College means different things to each person, but the one thing it means for most people is more freedom. You will be responsible for going to class, navigating around campus, and finding help where you need it. Adjusting to college life can be difficult, which is why most universities have a strong network of people, organizations, and services that will help you get involved and make the most of your college experience.
Even though you have attended school for most of your life, college differs greatly from what you have experienced. Some schools have attendance policies for first-year students, but for the most part, it is your responsibility to attend class and turn in assignments. Professors’ teaching styles vary greatly, but in most cases, the approach is collective and collaborative learning. Learning is a shared process between you and the professor. Professors create a syllabus for their class so that you know what assignments are due and what is expected of you. However, you are responsible for attending class, doing assignments, and meeting your potential.
Sharing the responsibility means that if you are having difficulty, you need to seek your professor’s help. Most universities require professors to keep office hours during the week. If you do not understand an assignment or need help, stop by and visit with the professor. Some professors prefer that you make an appointment. Professors are also responsive to e-mail and phone calls.
If you need additional help with class work, there are resources available on most campuses. There are organizations that provide tutoring, and some departments have their own tutoring services. Contact your professor or the department to inquire about tutoring opportunities. Most universities also have writing centers. The centers offer help with all stages of the writing process and in all subject areas. Some writing centers are traveling, meaning that each night they meet in a different dorm room or space. Contact your writing center for a listing of their hours and programs.
For students who are looking to get involved outside of the classroom, the best place to start may be in your dorm. Your resident advisor (RA) organizes hall events to create a sense of community and introduce you to different events and opportunities on campus. Sharing a room, possibly for the first time, can be tricky. Your RA can help you adjust to college dorm life as well. If you have a roommate issue and need a moderator, your RA will help. Most dormitories also have a resident director or resident coordinator who helps organize larger, all-dorm events and will help if a problem becomes more complicated.
The Office of Student Affairs oversees most organizations and services that deal with college life beyond the classroom. Among these services (but not limited to) are student housing; food service; health, wellness, and counseling; activities, organizations, and leadership development; campus ministry; and recreation and intramurals. It is a large umbrella, but if you contact your university’s office of student affairs, you will find a wealth of knowledge and a continuous list of events, organizations, and services that will help make adjusting to college life easier.