From Top Dog to Low Man- The College Transition

In the spirit of the upcoming school year, here’s my advice to all the freshmen out there embarking on their new journey!

We think we can do everything. It doesn’t sound like too much, because you commit to each responsibility one at a time. Then, you sit down at your desk and BAM; there is an elephant sitting there. From your chair you look at your to-do list, you stare at this monstrous pile of homework, club tasks, and social obligations and you want to cry. That packed schedule is your elephant and you sit at its feet thinking “there is no way I can eat this elephant”.


In some cases, this is true. You may have too many obligations, but more often than not you just are not applying yourself in the most efficient way. Being overwhelmed leads you to procrastinate, because you will never finish it all. Or so you think.

Freshman year is a time of transition, the likes of which you’ve probably never experienced before.


1) Your parents leave you. They actually leave you. For the first time, you are the most alone you’ve ever been and that is a scary thought.


2) Whatever group of friends or support system you had in high school isn’t here. No one here knows you and, maybe worst of all, you don’t know who to trust.


3) Maybe you’re an only child or maybe you’re one of five. Either way, living in a dorm requires a major adjustment. Sharing bathrooms with non-relatives can be like nailing jello to a tree. The food is weird. The bed is hard. And no one cares whether you’re sick or not.


4) You want friends, to belong to a group. Due to that perfectly natural goal, you join EVERYTHING. One of those clubs is bound to work out, right? Or, on the other hand, you join nothing. You want to sit back and watch the drama unfold before you decide who you want to be. News flash: both are perfectly fine.

Here’s my freshmen horror story: I met a roommate on Facebook and we both decided to live in the Leadership house, Lambert Hall. Our room was small, but I loved it. Two weeks into the semester, I got strep, two ear infections, and bedbugs. On top of all of that, my roommate wanted to live with someone else. There I was sitting in my laundry basket on the floor of the Hampton Inn thinking there was no way this whole college thing could be any worse. Eventually, I got a new roommate who is my best friend, got a 4.0, and joined a sorority in my first semester. I survived, and you will too.

My guess is that you’re more well-adjusted than your peers. You’ve probably been to a sleep away camp or handled club positions before. That’s great! Yet, college is a completely different ball game. There is no way to tell how prepared- or not- you are for classes and that, my friends, can be a huge variable. You don’t know what you’re doing, but it’s okay, because we do (sort of!).


So, how do you actually go about eating anelephant?

The answer: one bite at a time.

Start here:

How stressed do you feel in these areas of your life?


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
I have too many friends to count I have enough friends that I feel comfortable I have good friends but would like to make more I have one good friend, but I would like more I’m happy with the friend I have, but I need more My friends are okay, but I need cooler friends I have many shallow friends, but no good friends I think I need a huge number of friends to be happy I’m worried I won’t meet any good people I’m having a lot of difficulty connecting with people


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
I can comfortably get my work done, attend class, and still have social time I get all of my work done and attend class, but I don’t have free time during the week I get all of my work done and attend class but don’t socialize often I get most of my work done and attend class but don’t socialize I spend most hours of the day doing work, but I get it all done I spend hours in the library each week, skipping sleep I go to class, but can’t seem to finish all of my work I finish my work, but don’t go to class I can’t finish all of my work when it is due I’m having a lot of difficulty handling coursework and going to class

Overall Comfort (dorm life, food, etc.)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
I hate living here; I dream of Christmas break I’m very homesick and haven’t settled in I hate living in dorms, but I’m getting used to the college life I sleep well sometimes in my dorm, but I miss my family I’m not quite comfortable, but I’m getting there Some days are better than others, but overall good I have two to three bad days, but other than that, I’m happy I have one bad day a week, but other than that, I’m happy The food could be better, but life is good I feel completely at home here

What are three things that would improve your experience?

  1.   ___________________________________
  2. ___________________________________
  3. ___________________________________

What is your BIG goal for your semester? (It’s okay to have more than one, but be careful not to get overwhelmed):


Now, try this tip:

The Four Square Method

Due Now Due Later




Less urgent 3


This method was taught to me by Dr. Reiner in the psychology department. First, organize your tasks into their respective boxes. Then, when it comes to actually completing the work, do them in order of the numbers in the boxes. This seems counterintuitive, because the tendency is to do everything that is due now first. Think about it. Quick worksheets or a set of practice problems are usually in quadrant three. Therefore, you end up thinking: I have plenty of time for that. Two hours of Netflix later and you still haven’t started it, but it’s okay because it won’t take you long. Not true. Hence, it makes more sense to at least start some of your big projects that are not due until maybe next week. Even writing just an introduction for that big paper makes a difference. You can’t imagine how relieved you will be when the paper is due the next day and you are not looking at a blank Word document.


“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

― Martin Luther King Jr., Let Nobody Turn Us Around: Voices on Resistance, Reform, and Renewal an African American Anthology



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