The first six weeks of college are among the most important in a student's life. You need to learn to navigate new surroundings, people and expectations, says Levester Johnson, vice president of student affairs at Butler University in Indianapolis.
"You're going to form the habits that are going to carry you through not just the fall semester but the year – and possibly through your academic career," Johnson said. "So it's important to get off to a great start and not forget all the things that earned you admission to your college or university."
Johnson offered 10 suggestions to help students dive in with confidence:
1. Communication is extremely important, so don't blow off the information you receive from your school. Read what you're given. "There's a wealth of information in there, and on social media," he said. "So make sure you're in with all the communication tools the school is using.
2. Get in touch with your roommate early, if you're moving to a residential campus. "It's a good way to make a connection with someone who's going to go through the same experience," Johnson said. Many schools help commuter students by connecting them with students majoring in the same subject matter. Take advantage of that.
3. Participate in orientation. "We always hear from alumni who say they remember that first week, that welcome week," Johnson said. "Whatever ice breakers and interactive activities the school promoted, that's what they remember the most. So don't miss out – even if you're a transfer student."
4. Connect with other students and faculty. You may not need those connections right away, but you might need them later. Know what the campus resources are and use them, Johnson said. And, if you do need help, reach out to a resident assistant, a faculty or staff member, or the campus counseling center. They're there for you.
5. Find your niche. Attend activities/resource fairs to find out about student organizations. But try to limit yourself to two or three activities that you can devote time to, rather than spreading yourself too thin.
6. Residential campuses typically offer lots of weekend events during the first six weeks of school. Go out. Get involved, get entrenched, meet other students.
7. Avoid going home. You should be connecting with your new campus, which you can't do effectively if you're going home for your high school's football games.
8. Learn your surroundings. Know who you're hanging around with, and always have someone with you who has your back. And, although it's tempting to use your new-found freedom to overindulge, be responsible.
9. Pay attention to your mind, body and spirit. Eat well and healthy. You're offered three solid meals a day; take advantage of that. Use the campus recreation facility. And however you find spiritual fulfillment, find it.
10. Finally, remember: You're in school. You'll need to devote time to studying, reading and writing. You have to do that – even more of it than you did in high school – to produce the grades that got you admitted to your college.