Tune in for a one-on-one session with everyone’s favorite school psychologist, Dr. London. This week, Dr. London offers up advice to seniors leaving home.
Dear Dr. London,
I’m a senior, and I’m so comfortable and familiar with Hebrew Academy that I’m scared I will have a hard time fitting in and making friends next year. What should I do?
Graduation is always bittersweet; it’s hard to say goodbye to the school that’s been home for so many years and to friends with whom you have literally grown up with and who have been there for you through your best and worst times. But, it’s also incredibly exciting to finally leave the confines of high school and home and journey out into the great big world. Exciting and yet daunting all at the same time, as with every new start, comes a good dose of worry and anxiety. Believe it or not, it’s actually a good thing that you’re a little bit scared. In fact, there’s science to back up this principle. According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, performance increases with physiological or mental arousal (stress) but only up to a point. When the level of stress becomes too high, performance decreases. So, stress a little about fitting in and making new friends and then embrace your new start. In the meantime, here are few strategies to manage your fear and get you ready for your next chapter so you’ll be your best (only a little bit anxious) self.
1. Do your homework. If you can, speak to current students and ask about the student body. It will be helpful to know the places that students typically hang out or what students typically like to do for fun. If it’s not too late, you may even be able to spend a day on campus with a current student to really get a sense of student life. Also, a few google searches may be all it takes to get a sense of campus life and student activities. Check out what clubs and social programs your university has to offer and then make sure you seek them out when you arrive on campus.
2. Reach out. In today’s social media saturated world, it’s possible to “meet” people before you actually meet people. Start a Facebook (I know, you don’t use Facebook) group for incoming freshmen at your new school (check it out- someone has probably already created one by now) and start chatting with your future friends. If they’re local, you might even be able to spend time with them over the summer so you’ll have some built in friends before day one.
3. Branch out. When you arrive to your new campus, push yourself to go to the “New Student” activities. Just remember that everyone is pretty much in the same boat as you: new and desperate to make some new friends. If you avoid these early opportunities, you may miss out on meeting your new best friend or maybe even future spouse.
4. Dorm. That’s right, live in the dorm. Your quarters will be tight but it’s the best way to meet and bond with new people. Did you know that the number one predictor of making and maintainng friendships is proximity? So leave off campus living for your senior year and spend your first year living in the dorm and with a lot of potential friends. In fact, ask your parents who their closest friends from college were. I bet you that many will be the ones they lived with freshman year.
5. Meditate. Really, just meditate. Sit still and quiet your mind. It’s a great way to calm and relax your body which is always the best antidote for fear and worry.
6. BE YOU. Remember, this is your new beginning and an opportunity to start fresh. You are really able to be your authentic self and leave behind your high school reputation.
Take a deep breath and just be YOU!