’s your interest or purpose in joining? I’d suggest you identify why you want to become involved in Greek life (or any on-campus activity). What benefits do you think you will get from it? What do you think you can contribute to the group?

Greek life can be very rewarding, but its not for every student. It’s up to you to decide if Greek life is the right fit for you.

The College Roommate Lottery

May 19, 2016

You’ve gotten into college. You’ve sent in your enrollment deposits to secure your place at your chosen school. Hopefully you have also submitted your housing application (and deposit if required) as well. Many colleges have a fairly detailed questionnaire that you need to fill out for a roommate match, others have sophisticated almost “online dating” type systems where you can check out possible roommates and connect with them prior to signing on as roomies. Want to know what living in a dorm is like? The BigFuture.org website has some great articles on campus living.

No matter who you choose for a roommate, you need to know that it will never be smooth sailing. In a relatively confined space, under sometimes stressful conditions, people are not going to get along 100 percent of the time. If you are honest, you realize that you might have some habits that might annoy others (if you aren’t sure and have a sibling, ask them) and undoubtedly your roommates will also have their own quirks. Here’s a secret: you don’t have to be best friends with your roommate! You can have a perfectly cordial relationship but not have to be best of friends. In fact, it’s probably healthiest if your circle of friends at college is wider than just your roommates, and you spend time with others instead of hanging out only with your roomies.

Before heading off to college you might want to think about your future roommate relationships. Consider some of the issues or situations you might face, and how you could deal with them upfront to avoid or lessen conflict. While you might not necessarily create an actual contract with your new roommate, you should consider putting your thoughts on paper for a discussion with your new bunk mate. If you have a chance to connect with your roommate this summer, you might even bring up some of these issues to figure out where you both stand on things. You should also think about conflict resolution which goes more in-depth than just dealing with mundane issues that might arise. What kind of rules could you agree on in advance in terms of how you will deal with conflict and each other? Thinking about how you would want to be treated and extending that same courtesy to your roommates will help make roommate relations run more smoothly.

Good luck with the roommate hunt!


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