By Brett Kolb
Cut to the halls of your high school, and what do you see? Most likely there’s a group of football
players, maybe a group of rock enthusiasts, and the occasional lacrosse group. The one concept
we can probably agree with, is that socially high schools are much more segmented and many
tend to constrict themselves to acceptable social norms, and don’t branch of to meet
individuals of different backgrounds. Now fast forward to graduation. Everything is moving so
fast, you have your bags packed for the dorm room, and you couldn’t be more excited about
the experience ahead of you. Then it hits you: “Who am I going to hang out with?” and “How do
I get involved on campus?”
The first days of classes are here, and you’re absolutely stoked for your first Psychology class in
this new university. Now for me, I attended a humongous university in the University of Central
Florida, and the first two weeks of classes are the busiest days on campus beyond any
comparison. This can create some anxiety for a freshman, walking into a place with over 30,000
people you do not know of different backgrounds, and ethnicities, so acclimating to your new
environment will take some time. Having recently graduated from UCF, I’d like to extend this
advice to incoming freshman, and even transfer students new to the life of a new school can
find this advice useful.
Simply put: Do everything and anything to step outside your social comfort zone.
What this means for you: put your iPhone in your pocket, leave your dorm room, and go talk to
the people around you. The most influential social experiences I had were initiated in groups
required to reach outside my comfort zone of people I knew, and into an area I was unfamiliar
with. Within your student government, seek out opportunities to join student organization that
will contribute to your personal or professional development. There are so many different
organizations available to join, so find something that peaks your interest and go to one of their
events. Now this next portion might seem uncomfortable – you have to go to the meeting
alone. This is crucial because when you get to the meetings, the forced exposure to new people
will allow you to build new relationships that are circled around similar interests. When you
surround yourself with ambitious, driven people, you’re much more inclined to enjoy your
college experience because others around you are as interested in having fun, and being
successful that your time will be best spent.
The overall perspective I’m trying to shape for incoming students is to find a place that you feel
open, and comfortable sharing your feelings, and truly connecting with others. At times, you
will want to walk away or be afraid of possible judgment in a group setting, but the eventual
beauty is that we are intrinsically motivated to be social, and enjoy the people around us.
This article is to challenge you—be great. To be great, you’ll have to network, and eventually
the support group erected around you will be magnificent. My closing piece of advice to
incoming college students is to have fun, but always be thinking about what’s next, even if it’s
what color shoes you’re wearing tomorrow. Make friends, start groups, and get involved.