I hope you have been following my recent blog articles – Growing Up With Undiagnosed ADHD, How I Learned to Control My ADHD and Anxiety, and Self-Advocacy: Being Your Own Champion. In these articles, I have shared my journey as a child with undiagnosed ADHD and how I grew up to be a young adult who successfully manages his ADHD and anxiety. In this last article of the series, I will share the story about how that young adult became a social butterfly and how you can hit your stride in college, as well.
When I got into the University of Mary Washington (UMW), I was ecstatic. I had a wonderful experience when touring the campus and learning about the school. I could not wait to join the welcoming community I encountered. Throughout my campus visits, I knew I could see myself being there. I felt it was my best college fit and was so happy when I was accepted. Throughout my time at UMW I can identify three key steps that helped me hit my stride in college.
Step One to Hit Your Stride in College: Make Connections
I have always been an extremely outgoing person. But in high school, I would sometimes suppress my authentic self in order to fit in with others. College was an opportunity for a fresh start, to put my authentic self out there, and to meet people and make friends who liked my best self.
Hi, I’m Sam. Who Are You?
In college, I was a social butterfly. Going from group to group and making friends with all kinds of people came naturally to me. For you, the way you make connections may be entirely different, but it all begins with introducing yourself and putting yourself out there.
Many colleges have structured programs that facilitate a soft landing and help you make connections so you will be successful and happy in college. My first chance to do that at UMW was the Nest program. The Nest program, which was an optional college orientation opportunity, let me move into my dorm early and meet a lot of new people who were also eager to go to college (my people!) I met some great people there and had wonderful early bonding experiences that eased the college transition. But the most important part of this program was that it made me feel confident in my ability to meet new people and make new friends.
The relationship that I developed with my Nest leader, Chris, was key to my comfort level. He helped me feel comfortable being myself and confident on campus by always shouting to say “hi,” even though he was a popular upperclassman. Finding that first person who is willing to help you become more comfortable and confident is a vital initial step.
Finding Your People
The next key step in making connections was my Freshman Seminar class called “Passion to Action.” Selecting an “FSEM” of personal interest connected me to like-minded students. In this class, we had a Peer Mentor named Emily. She was an upperclassman who was there to help us acclimate to college life. But, most importantly, she was the person who introduced me to the Orientation Program and inspired me to join the Orientation team during my freshman year.
The Orientation program felt like the final piece of the puzzle in hitting my stride in college. As a social butterfly, being an Orientation Leader and Orientation Coordinator in my sophomore and junior years was great. It meant that I got to meet new incoming freshmen and prospective students every day. I could help them feel more comfortable and confident in themselves, just like Chris did for me. Helping people and giving back also made me feel more confident and connected. It helped me become a campus leader.
Step Two to Hit Your Stride in College: Get Involved
Another fantastic way to find your people is to join a club! Most colleges are much bigger than high schools. This makes it easy to feel anonymous and adrift. That is where clubs come into the picture! They are a great way to build a smaller community and connect with people who have similar interests in the larger campus community.
For me, the clubs that I loved were the ultimate frisbee and volleyball clubs. But for you, the community service, science, political or sports club, or another club may be the best match. Finding your people becomes a lot easier when you can narrow your “small group community” down to two or three clubs in which you are interested.
Step Three to Hit Your Stride in College: Use Your Resources
College is not all fun and games, though. It is a lot of hard work. I know many people who did not have to study hard in high school but who quickly realized that was not the case in college. College is hard, but that does not mean it is impossible. Two of the resources that helped me the most were accommodations and study groups.
When I first got to college, I was tempted to try to be successful without the accommodations I had in high school. That would have been a tragic mistake!
Unlike high school, where your parents are there to help, getting access to accommodations in college is entirely up to the student. The Office of Disability Services is there to help you. If you are like me and have a disability, they want to help.
My positive experiences with the Office of Disability Services and my professors were such pleasant surprises! If you are a college student with a Disability Services Letter from the Office of Disability Services, then you have federal rights to receive accommodations to meet your needs. Professors know that and they want to help you, too. Believe it or not, professors want you to learn! For me, I was able to get accommodations like preferred seating and time and a half on tests. These helped level the playing field like they did in high school.
For more information on accommodations and other disability services, check out your college’s Office of Disability Services.
Another great resource for me was finding people with whom I could study. Study groups were a valuable tool for me in college because studying was effortful, but hanging out with people was fun. Study groups became that happy middle place for me.
I would talk to the students and professors in my classes and ask if anyone wanted to study together for exams. I even had some professors reach out to the class for me so I wouldn’t have to ask.
Studying with other people also helps you meet people in your major. And if you have to miss class, you have people you can ask for help.
Bonus: Making Lasting Connections With Your Professors
The final step in hitting my stride in college was meeting the professors. Initially, the idea of going to office hours was daunting. And speaking directly with professors was a little intimidating. However, it was necessary to push through these feelings in order to get my accommodations.
Without fail, when I met each professor, I discovered they were incredibly caring and supportive mentors! My professors were invested in my success as a college student, and I knew they had my back. Each of them had a passion for their field of study and really wanted me to learn. Whatever support I needed, they were willing and eager to give.
Since I had to go to their offices in order to receive my accommodations, I spent a good amount of one-on-one time with all of my professors. In doing this, I built long-lasting relationships with those professors. I even had one professor (that everyone else was afraid of) bring me a card from her travels because she thought of me when she saw the card.
Forming connections with professors is also helpful because they have the resources and connections that you don’t have. As you get to know them, they will be willing to help you out more and more and may even help you get an internship! Getting an internship is very important during college and sometimes it’s even required! My internship was a wonderful experience in which I got to make even more lasting connections.
Outside Support to Hit Your Stride in College
Another great resource that can help you hit your stride in college is a coach who specializes in coaching college students! College is an exciting adventure, but it can also be very challenging and even overwhelming at times. If you find yourself in this situation, please check out our coaching services for college students and contact us to explore coaching options.
We have helped dozens of college students succeed in college. We would love to hear from you and provide a pro-bono consultation session to see if we might be able to help meet your needs. Please leave your comments (below), we would love to hear how you hit your stride in college!