By Sam Coren
Maybe you were deferred from your top choice college and had to start in the Spring. Or perhaps you wanted to take some more time off between high school and college. Or you might just be a transfer student who decided to start the new year at a new school. Whatever your reason is for starting college in Spring semester is, one thing is for sure: it’s a bit “different” than starting in the Fall.
When you see students all around bouncing from classes to activities with established circles of friends, it’s easy to feel left out. So what can you do to get caught up to speed?
Whether you’re a freshman or a transfer, here are a few ways to quickly get acclimated to your new school:
1. Don’t be afraid to tell people you meet that you’re new.
This can feel a little awkward, especially if you’re an older transfer student around first year students who have been on campus for a semester. But even if you’re nervous about openly declaring your newbie status, it can work to your advantage. Most people will be willing to help you out – whether it’s sharing the best short cuts for getting to class, recommending clubs to join, or introducing you to new people. Every student around you has been in your shoes before and knows what it’s like to start at college from scratch. It’s ok to ask a lot of questions when you start meeting other students – you need answers!
2. Avoid being attached at your roommate’s hip.
My second year at Northeastern University I ended up starting Spring semester with three new roommates – all of them transfer students. While I didn’t mind showing them around campus or hanging out with them from time to time, it started getting a bit dicey when I had to focus on schoolwork or spend time with other friends outside the apartment. They thought I was avoiding them, while I thought I was just going about my business – a classic roommate miscommunication. While roommates can be great social starting points, it’s important to not rely on them too much – get out there and make an effort to meet new people without them.
3. Join student groups that relate to your personal and professional interests.
Student activities are an excellent way to meet students outside of classes and your residence hall. It’s quite common for new students to join many groups at the beginning of a semester and decide to stick with one or two. Be sure to get a feel for the group as a whole and how much of your out-of-class time you can dedicate to it before going “all in.”
Joining clubs in Spring semester can be a bit tricky at some schools. Some colleges will hold student activities fairs for the spring semester that let you talk to many different groups at once before joining – others might not. If your school doesn’t hold an activities fair, be sure to hit up your college’s website for a listing of current student groups. Email the student leaders explaining that you’re new and would like to find out about joining. Some groups might have their own websites (or Facebook groups) where there will be new member information or a calendar of when the meetings are, so be sure to search for those.
4. Eating alone too much can be a downer. Find lunch buddies!
Just like high school – not having anyone to sit with at lunch can bum you out. If you see familiar faces in the dining hall from your classes, suck up your shyness and strike up a conversation. Meal time chats can be a good way to get to know people beyond small talk. If things go well – great, you just might make a new acquaintance! If the conversation is a bit stale and awkward – don’t sweat it! College is all about meeting new people; not everyone’s going to be your new BFF right away. Keep making an effort to meet new people and eventually you’ll find people you can click with.
5. Become a fixture at your favorite professor’s office hours.
While you might be worried about starting a social life with other students, don’t forget about valuable relationships you can have with professors. Even if you’re doing fine in class, it’s a good idea to stop by and introduce yourself to a professor whose class you really enjoy. Professors can be a huge help during your college experience, from career advice to connecting you with like minded students you might not have otherwise met. And don’t forget – you never know when you might need their reference one day for grad school or a job, so don’t just be another face in the crowd!
Photo: Skyline College PR & Marketing/Christianne Marra