I remember moving all my stuff into my dorm on that sticky, humid first day of college. After all was said and done, my parents left and I sat on my bed looking out the window. I felt a mixed sense of excitement and loneliness. I thought to myself, “Where do I go from here?”
This fall, swarms of new freshman will be descending onto college campuses everywhere! If you’re one of them, you are probably feeling a little anxious about what it will be like. To help you out, we’ve put together a list of tips to help you survive your first week on your college campus.
1. “Settle in.”
This is the time you need to be okay with letting your parents/siblings help you. Getting all your stuff put away and your room set up the day you move in will definitely help you combat any homesickness and free you up to do other fun things with your time. Make sure you have some go-to snacks stashed away for those times during your first week when you can’t get to a dining hall. Another helpful tip that goes beyond your first week: if you can manage, try not to go home for at least the first month of college. At times, it can be tempting to leave when you’re feeling lonely or your laundry is piling up, but you really don’t want to miss out on making new friends on the weekends and establishing your new life at school.
2. Explore your campus!
Take some time to walk around your campus with a friend to get to know your routes to classes and where everything is located. Important things to find are dining halls, Catholic campus ministry, the location of all your classes, a good coffee shop, bus stops, the student services building, health center, libraries, the rec center, and more! Figure out what matters most to you and find it!
3. Get to know your Catholic Campus Ministry/Local parish.
Now is the time to figure out where your nearest Catholic church is located. If you’re lucky enough to have one on campus, it will likely be called a Newman Center or Catholic Campus Ministry.
After you locate your Newman Center, take some time to get know it a little! Introduce yourself to the priest, staff, and any new faces you meet there. Grab last week’s bulletin while you’re there, and make a note of the Mass and Confession times. As soon as you can, try to find a friend (or a group!) that you can go to Mass with on Sunday. It definitely beats going alone!
4. Join a Bible study/Small group.
Okay let me just say that this is one is CRUCIAL! Do it right away—avoid the temptation to wait until you’ve “figured out” what’s on your plate for the semester (that’s a sure guarantee it will never happen). Yes, it’s true that 9 out of 10 college students fall away from their Catholic faith during their college years. But what you may not know is that most of them do so during their first 96 hours on campus. No, it’s not because of an intellectual crisis of faith—it’s simply because they didn’t prioritize it, and the group of friends they found didn’t prioritize it either.
A Bible study is an amazing opportunity to meet new people who share your values and desires for following Christ during college. These people you meet will likely become your lifelong friends!
If you get invited to multiple studies early on, commit to the one that you really connect with. It’s not selfish to say no. But after that, don’t be flakey—COMMIT. You won’t regret it.
Now would be a great time to figure out if FOCUS is at your campus. If not, check out the FOCUS Digital Outreach, which is designed especially for students at non-FOCUS campuses. I promise you that your Bible study will be one of the highlights of your college career. Don’t miss out!
5. Find a mentor.
This is a great time to let an older student that you admire and trust invest in you and help guide you through this emotional roller coaster of a week (and year) of college. If you don’t already have someone in mind, be on the lookout for an older student you might meet around campus. An older peer within your major may be able to help you navigate through courses and professors. Also, as previously mentioned, joining a Bible study can be a great way to find this person, because your Bible study leader will already be keen on getting to know you!
6. Meet new people!
The one thing many college freshman worry about is whether they will make friends at their new school. The age-old fear of “but who will I sit with at lunch?!” will strike everyone again at least once in their first week. Don’t worry; you’re going to be okay!
You might feel overwhelmed at first at the amount of people that you meet your first week (and beyond) of college. FYI, this is the one time in your life when it’s not considered weird or creepy to let your walls down and talk to random people you meet everywhere you go: in your hall, classes, on the bus, in line at the coffee shop, and (obviously) at social events.
Finally, don’t get down on yourself if it feels like things aren’t going your way; it will likely take some time to find your life-long friends on campus.
7. Stay true to yourself!
You might be feeling the pressure of deciding how to spend your first few evenings and weekend of college. There is a lot to choose from! Be open to those opportunities to go outside of your comfort zone, but at the end of the day, stay true to who you are. Keep in mind that these first few weeks can be a tempting time to betray your moral values for the sake of “making friends.” Don’t feel pressured to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Seek out friends who will make you a better version of yourself and attend social events where those kinds of friends will be. And most of all don’t be afraid to be awesome! You’ve totally got this!