One of the biggest “rites of passage” may be that of the college transition when a “child” enters into pseudo responsible adulthood surrounded by thousands of others in the same boat. Another way to describe this transition may be the “blind leading the blind.” Jokes and puns aside, transitioning into college takes work and requires skills related to organization, good decision making, ignoring peer pressure, and exercising strategies to keep self-esteem high during times of confusion and despair.
Many young adults have no practice in structuring their new life which requires setting a schedule to eat, do wash, study, socialize, go to class, exercise, join clubs or sports, pay bills, and sleep. Their old high school days were already structured requiring the young person to basically follow a schedule that had been repeated for 12 years, and allow their parents or guardians care about the rest.
College Fit or Not
Although there are many college students who are very motivated and have been independent for both basic needs and survival before they arrive at college, many of their friends need help. Some problems students face are those of “fit,” “belonging,” and “opportunity.”
Fitness of the environment:
A college visit and a few reviews of the catalogue does not a fit make once the student has unpacked the clothes, plugged in the computer, and purchased a meal plan. Young adults who may have thought they wanted a large big time football, 300 student lecture hall, stand in line and walk a mile for a meal campus may think differently once the semester has begun especially if isolation has occurred (this is true for students who picked a small school with very little going on). Some students may try to stick out the semester and figure where to go next while others will have to leave immediately to keep both their sanity and desire to learn. Do not write this emotion off as home-sickness, for some it may be but for others a constant noise has erupted inside that has left the young person off center and in need to find level ground.
Those students who need to leave have many options that a career counselor at the college or university can assist them with especially in determining if there is a refund, or if the semester courses can be completed on-line to receive credit and the process to transfer to another school. Fit is very important and just like shoes – although they may look nice, until you walk around awhile you never know if they will feel good on you.
Belonging with others:
Some students love the idea of what college life can offer, academics, athletics, arts, activities, freedom, and much more. However, all of those offerings are mainly done with other people – some very privileged who have traveled the world, and others who are the first generation to attend college – sometimes prior lifestyle identities clash and the disconnect pushes a student away.
Every college is a community and has a cultural identity – some are accepting of many cultures and ways of life and others are selective, biased, and unwelcoming. Beyond cultural bias are those schools that demand one to learn in a prescribed way and are not creative or problem-based in their educational approach and creative thinkers need not apply. Just as an environment needs to fit the student, so does the student need to feel belongingness as a resident of the college community.
Often times when a student does not feel he or she belongs, it is best to seek out colleges that have similar offerings with a demographic that best suits the personality of the student – there will always be time to broaden a lifestyle, making the college experience meaningful is the first step in growth.
Naturally college is to prepare students for the real world and assist them in their goal of contributing to society in a field they are interested in by utilizing their new learned skills and talents. The millennium filled with massive global communication, technological growth, and computer processors doubling in power every 18 months will require current college students to be flexible and broad based in their learning. Traditional learning in some colleges and universities can stifle creative and entrepreneurial thinking and it is up to the student to be an advocate, challenge professors and any wrote method of instruction, and seek out learning and professional opportunities to set him or herself apart from college mates.
College students no longer have to live or commute to a campus in order to learn core subjects as on-line learning is available to anyone who wants to learn and grow. On-line learning is affordable, flexible, and at times free especially from many MOOCS (Massive Online Open Course) offered from top level universities and colleges across the country. Students who may have taken the “throw caution to the wind, have fun, social road” while in college have an opportunity to close skill gaps by adding a few MOOCs to the resume.
College transitions are no longer limited to decorating a dorm room, getting along with a roommate, figuring out what professors want to get an “A”, or planning out how to attend every party and athletic event, while trying to get some sleep and study time. Transitions include what expert can I learn from on a MOOC, what job training does Google offer and what skills do I need, what kind of learning fits with my way of thinking, and can I belong to an on-line learning community where I am accepted and feel connected and respected.
Resources on Fit, Belonging, MOOCs:
Check out the College Board and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) sites for suggested questions and fit finders for college seekers. The National Council for Education Statistics (NCES) has dedicated information related to finding a college as well as the United States Department of Education (Ed.gov) announcing steps that are being taken to protect college students from ineffective career college programs. To learn more about available MOOCs check out the MOOCs Directory.