The skinny on your first year in college


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When you arrive on a college campus, spread out in front of you are literally thousands of new things to learn. For most students, it takes months to discover how to successfully navigate this new environment. Nine months, in fact, September to May: your first year in college.

Now you can have the answers that all first-year students wish they had from the beginning. And you can have them in about an hour.

The information in this book was gathered from scholars and students at colleges across the nation: two-year, four-year, private, public, large, and small. Aspects from each are tied together with the common theme every first-year student expressed: they needed help. We’re going to help by telling you the story of Jake, a first-year student at T.H.E. University. He is about to experience many of the obstacles first-year students encounter.

Your first year will be full of challenges, questions, and opportunities. In an hour or so, you’ll be better prepared.

Real Reviews

“The Skinny on Your First Year In College should be required reading for all first-year students. Many students stumble upon my office confused, lost or just plain frustrated. I wish I had a copy of this practical guide to give them all. It’s easy to follow, upbeat, positive and will empower the students that read it to make the right choices.”

- Deborah Mohlenhoff, Director of Activities, Tompkins Cortland Community College

“I really wish I read this in the summer prior to my freshman year. In fact, I think that all first-year college students should get their hands on this book. It was packed with valuable information that I think is crucial for incoming college students.”

- Michael Smith, Student, Clemson University

“This book is extremely successful in pinpointing the underlying difficulties encountered by freshmen and tackling them with real-life solutions. It can help any college student, not just freshmen.”

- Abby Minor, Student, Messiah College

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The skinny on your first year in college

