An Important Word to Remember When Leaving for (or sending your child off to) College

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Last week I participated in a webinar presented by Harlan Cohen, author of The Naked Roommate.  In his presentation, Cohen reminded us that the transition to college WILL BE UNCOMFORTABLE.  As counselors, parents, and teachers, we tell our students and children how lucky they are to get to go to college – that they are headed off to the best four years of their life – that they will be among people just like them – that they will have the opportunity to learn interesting material – that top-notch facilities will be at their fingertips…  Our students and children know that – BUT it doesn’t change the fact that UNCOMFORTABLE can not be avoided. UNCOMFORTABLE comes with the territory of change and newness.

Navigating the UNCOMFORTABLE in the college transition is an important hurdle.  The skills students learn and use in this transition go into their toolkit for the future.  The fact is, we are faced with uncomfortable situations throughout life.

I felt the freshman uncomfortable feeling just this week when I attend the IECA  (Independent Educational Consultants Association) conference in Orlando, Florida.  At the happiest place on earth, amongst people whom I knew I had a lot in common with, presented with a candy shop full of information and learning opportunities, I felt uncomfortable.

Business travel uncomfortable parallels college freshman uncomfortable in many ways.  I entered a new and exciting environment, which I chose, but where I did not know the lay of the land or a single person.  I had no safety net to turn to, no wing-man by my side, no familiar paths or comforts.  I had to pull out my toolkit and manage the uncomfortable.  I’m thankful that I had this experience because it reminded what my students feel when they head off for freshman year. As a counselor and parent, it’s easy to forget.

As I navigated the uncomfortable this week, these were some tools I used – the same tools I recommend for students transitioning into college.

Tools to Navigate the UNCOMFORTABLE

Have the Right  Attitude:

  • Feel confident in the decision you made to attend this particular school.
  • Plan to succeed there.
  • Expect it to be uncomfortable at first and plan to step out of your comfort zone.

Practice Self-care:  Do what you need to maintain your personal balance.

  • Exercise daily
  • Eat healthy meals.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Find quiet safe places to retreat when time alone is needed.
  • Be there to learn about what interests you. Do not feel pressure to get good grades right off the bat.  Interest in soaking up as much knowledge as possible, makes grades came naturally.

Practice Controlled Caution:

  • Before going out think about possible scenarios and have a plan… it takes time to learn who you can trust in a new environment – the one person you can truly trust is yourself. Remain in control of your decisions.

Make Connections and Initiate Conversations:

  • Introduce yourself and make connections – other people are feeling uncomfortable too.
  • Attend ice breakers and freshman activities.
  • Take advantage of the programs offered to acclimate.
  • Join a small group where you will be among people who share your interests (sports team, band, chorus, prayer group, action committee, poetry club, service organization, book club…there are many groups and clubs )

Know yourself – Be yourself – Expect the Unexpected – Be Patient – Remember, it WILL be UNCOMFORTABLE at first.

As a follow-up to this article, the IECA Conference was a huge success.  I learned a lot and made great new friends.  I will be sharing my new knowledge with you in future posts.

Sandy Aprahamian, EDNavigators