Developing relationships and building a support network is an important aspect of the college experience. Building relationships and spending face-to-face time with people who support us can help us find balance and can aid in our academic success.
A support network can consist of a variety of interactions with a range of different people who can support you in multiple ways. You might be connecting with your roommate, your residence hall staff, your peers in your courses, your co-workers wherever you're employed, the people you meet in clubs and/or organizations, the person you talk with about undergraduate research, the person you end up running beside out on the track, your instructors and your TAs of course, your advisors, the staff in your college and departmental offices, the staff at the resources your visit on campus, people in the craft center, etc. Basically, there are a lot of different ways you're likely engaging with others on campus! And, in doing so, you're likely developing relationships and beginning/continuing to build your web of support. In addition to the in-person interactions, social networking and other forms of technology (video hangouts/chatting) make it easier to communicate quickly and with many different people at once.
Making sure to spend time with friends and/or classmates can help you to more effectively learn college material, and so can collaborating with faculty and staff. Research has shown that college students learn as much, if not more, from peers as they do from instructors and textbooks (Cuseo, Fecas, & Thompson, 2007), and that student-faculty interaction positively influences academic achievements such as maintaining higher GPAs, obtaining degrees, graduating with honors, and enrolling in graduate or professional schools (Astin, 1993). Visiting office hours or asking to meet with an instructor to talk about their research or their position in the college is a great way to get to know someone, and to learn about new opportunities, such as jobs, research positions, internships, scholarships, etc. Not only do instructors know about these opportunities, when you go to apply for them, you'll often be asked to provide a letter of recommendation or reference. Getting to know an instructor so they can speak to who you are as a person, beyond your attendance/grade in their course, will help prospective employers/internship contacts get a better sense for who you are as a learner, a problem solver, a collaborator, etc.
In addition to the connections you're creating and developing with your peers, faculty and supervisors, it's also important to keep in touch with your family and loved ones wherever they are. Students who move away from home to attend college sometimes feel the need to break away from their families and old friends completely. Although relationships will change and grow as you journey through your academic career, the friends and family that supported you before you went to college can continue to play an important part of your support network. They can provide comfort, encouragement, and helpful reminders to seek help, to believe in yourself and your contributions to the campus community, to believe in your ability to learn and continue to grow here. So stay connected by calling home, Skypeing, or writing emails or letters. Let your family and friends know about your coursework and community involvement, as well as any other important life relationships and events. They may be able to give you the outside perspective you need when you’re having a difficult or frustrating day. And don't forget to ask about and listen to what’s happening at home as well. You're here doing and learning and exploring and trying new things, and at the same time, they're where they are having similar experiences too. Part of their change will be that you're here. They're navigating a transition of their own, too.
All of this relationship building takes time, and figuring out how to include it in your schedule and achieve balance as you juggle your school and social commitments can be a process. We all know that spending too much time socializing can detract from our studies, but spending too little time may make it harder to feel supported. Consider the following tips as you seek to meet and connect with people while continuing to prioritize your study and coursework. All of this is learning, and each aspect of your life informs the other pieces of you, too:
Transition will be a part of our lives for all of our lives. And transitioning into college, or from one college to another, or from one department to another, or from college to employment (and so much more), is a process. Developing and nurturing a support network (and being a part of others' support networks!), can contribute to a smoother transition.
If you want to talk about any of this, or if you're looking for more ways to get connected, or additional support from us as you seek out these connections with faculty and peers, please don't hesitate to drop in and chat: Waldo Hall 125 | Monday through Friday | 9 AM to 5 PM. You don't need an appointment, you can just swing by whenever it works in your schedule. We'll be glad to see you!