  1. 1. your first year in college by sean heffron “I found myself nodding my head and saying, ‘that’s so true’ throughout the entire book.” Kelsey Consiglio / Freshman, Sacred Heart University
  2. 2. “OK. Academic Advisor, visual retrieval, study skills, note taking, planner … wow. It’s a lot to remember…” 108 PART IV: Handling the Stress175 177 “Plus, the amount of work I have SEAN’S OFFICE to do is only part of it! Do you “Sean?” know what it’s like to have so much “I know. Let’s take going on? Roommates, late nights, one thing at a time. homesickness, tests, classes, Go study. We’ll talk meetings, guest speakers … not to about handling all mention the amount of alcohol on the stress after your test tomorrow.” “Hey, good campus! I’m exhausted!” morning! How was the test?” 108176 178
  3. 3. “I think I did “I know it’s not easy, but having all of really well!” this responsibility is part of the college experience. Freshman year is not just about figuring out college, it’s about figuring out who you are and who you want to become.”179 181 “A little. I still have to finish a paper and practice my speech “Feeling better for tomorrow. Plus my little now that your sister back home is sick, and I feel bad that I’m not there to exam is out of help out.” In the next few years, your identity the way?” will change. As cool as you are right now, the person you are today is not who you are going to be for the rest of your life.180 182
  4. 4. Don’t believe me? Imagine if your parents still thought Chickering said one of the most important parts of of themselves as 18 year olds: hanging out in the high handling stress is the managing your emotions. This school parking lot, sneaking out at night, talking on the is critical in new environments like college where you phone with their friends all of the time … CREEPY! often feel overwhelmed, confused, or frustrated. “MOM?!?” Let’s go over a few stressful situations you may face this year.183 185 “Have a seat, Jake. You’re not the first Stress producer #1: freshman to be feeling stress ... I can assure Lower-than expected grades. you that! Experts like Arthur Chickering have been studying college students for decades. “College students statistically earn their lowest Grade Point Average (GPA) during the first semester of freshman And we know how to help you.” year. It’s natural to struggle academically at first. If you get a poor grade, discuss it with your professor. Students often tell me they are too embarrassed to talk to me about a bad grade. How does that help them?”184 186
  5. 5. Stress Producer #2: Personal relationships “First-year students often struggle “You know, college isn’t all about grades because they are afraid to ask for for some of us. Most of the people I talk help. The expectation that you’ll be to are more interested in hooking up with each other, or are too upset to study a fully functioning individual once because their high school relationships you step foot onto a college campus is are falling apart.” unrealistic. Knowing when you need help and having the courage to ask for it are lifelong skills.” Susan Damaschke, Coordinator of First Year Student Retention, Monmouth University187 189 “My point is, the quicker you ask for help, the quicker you will see improvements to Romantic relationships during the first year of your grades.” college are especially difficult. It’s no wonder that most college relationships don’t survive one year. l. Odds: Studies suggest that between 2% and 5% of dating couples last through college. ll. Distance: Going away to college often means high school boyfriends or girlfriends are miles away. In 2006 the Journal of Personal and Social Relationships found that 49% of couples in long distance relationships did not last.188 190
  6. 6. So what about a breakup? Stress Producer #3: Alcohol • Don’t fret too much – A 1996 study showed that “I’ve read countless books and articles suggesting about half of college couples who breakup become students set limits when they drink, and make friends later on. ‘conscious choices’ about alcohol. The problem is that students’ attitudes towards drinking • Change is good – A 2008 study in the Journal aren’t all the same.” of College Student Development found that new relationships can be beneficial to personal growth. • Freedom! – While Mel Gibson is the last person I’d take relationship advice from, when he yelled “Freedom!” at the end of Braveheart, he knew what he was talking about. As much as it may hurt, the end of a relationship creates a new freedom to discover who you really are.191 193 “Yeah, well my roommate’s girlfriend broke up with him, and now all Freshmen usually fall into one of he does is drink and party. It’s driving me nuts.” two categories when it comes to drinking alcohol: “Ah yes. Alcohol in 1. urprised at the amount and frequency of S college. That topic is underage drinking on campus, or so complex it deserves its own book.” 2. Part of the underage drinking culture, not questioning it at all.192 194
  7. 7. “The truth is, some of your classmates have been experimenting with alcohol or drugs for years, and they plan on continuing these behaviors. It’s these students who make access to drugs and alcohol easier for everyone else. • It’s still illegal to drink under the age of 21 in the As Martin Nemko says in his book, The All In One College U.S., and college alcohol policies often carry strict Guide, for these students, college is ‘the world’s most sanctions, from fines to expulsion. expensive cover charge.’” • Students who choose to drink rarely seek professional resources to learn responsible drinking habits. • Some college administrators feel that allowing students to drink will foster better alcohol education and safer drinking habits. In July 2008, college chancellors and presidents developed the Amethyst Initiative, which is in favor of lowering the legal drinking age.195 197 You may not know: • A person under the influence of alcohol cannot legally give consent to have sex. Therefore, alcohol is the Many students drink, but few number one date rape drug in America. students have conversations • Not everybody drinks to excess! Less than half of students reported abusing alcohol or binge drinking (5 about why they drink, and the or more drinks at one sitting). effect that drinking has on their • Binge drinkers are more than three more likely than lives. Here are some facts that non-binge drinkers to suffer judicial consequences students should be aware of ... such as probation or dismissal, and five times more likely to receive lower grades.196 198
