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College Freshman: Staying On Track

Updated on April 1, 2019
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Former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.

College: Surviving Year One, Continued . . .

Welcome to the second installment of "Colleen Goes to College.” In this article, our freshman is in her second semester of her freshman year at college, and she's getting more deeply involved in college life. She still has a lot to figure out, but she has survived her first semester, her first four months away from home.

She hasn’t quite figured out what she wants to do with her life, but Colleen, our freshman, is absolutely sure that having a college degree is going to help her to do better in life, no matter what she finally decides to do. It has become crystal clear to her that college is very different from “the real world.” In many ways, it is a small world of its own that fits inside a bigger world. She has discovered that people in the world of college interact often with people outside of college world. That's because they have to make contact with the outside world, the world beyond college, to get things they need for college.

The college Colleen is attending is small, but she has heard other students talking about larger colleges and universities that have figured out how to bring a lot of the things she has to venture away from college to get, onto College Island, thereby further lessening the need for contact with inhabitants of the outside world. For example, one student told her about a much bigger university that has a mall, with a variety of retail stores in it, located right on campus, inside the student union. But there’s not one of those in the student union at Colleen’s school. At her school, the student union is a building where students go to meet if they are a member of a club on campus, or they can go to the union's bookstore to purchase textbooks for class. Colleen sometimes buys school supplies and electronics there too, and every other day she and her roommate go there to eat at a grill-type restaurant, to avoid eating every meal in the campus cafeteria.

Soon it’s near the end of her freshman year and Colleen feels she now has "college island" figured out fairly well. She has made even more friends, she's also made a few mistakes--such as partying too much and too late some weekends, but she has learned from her mistakes. She is still doing well in her classes, even though she hit a few bumps along the way, before she learned to triumph over the temptation to party a little too much. After re-focusing on her goals, she is back on track, but she still doesn’t know what she wants to major in. After attending a seminar on "entrepreneurship," she is seriously considering business as a possible major. But, after taking a course in video production, she is also exploring a new interest in film and mass media.

To Live On or Off Campus: That is the Question

On the television show, once the survivors arrive on the island, they have to build their own home or shelter. Students on our "college island," like Colleen, are faced with a similar challenge--to find shelter. They will have to choose to live on campus in an on-campus dormitory or in a campus-based apartment, or off campus, perhaps in an apartment or a home they can share with roommates. As young adults on their own, students must find and create a place they can think of as “home” for many months, or perhaps for all the years they will be living on college island.

Unlike contestants on the television show Survivor, students who are survivors on college island are allowed to bring with them as many luxury items as they can carry (beg, or borrow). There are many students whose parents provide them with an unlimited supply of cash (usually in the form of credit cards) that they can use to pay for their textbooks, school supplies, clothing, food, and all their earthly needs. But for most college island residents, having a credit card with "no limits," that allows them to purchase everything and anything they need, is only a dream. Most students need to find jobs either on or off college island to help pay the expenses of staying there.

In the first semester, Colleen decided to live in a college dormitory, and was assigned a roommate. After she joined the cheer-leading squad, she was glad she decided to live on campus. Taking part in "extra-curricular" activities requires a commitment of time and energy that Colleen feels is best managed by living on campus. Realizing that she would have to do her studying and classwork after cheer-leading practice made it easy for her to see that being on campus would make it easier for her to manage her time well.

Teachers and Administrators--The Hosts of Survivor, College Island

On "college island," students are governed by a variety of hosts in the form of professors, counselors, dorm residential advisers, and administrators (such as deans, vice presidents, and a president). Administrators of every sort are stationed throughout the campus, and many work inside a usually centrally located building known as “the administration building.

On college island, students will come in contact and interact with teachers, known as "professors," more often than they will interact with other college island "hosts." Although there are usually many types of administrators on any given college campus, two that stand out are deans and presidents. An academic professional whose title is "dean" is the host who governs or has authority over a specific academic unit, such as a department or a school. A college president is, most often, the leader responsible for business planning, leadership, and fundraising. Strangely enough, most students usually manage to get through four or more years of college “paying no attention to the man behind the curtain,” so to speak. That is, unless they do something so awesomely terrible, or something so awesomely wonderful that they end up in the presence of the top official. The college president is usually the highest-ranking host of the college (unless the school is big enough to also have a chancellor).

Some students also become leaders while they are living on college island. Some do it just by having a "larger than life" personality that makes them well liked and popular, while others join clubs and persuade other students to vote them into leadership positions. Since Colleen has always loved athletics, in her sophomore year at college, she tried out for and became a member of the cheer-leading squad. In the second semester of her freshman year, Colleen decided she would work hard and do her best to become a leader of the squad.

© 2012 Sallie B Middlebrook PhD

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