Starting a new school is one of the most anxiety-inducing things one could do. From here, there are levels how you can make your life more stressful. One of these things include transferring universities in your junior year when you have practically no idea what you want to be when you "grow up." This oddly specific example is what I'm currently dealing with.
Today is my first day at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, a stark change from Kean University where I spent the last two years. Kean had two campuses that I went between- Main and East. East campus was home to my psychology classes, and is also the location of the graduate school. The rest of my classes were between four or five buildings on the undergraduate main campus where each building was a short five to ten minute walk from wherever you currently were.
Rutgers is Kean's oxymoron. As someone who is very comfortable with New York City's subway system, you'd think that Rutgers would be a piece of cake. This statement, however, is false- so far. I suppose becoming comfortable with something like this will take time, but coming from Kean, Rutgers is definitely a little overwhelming. The College Avenue campus alone is nearly two times the size of Kean's main campus, which I knew was small to begin with but always felt so big. College Ave coupled with Livingston, Busch, Cook, and Douglas feel like cities within themselves.
As someone who is experiencing this stress first hand, I decided the best way to cope and adapt to my new environments was to make myself a list of things to keep in mind. Here's a comprehensive guide to starting a new school with all the tips and tricks to make transitioning that much easier.
Do not limit yourself, but do not spread yourself too thin.
It's easy to be overwhelmed by a new environment, but it's important to remember that there are plenty of people who feel the same way as you do! There are so many clubs you can join, but if you still can't find your niche, try to make your own club. Different universities will have different rules as to how to go about founding a club, so be sure to do your research and get your leadership skills on!
It goes without saying that most will be eager to make new friends and be a part of as many things as possible. Many students have jobs on or off campus, some with more than one. It's important to listen to your body and your mind to know when too much is too much. No one can tell you what you can or can't handle except for yourself! You are your best judge, but also your worst critic. Be open to new things, but try not to over-do it. You'll still need time to study and do homework, as well as time to relax and check in with you.
Become familiar with the campus and its transportation system (if applicable).
The main thing that will take some getting used to at Rutgers is the bus system, as I mentioned before. Although this comfort will comes with practice, it doesn't hurt to do some extra homework and become as comfortable as possible on your own time. That might be writing down the bus schedule for different routes, studying the maps of each campus to know where your classes will be in relation to stops, where your dorm is, or where you parked your car. You can keep a map of the campuses you're on the most on your phone, and there are usually apps you can download that will alert you when specific buses will come to whatever stop you're at (for a few different universities including Rutgers, this app is called Rider).
It's also important to get your parking pass, if applicable, as soon as possible. Whether you're living on campus and allowed to have a car there or are commuting, the best passes are usually on a first come, first serve basis. Be sure to do your research before the passes go on sale or up for grabs to make sure you buy the right one for your schedule. For example, you wouldn't want to make the mistake of buying an overnight parking pass when you need one for the daytime or afternoon like I did this past August. Also, you wouldn't want to buy a pass for a campus that you rarely or don't ever have classes on unless it's a last resort decision. Coming from Kean where all you have to do to get a parking pass is sign up and not pay, Rutgers was slightly overwhelming. However, now I know what each parking pass means and is for, so I'll never make a mistake like buying the wrong one again.
If you're lost, don't be afraid to ask for help! Chances are, there will be people around you looking for that same building or heading toward that general area. This is also a quick way to make a connection because for all you know, that could be someone in one of your classes or that will be in one of your classes in the future.
Reach out to professors if you have any questions or concerns.
This can for sure be scary when you're new to university in general, but it's important to remember that asking for extra help with something is not embarrassing or "bad." If anything, it's the students who ask for extra help that stand out the most and leave lasting impressions on professors. Going the extra mile to make yourself look like an even better student than you already are could help not just your grade in this particular class, but could mean a sound recommendation for an internship, job opportunity, or graduate school. It may seem far away, but take it from a junior currently reeling from the constant passage of time that planning ahead for whatever future you'll have is the best thing you could possibly do.
Making a good impression is very important no matter where you go, because you never know who's around. That being said, don't be afraid to ask for extensions on assignments. Nine times out of ten, this will not make the professor think less of or dislike you. If anything, showing that you're planning ahead by asking before the assignment is due if you could have more time. However, this one really depends on the professor. If anything, refer to the syllabus and gauge how they'll respond by how they present themselves on the first day. The majority of professors I've had at Kean and Rutgers so far have been open to giving 24-hour long extensions as long as you let them know one to two days before the assignment is due. It's only going to benefit you to have more time to complete an assignment and check it over before submitting it if you really need the extra day or so to complete it.
A bad grade is not the end of the world!
One of my main fears first starting school at Kean was the ratio of assignments during the semester to the final grade for the class. For example, if there are only three main assignments for a whole semester, then those assignments hold a lot of weight. It's important to remember that there is always more that you can do to bring a bad grade up, including class participation, attendance depending on the class, and extra credit assignments if offered. Professors will usually mention something in the syllabus about extra credit and exactly what assignments mean in terms of percentage toward your final grade.
This is also where having a comfortable, open dialogue with your professors can really help you. In this case, the more you ask for help and participate in class, the more likely it is that they'll help you out. Say its the end of the semester and your final grade is a high C. If you really put in the work throughout the semester but didn't have much luck on standardized tests, the professor could recognize your effort and bump up that high C to a B. Now, this of course doesn't always happen, but you have a better chance if you really try.
Say hello to the person next to you!
For some, this is the hardest one of all. We live in a society where it's difficult for people to communicate in person more and more because of phones and our societal addiction to social media. However, it really pays off to say even a brief, "Hello," to the person next to you in a class or on the bus. That simple greeting could be the beginning of a great friendship that you might have missed out on if you stayed on Instagram. I don't mean to sound anti-social media because I, too, have fallen victim to this addiction, but it's never a bad thing to look up and smile at someone or make small talk with someone else sitting alone. Who knows, you could meet your new best friend, the love of your life, or your worst enemy, but you'll never know until you say hello.