  8. 8. “I can tell you to drink responsibly. I can tell you not to drink at all. But, I’m not WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE HOMESICK going to do either. All I want is for you to • Know you’re not the only one – The 2007 Your First have realistic expectations regarding your College Year Survey shows over 65% of freshmen first year, so you are in a position to make “frequently” or “occasionally” felt lonely or homesick. good decisions.” • Make college a second home – That feeling you get from being home is a great one. Imagine having TWO places that make you feel that way. It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen, eventually. It certainly won’t happen if you sit in your room. • Don’t run away from problems – Now is your chance to learn about yourself. If you teach yourself to run away, all you’re learning is how to avoid problems, not solve them. Speak to an upperclassman or staff member about what you are feeling.199 201 “In 2009, the percentage of Stress Producer #4: freshmen living on campus Homesickness who reported that they 50% “If the people you frequently went home for “I certainly didn’t expect people to 40% associate with in the weekend was 24.9%.drink so often. I feel like if I don’t, college are your This matched almost exactly 30% people will think I’m a loser or 24.9% friends, they won’t to the 23% of students who 23% something. It makes me miss 20% pressure you either. As withdrew or transferred. It’s my friends back home. They for missing home, most also no coincidence that 10% never pressured me into freshmen do! Homesickness most freshmen who transfer drinking.” is another big topic and a choose colleges closer to Went Withdraw major reason many freshmen home.” Home or Transfer leave school.” 2009 CIRP Report200 202
  9. 9. BIBLIOGRAPHY, A. (1998). The Shaping of American Higher Education:Emergence and Growth of the Contemporary System (1st Ed.).San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Danker, Jared F.; Anderson, John R. The Ghosts of Brain StatesPast: Remembering Reactivates the Brain Regions Engagedduring Encoding (EJ871424), Psychological Bulletin, v136 n1 p87-102 Jan 2010Evans, Nancy J; Forney, Deanna S; Guido-DiBrito, Florence(1998). Student Development in College: Theory, Research, andPractice (1 ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Knapp, M; Hall, J. (2006). Nonverbal Communication in HumanInteraction (6th ed.). Toronto, Ontario Canada: ThompsonWadsworthKnox, David; Zusman, Marty E.; Kaluzny, Melissa; and Cooper,Chris. College Student Recovery From A Broken Heart. CollegeStudent Journal, Sept, 2000Lally, P and Van Jaarsveld, CHM and Potts, HWW and Wardle,J (2010) How are habits formed: Modelling habit formation in thereal world. EUR J SOC PSYCHOL , 40 (6) , 998 - 1009. 10.1002/ejsp.674.
  10. 10. Sommer, R. (1967). Classroom ecology. Journal of AppliedBehavioral Science, 3, 487-503.Stanek, Steve. Want to change your major? You’re not alone;[Chicago Final Edition], Special to the Tribune. Chicago Tribune.Chicago, Ill.: Jul 31, 2005. pg. 1Stafford, Laura; Merolla, Andy J.; and Castle, Janessa D. Whenlong-distance dating partners become geographically close.Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, December 2006;vol. 23, 6: pp. 901-919.Tinto, V. (1993). Leaving college: Rethinking the causes andcures of student attrition (2nd ed.). Chicago: University of ChicagoPress.Zvonkovic, Anisa M.; Pennington, Darren C.; and Schmiege,Cynthia J. Work and Courtship: How College Workloadand Perceptions of Work Environment Relate to RomanticRelationships among Men and Women. Journal of Social andPersonal Relationships, February 1994; vol. 11, 1: pp. 63-76Findings from the 2009 Administration of the Your First CollegeYear (YFCY): National Aggregates, Higher Education ResearchInstitute, Graduate School of Education Information Studies,University of California, Los Angeles January 2010Findings from the 2007 Administration of Your First CollegeYear(YFCY): National Aggregates, Higher Education ResearchInstitute, University of California, Los Angeles, May 20082007 National Survey of Student Engagement2008 National Survey of Student Engagement2009 National Survey of Student EngagementJacobs, Lynn; Hyman, Jeremy. (2006). The Professor’s Guide toGetting Good Grades in College. New York, NY: HarperCollins.Ierardo, C. (2007). College Unzipped: An all-access backstagepass into college life. New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing
  11. 11. After years of studying how people learn, Rand Media Co has created The Skinny On™ series of books to provide a plain-English explanation of today’s most important topics. Information is presented in an entertaining story format.The Skinny on Your First Year in College prepares students for the firstyear experience - outlining realistic expectations for social, academic, andemotional challenges, and identifying resources for successful outcomes.As one administrator said: “You wouldn’t travel into new territory withouta map ... so don’t start college without this book!”“ I really wish I read this in the summer prior to my freshman year. In fact, I think that all first year college students should get their hands on this book. It was packed with valuable information that I think is crucial for incoming college students.” Michael Smith, Freshman – Clemson University“ his book is extremely successful in pinpointing the underlying difficulties T encountered by freshmen and tackling them with real-life solutions. It can help any college student, not just freshmen.” Abby Minor, Sophomore – Messiah College“ he Skinny on Your First Year in College should be required reading for T all first year students. Many students stumble upon my office confused, lost, or just plain frustrated. I wish I had a copy of this practical guide to give them all. It’s easy to follow, upbeat, positive, and will empower the students that read it to make the right choices.” Deborah Mohlenhoff, Director of Activities – Tompkins Cortland Community College about the author: Sean Heffron has worked with college students for ten years, specializing in the freshman transition and first year experience. learn more at: