In response to the prompt: " The results of the Junior/Senior Survey suggest that, during freshman year students often worry about whether or not professors and other students at [school name] accept them. However, the survey results also suggest that most students eventually become comfortable at [school name] and find a family of people at [school name] with whom they are close and feel they belong. In an effort to further understand how the transition to college takes place, we would like to ask you to describe why you think this would be so—that is, why students might feel initially unsure about their acceptance but ultimately overcome these fears. Please be sure to illustrate your essay with examples from your own experiences in classes, seminars, lectures, study groups, and labs."
I believe that transitioning to college is overwhelming for many students. The majority of freshmen students transition to college from high school. Last year's high school seniors are this year's college freshmen. During the 4 years of high school students experience a growth process from adolescence into young adulthood. Starting as high school freshmen at the bottom of the totem pole, students work their way up to the top as seniors. In the process students overcome fear and gain confidence as they strengthen bonds with new and old friends, form inner circle social groups, and take on new responsibilities, such as learning to drive a car or earning a paycheck. Students feel secure in their comfort zone.
After high school graduation, students may begin to feel anxiety as their semesters approach. As students come to realize that they will be learning in a new, unknown environment outside of the comfort zone, they may experience fear, anxiety and a sense of loneliness. They may interpret their journey, from high school into freshmen year of college, as a leaping from the top of the totem pole to the bottom. At this time students may revisit many of the same negative emotions experienced in their transition from middle school to high school.
The absence of students’ high school social groups may lead them to feel insecure upon entering college. They may doubt their own intelligence and their ability to excel in their studies. The void of the social connections made from K through 12th grade may lead students to worry about social acceptance from professors and fellow students. As time goes on students tend to feel more comfortable in their new environment as they come to realize that most freshmen feel the same emotions upon entering college. In reality, every college freshman is the new kid.
This does not differ much from my position. I am a college freshman at 36 years of age. As I’ve had 18 years of life experience since I graduated high school, my worries probably differ from the average freshman student. The week before school started, worries stirred in my head. I asked myself questions like, “Am I smart enough to do this?” and “How am I going to juggle school, a family life and a career”? I began to doubt myself. I may not have the same worries and concerns as other freshmen, but I did feel insecure. In week three of my English Composition class I learned about growth mindset and fixed mindsets. The fixed mindset is the belief that an individual’s intelligence is a fixed trait and cannot be increased. The growth mindset is the belief that an individual can become smarter. After all, isn’t that the reason why people attend college, to become smarter? The growth mindset is backed by scientific research and evidence that concludes that as people learn and experience new things; their brains actually create new neural pathways for memorization and understanding. How amazing is that? We can actually exercise our brains, like a muscle, to become stronger through our studies. Our brains’ ability to change and grow is know as neuroplasticity.
While learning about the growth mindset I started to make connections to the previous material I had studied in my psychology class. Upon reviewing the materials provided for the English Composition growth mindset assignment, the words “dendrite, axon and myelin sheath” visually flashed in my mind as I recognized the word “neuron” in the materials. While reviewing the materials I recognized many other terms that correlated with what I already had studied in my online psychology class. I felt relieved after discovering that I had retained information from my psychology class, as I have never attended an online class in my entire life. My retention of information is a personal testimony to the growth mindset.
As we are entering our fifth week of the semester, I am much more confident. We created student blog sites in our English Composition class that allow us to network with other students. We interact by commenting with questions and solutions, offering positive criticism and feedback on each others' essays.
My message to any new college freshmen is this: If you feel anxious or nervous, insecure or afraid, out of place and unsure if you will fit in… If you doubt your abilities and feel like you aren’t positive that you are smart enough for college… You’ve come to the right place. This is where you need to be.
Whether 18 years old or 80 years old, most every college freshman feels that way in the beginning. You are in a new, unfamiliar place with new and unfamiliar people. It is normal to feel that way - but the feeling will pass. Don’t be afraid to question your professors; they get paid from your tuition. Don’t be afraid to question fellow classmates; you are learning from each other. If you aren’t asking questions because you are afraid of looking unintelligent - remember why you are in college; to gain knowledge. Ask questions. Take notes. If you recognize that someone in your class is excelling and doing very well in your class, sit close to that student. If you are excelling in a class and recognize that a fellow classmate is struggling, sit close to that student. Engage with each other. Find Yourself Here.