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Oakes's Corner

Transitioning into College

By Oakes Hunnewell, Ed.M., CEP

The 2013/2014 academic year has begun and, like any other year, a large number of student across the country are making a transition from high school to college. For most, this is the first time they will be away from their parents for an extended amount of time. This can be a very anxious period for them. Jacques Steinberg, writer for the Education Section of the New York Times, says that many incoming students have never even heard the buzz of an alarm clock. Making friends after having been making new friends with the same peers for a number of years also causes anxiety. Those who may have struggles socially in the past may view this transition as a repeat of what they had to endure in high school. Academically, students have been told their entire lives that classes are not monitored, that students can come and go as they please and that grades are often based on a mid-term and final exam. Issues of new found independence, time management and finding a safe social niche run through each student’s veins as they first step foot onto their new campus. Much research has been done about this transition, and colleges and universities have developed programs for incoming students to make it as smooth as possible. But what can students do for themselves to further relieve this anxiety? Below are seven sure bets for making a successful transition to college-

  1. Get a roommate- Many would instinctually want to have a single room for their own privacy, a place they can go back to and recharge after being exposed to all the anxious moments that come with being in a new environment. The truth is that having a new roommate will ease the anxiety. First off, roommates commiserate one another so that they won’t feel alone. They make each other aware of upcoming dorm and social activities and meetings. They give each other the courage to go out, to meet people. They share their positive and negative experiences in and out of the classroom. They make sure that no one sleeps through an alarm and misses class. Roommates look after each other and provide comfort when comfort is needed.
  2. Use advisors and professors- Every student has an advisor. Most believe that the advisor’s role is to guide the student through selecting courses and making sure that the student’s academic needs are met. Professors are also believed to serve a finite role, that of molding the minds of their students. Though true, advisor and professors may also be role models or mentors, people ready to listen to the students’ issues and recommend or assist in a course of action. Advisors and professors are meant to make sure that students are having the experience they want to have and that they are meeting the goals they set out for themselves. Richard Light, Professor of Education at Harvard University, states that “the widely held belief that colleges should admit talented students and then "get out of their way" is directly contrary to what students actually want; students report that some of their most meaningful college experiences involve those teachers and administrators who actively "get in their way" by offering advice, opportunities, and challenges.” Students should seek out a different professor each semester to build a meaningful relationship with. By the end of their senior year, they will have eight professors they can go to for immediate assistance and advice on their future.
  3. Get involved- Colleges and universities have many ways students can get involved. Whether it be through varsity or intramural athletics, community organizations, clubs, theater, Greek life, student government or even employment , students have a vast network of opportunities to meet new people and become members of the community. Professor Light goes on to stress that “extracurricular activities and jobs do not detract from academic performance; instead, they increase students' overall satisfaction with their college experience and contribute to learning.” Furthermore, by adding structure to the day, students are more apt to use their free time more productively. This is a valuable lesson in the effectiveness of time management.
  4. Find consistency in every day- A large portion of time management is the ability to identify a time to play and a time to work. By developing a consistent daily schedule, students are more apt to follow that rule. College is a rich academic as well as social experience for most. The social piece should not and cannot be ignored. It is an important part of growing up. There are plenty of distractions that may detract students from their work. There is an “Animal House” scene on virtually all campuses. By keeping a schedule, students can approach each day much like working adults do. They go to work between certain hours and, at the end of the day, they may feel deserving of a night out.
  5. Find a study partner or group- Studying with someone else or a group of others will increase the likelihood that students will better understand the material. In addition, often the workload can be so overwhelming that doing it all is impossible for some. By divvying up the work, nothing will be missed. Finally, a group can work to each individual’s strength. Students can be teachers as well.
  6. Welcome diversity- Through extra-curricular offerings, students are not only managing their time more effectively and actively exploring their personal interests but they are meeting a diverse population, one that was very likely absent at their high school. Through Professor Light’s research and student interviews, he was able to determine that “students are overwhelmingly positive about the value of racial and ethnic diversity, with white students being the most positive about it. Of 120 students that Light personally interviewed about this question, 111 readily offered examples of how they had learned from those of different racial and ethnic groups. Surprisingly, only about 20 percent of that learning occurred in the classroom, while 80 percent occurred in residence halls and while pursuing group activities such as rehearsals for theater or dance performances.”
  7. Explore unfamiliar subjects- For four years, freshmen students have been following a rigid curriculum. The list of offerings has been limited and they have grown comfortable with one subject or another. As freshmen, the tendency is to choose courses that are more familiar, courses related to subjects they have taken and liked. College is an opportunity for students to explore other topics and to develop other intellectual interests. There are core requirements at most institutions but students have four years to fulfill them. In addition, the requirements are so broad that many courses will meet more than one of them. For instance, Political Science and History often overlap as do other social sciences. By exploring subjects unfamiliar to them, students will be more apt to finding their true passion making their time in college more exhilarating.

If you would like to find out more about this topic, I recommend you purchase Professor Richard Light’s book entitled ‘Making the Most out of College: Students Speak Their Mind’ (ISBN 0674004787). Also, feel free contact me with any further questions.

Babson College, Wellesley, MA-


Babson College is located in Wellesley Massachusetts. Founded as the Babson Institute in the early 20th century, it was a place where people interested in business could go and get business training for two years. It became a four year college in the 1960s. Babson offers both undergraduate and graduate degrees in various business related fields of study.

Babson is unique in many ways. First, though it looks like any classic New England liberal arts college with its white pillared red brick buildings, extensive facilities and manicured lawns, it is one of the few stand alone business colleges in the country. In addition, though a college and not a university, Babson also offers graduate Business degrees through the Olin Graduate School of Business. Recently, the college has welcomed a new neighbor, The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Until the financial crisis in 2008, Olin was free to whoever was granted admission. Both Babson and Olin students can cross register and double major in both fields.

Babson offers majors in all areas of business. It is perhaps most known for its undergraduate and graduate entrepreneurship programs which are consistently ranked amongst the best in the country. True to form, as soon as students set foot on campus their freshman year, they are enrolled in the Foundation of Management and Entrepreneurship course. This is a one year course where students are put into groups to compete against one another by developing, marketing and selling their own products or services.

“The only way to understand what it takes to run a business is to actually run a business. That’s why during your first year at Babson, you’ll invent, develop, launch, and manage a business. Yes, a real business.”

Babson gives each group $3000 for start up money. Throughout the year, projects and services are evaluated by professionals. Periodically, one group will be dissolved and will be told to join another. This process is designed to simulate competition. Groups are also required to team up with a local community organization to which all profits are donated.

For more information, please contact Babson College, Office of Admissions, at (781) 239-5522 or at