Going to college can be a milestone in any journey to adulthood and finding a career; it's a place for educational and personal growth. These years can be some of the most fun in your life. But at the same time, they can be some of the busiest and most stressful.
Whether you've spent all summer preparing for your first year, or are just now figuring it out, you're not going to know everything. Everyone comes into college with at least a few unanswered questions.
CITY reached out to different college "experts" -- professors, resident assistants, and even students -- who answered, for you, some of the questions we remember having when entering college (and even some of the questions we didn't know we needed answered).
CITY: Is the "Freshman 15" real? And if so, what contributes to it, and how can students avoid gaining it?
Steve Radi, SUNY Geneseo Health Services Medical Director: The "Freshman 15" is real, from what I've seen and read. Cornell University did a study using their incoming freshman students regarding weight gain. There are a number of reasons, and a lot of those have to do with students coming into college at a time in their lives when their bodies are physically changing significantly from adolescence to adults. There are changes in muscle and body mass that come along with maturation. There are also a number of things about college life that are geared toward gaining weight.
One of the things we emphasize at Geneseo is the importance of getting enough sleep. Sleep is really important regarding overall metabolism and weight, and lack of sleep is related to weight gain and mental health issues. We also promote regular exercise, which has benefits physically and mentally. We talk about exercising three to four times a week -- shooting for 150 minutes of exercise a week. Students can also have lots of access to food and calories with meal plans, so we also talk about healthy eating. And a number of students do drink more alcohol when they get to college, which has a lot of calories.
CITY: How can commuters stay active and involved on campus?
Warren Kozireski, College at Brockport Assistant Director of Student Activities: It's never easy, but the key is to not just go to class and go back to your off-campus apartment. Stay on campus for extended periods of time. If you just look at the campus as a place to get a formal education, i.e. the classroom, you're going to miss out on quite a bit of what the college experience is about. When you're disconnected from the campus, it becomes a distant memory.
You also have to build your resume outside of the classroom. Most fields are looking for experience beyond the classroom. If everyone is walking out with the same degree, what differentiates you from someone else? That's where the extra experience, like internships and club activity, comes in. Employers are looking for people who went above and beyond, not just someone who has a degree.
CITY: What advice do you have for students living on-campus with a new roommate they don't know?
Justin Namba, Resident Assistant at Rochester Institute of Technology (Class of 2019): Get to know your roommate immediately. This person can become your best friend or as close as a family member. When students go to college, parents and guardians aren't there, so they have to find people who they can trust to be there for them when they need it. The other thing is that if you have a problem with your roommate, it would be easier to address if you guys were friends.
CITY: How often should students call their parents?
Namba: I recommend to my students to call their parents at least once a week, because for a lot of them, coming to college is their first time leaving home, away from their family members who remind them, "You need to do your homework," or ask, "How was your day" -- those little things that are important.
CITY: How often should they visit home? Is there such a thing as visiting home too much?
Namba: I had a student [who went home every weekend] last year, but I wouldn't recommend it to most students. It depends on their family circumstances, but going home every weekend would be too much because they might think, "Hey, if I don't know something, I can always go home." That doesn't make students feel independent, because they know they can go home to their parents. I'd recommend going home if there's an emergency or at least during the breaks we're given. Going home every weekend would reduce students' independence.
Exploring the city
CITY: Why should students try to get off campus and explore their nearby neighborhood, town, or city?
Kozireski: A lot of the benefit is to interact with people that are not traditional college age, maybe not the same gender, maybe have different interests, and learn how to coexist in that kind of environment. I'm sure it's hard for students to understand that college is part of the community, not separate from it. The more time you spend in that community, the more you can appreciate the people who live here year-round.
CITY: How did you make your long-distance relationship work?
Brin Taylor, SUNY Fredonia (Class of 2013): My high school sweetheart and I went to different colleges. He went to RIT and I went to Fredonia. He had a car and would come visit me every other weekend. We Skyped most nights and talked on the phone often. Text was our best format, however, and we did that all the time. I would take a bus sometimes to go out there. We also came from the same home town so we saw each other on breaks. We dated for 8 months of college, but two years all together.
In my other long-distance relationship, we met at Fredonia and fell hard and fast for each other. We dated the rest of my college years, and then when we graduated we tried to make it work. We talked about moving in together. We skyped every night. We texted and talked on the phone. We would visit each other when we could and did cute things for each other to keep the love alive.
CITY: What advice do you have for people in long-distance relationships?
Taylor: Skype (or some other type of video chat) is your best friend. Go out of your way to do cute things for them, like mail letters or care packages, post dumb memes and things on their Facebook walls. You have to be creative with your Skype dates; make dinner together, color together, paint things together, play board games. Save up money to see each other. Bus tickets aren't too expensive if you get them in advance. Meet up in the middle. Make time for each other. Study together if you're still in college. Be understanding. Long distance is hard. Make plans for the future.
CITY: Why didn't your long-distant relationship work out?
Brooke Hill, College at Brockport (Class of 2019): When I came to college freshman year, I had been with a girl for a little over a year. She lived about three hours from Brockport and still had one year left of high school. Neither of us had cars, so we knew it would be tough. At first, things were great. We texted all the time and FaceTimed every night before we went to sleep. But going to college, you create a whole new life. I had new friends, new hobbies, and way more work. I was building a new world for myself and being that she was so far away, she felt like she wasn't in it.
We communicated less as things got busier for me at school, and both of our insecurities toward the relationship went undiscussed for a long time. It is unbelievably difficult to properly communicate about such intimate topics over a phone screen, and after time they would build up into a huge fight. Eventually I realized that it was making us both more unhappy to keep fighting for something that wasn't working. I had been at school since August and we ended up breaking up in February because we just couldn't navigate the territory. For what it's worth, I think it's definitely possible to make it work, but proper communication is necessary every day, and that's what we got wrong.