One of the major transitions many young adults make is the shift from high school to college life. Gone are the comforts of home, the security of past friendships and a routine existence. Instead, the college experience puts new students in an entirely new social setting with unrestrained freedom. This monumental change in lifestyle is one that may make some incoming freshmen nervous.
“I would say, first and foremost, there’s anxiety. There’s fear,” says New York-based licensed mental health counselor Kelly Shanley. “There’s also the very positive emotions — happiness, joy, excitement, anticipation of being independent for the first time.”
Despite being thrown into the deep end in unfamiliar territory, students can ease into friendships by using social media, according to Shanley.
“With everything being online nowadays, I think people find — before they even get to the school because they’re already on Facebook — that they’ll go on and just become friends with people that are similar ages and similar backgrounds, what their majors are.”
However, Shanley warns that too much of a good thing exists if digital friendships overshadow interpersonal relationships. This is especially true in the first few weeks, when most people don’t have established friendships and it’s perfectly fine to introduce yourself and be friendly to as many people as possible. Shanley says that once students are on campus, getting out and meeting people is critical to social development. She also adds that early on, colleges aim to promote these interactions.
“For example, some dorms have different mixers, meet-and-greets, ways for people to get out,” Shanley says. After that, students should seek out peers with similar interests.
“There are intramural sports they can look into — if their interests are more academic, look into honor societies. They can look into different social groups that they have on campus.”