Relationships – Oh! The People You’ll Meet!
College typically ushers in plenty of endings and beginnings. It’s the end of your high school career and the beginning of another academic career — your college career. Sometimes it’s the end of living with your parents year-round and the beginning of living on your own. It might mark the end of a continuous learning day and the beginning of classes scattered throughout your day (and night!). It’s the end of your high school social life and perhaps the end of some friendships but it’s the beginning of discovering new people and possibilities.
Guidance counselors high school advisers and admissions officers are well prepared to help you navigate this academic transition. But chances are that you’re not just thinking about school-related changes. There are many relational changes as well. What about your high school boyfriend or girlfriend? How might your relationship with a parent change? How will you make new friends at college? Will your professors even know your name? Like an ever-shifting social network your relationships will go through an adventurous series of changes.
This year we decided to talk to a few students from around the country who went through some interesting social and relational transitions when they started college. They offer their personal experiences and advice for incoming freshmen about relationships—since after all that will be a big part of your college experience!
Some students know their roommates going into college and some don’t. There can be advantages to both options it just depends on what you value. Do you want someone with whom you already know you get along with? Or would you prefer to meet someone new and different –—possibly from somewhere different than your hometown? Chelsea Thompson a junior at Oklahoma State University lived with a friend her first year of college. “We met in high school though we didn’t go to school together,” she says. “We became good friends and we grew into becoming best friends.”
Evan Vaughn of the University of San Francisco had the opposite experience but no less positive. The first time he ever met his roommate was at Freshman Move-In Day. “My roommate’s from Chicago and I’m from California. We have nearly nothing in common” he says. However he adds, “We chose to live together again this year because we are comfortable even if we weren’t that close. But it took until the last month of this year to really be friends. It just took a lot of unplanned long conversations to really come to know one another and I’m glad I got the opportunity to experience someone I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
Your resident assistant (RA) is meant to help you through some of the initial transitions into college: becoming comfortable with dorm life navigating the campus or getting answers to your many questions. Sometimes RAs will even dispense timely and helpful advice or help you work out a study schedule that will help you finish your work. So how can you make the most of this relationship? It just depends on how well you feel your personality connects with your RA; you don’t have to be best friends with him or her but on the other hand you might end up becoming good friends anyway. “My RA was always candid with me,” says Vaughn. “He let me have his number so I could ask questions whenever. . . . It was a very different relationship with him than with my other friends but it still today is one of mutual respect.” Kyle Mushet of Marshall University agrees: “The RAs in the freshmen halls knew that we were all nervous and had no idea what to expect from college.”
Old and New Friendships
Making friends can happen a lot of different ways in college. The college dorm is a great place to start but what if you’re living off campus? Thankfully there are other ways to meet people too. Campus activities and intramural sports help you meet people who share your interests. Or you may want to try out something completely different like a fraternity or sorority—you may find a whole bunch of people you never thought you’d hang out with but whom you grow to love.
Your relationships with your parents and friends from high school may see a bit of a growth or shift. Mushet realizes that although he still sees his friends on holidays: “I feel that we are just growing up and making new friends in the process but my old friends will always be some of my closest friends.” Lindsay Cox of Mercyhurst College (PA)attends school in her hometown but chose to live on campus to get more of a traditional college experience. She remains close with her entire family but has “grown to be more comfortable with staying away from home for longer amounts of time,” she said. Maricruz Diaz of the University of Illinois on the other hand was the only person in her immediate family that moved away for college: “It was a hard process for my parents” she said but instead of putting emotional space between them “the distance made us closer.”
“Since I was a freshman I have tried to go into office hours and meet my professors personally,” Thompson said. She explains that it can make a huge difference in whether her professors recognize her in class. “Now that I am in my major courses I have smaller classroom sizes and it is a lot easier for professors to get to know my name and my work.”
Diaz thought that it would be tough to get to know her professors but she was surprised to find the opposite: “I love how the faculty here lets you know that they are here to help you succeed in school and in life after college,” she said.
Couples who date in high school might want to continue dating in college whether it’s long distance or at the same campus. But others find that they change a lot while at college and use the time to have fun learning more about themselves rather than committing to one person. “It’s also really fun to be single in college,” said Vaughn. “There’s nothing holding you back from trying new things but at the same time don’t stop the love if it’s there.”
Cox and her high school boyfriend decided to continue dating into college but their advantage is that they decided to attend the same school. She mentions that at first it was a bit of a challenge to adjust to the new schedule: “At first it was really hard to juggle seeing him and trying to make new friends in college,” she said. “After the initial transition we have become comfortable with seeing each other at limited times.” You might want to consider going to a different college than your boyfriend or girlfriend. Otherwise you could be held back from meeting new people. And if your high school relationship is strong you’ll survive your time apart.
Everyone’s college story is a little different and everyone’s relationships will change and grow in one way or another. But that’s part of the adventure of college and of becoming an adult. The people you invest in will make your college journey richer so look out for them and enjoy this next season of your life!