Graduating from high school in the spring, working or relaxing during summer vacation, and starting college in the fall is a familiar path for many. These days, though, more students are waiting until the spring semester to begin their freshman year.
A 2012 report by the National Student Clearinghouse Center found that over one in four first-time students at American colleges and universities begin classes in January rather than August, according to Huff Post Education.
The delay is caused for a variety of reasons. Some high school seniors are placed on waiting lists at their dream schools and eventually offered January enrollment rather than starting college in the fall. Other students opt for a one-semester hiatus from school to intern, work, travel, or volunteer. Some simply take a break in hopes of figuring out what they want to study.
Some students at Hamilton College took advantage of an overseas program that the school offers, studying in London during the fall but starting their first freshman classes on campus in January, reports WKTV, the NBC affiliate in Utica, New York.
Whatever the reason, starting classes a few months later than other freshmen might feel a bit unnerving. Friendships have been made and cliques have formed. Even for students who excelled in high school, entering the world of academia after several months away can be a challenge. School is school, but there are plenty of differences between high school and college.
Even so, it’s possible to completely possible to have a successful first semester. Here are a few suggestions to help you out along the way:
1. Go to new student orientation, even if it’s optional.
2. Take an organized tour of campus and explore on your own.
3. Strike up a conversation with someone sitting next to you.
4. Ask a stranger if you can sit with them in the dining hall.
5. Arrive early for class to chat with other students.
6. Meet your professors or TAs after class or during their office hours.
7. Join a study group, club, or organization on campus.
8. Attend free events like concerts, movie nights, game nights, and club info sessions to meet new people.
9. Go to class and stay on top of your assignments. Don’t skip classes or procrastinate on studying or projects!
10. Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it—with schoolwork or your own well-being. Visit the study center for your academic needs and the counseling center for your mental health needs.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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