Returning college students offer tips and insights for freshmen

By Cathy Janek for Chronicle Media

Benedictine University sophomore Katelyn Beamish encourages incoming college students to get involved in campus organizations and activities.

It’s August and the back-to-school rush is on

Returning college students can offer some insights and tips for first-time collegians to make the transition easier.

“Going into (college) with an open mind was really helpful,” said Benedictine sophomore Katelyn Beamish. “I met so many new people last year and formed good relationships with my professors so this year when I go on campus, I already know so many people,” she added.

When Beamish was an incoming freshman, she remembers being “worried about the transition to college and uncertainty that goes along with it.


Beamish, who attended Oswego High School, said during her college search she was looking for a school that “wasn’t too far” but still offered enough distance to have a traditional college experience.

She also was interested in the small classes that Benedictine offered—some of which were smaller than her high school classes.

“It really helped the transition,” Beamish said.

Beamish joined various student groups and became part of the cheer team.  She also became a student ambassador, a member of the student Senate, a Ben Beginnings Orientation Leader, and a member of the Greek Life Committee.

She is majoring in math and minoring in secondary education and wants to become a high school math teacher.

One of Beamish’s most important suggestions to incoming freshman is to get involved on campus.

“College is the time to try new things,” she added.  “If you want to join a team go do it, if you want to be a student leader do it.”

“Getting involved also helps with time management so that you aren’t watching Netflix all the time,” Beamish said.  “It helps to keep you on track especially since your parents aren’t around.”

Surrounding yourself with people who support you is also important, she added.

Beamish said new students should not be afraid to ask for help.

“College is hard.  It is a different dynamic than what you are used to in high school.  Incoming students should find out what resources their school offers,” she added.

Beamish also talked about roommates, a big concern for new collegians.  She matched up with her roommate via an online questionnaire and the two became best friends who will room together this year.

However, for other students their first dorm mate experience may not be the same as Beamish’s.

Julia Schaefer of Sugar Grove, an incoming junior at Lewis University in Romeoville, said within a couple of months of her freshman year on the campus, she and her roommate agreed that they were better off not being roommates.

Now a resident assistant for freshman students at one of the eleven dorms on Lewis University’s Romeoville campus , Schaefer said, “We had opposite personalities and my way of studying and her way of studying was very different.”

Schaefer recommends that on any college campus incoming freshman shouldn’t be afraid to talk to people.

“Push yourself out there to try to make friends,” she said.

“If you are resident you can’t stay cooped up in your dorm room,” Schaefer said.  “Commuter students also should make friends with students who reside on campus. It is important for them to also get involved in campus life.”

Another suggestion:  Schaefer recommends new students utilize the list of “what to bring” offered by the college—noting what comes with the dorm room and what the student will be responsible for.

Schaefer said one of her biggest fears was forgetting something on her list.

However, now she tells incoming freshman that if they forget something there are stores close by to get any additional dorm room essentials.

College seniors can still remember their emotions during the first days of school.  Flossmoor native Edwyn Mitchell, a political science major at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, recalled how he felt when his family dropped him off for the first time.

“I remember the moment they drove away.  It was very emotional for all of us,” he added.

With his last trip back to Charleston only a couple weeks away, Mitchell said those drop-offs have “gotten easier.”

One reason they become easier is because Mitchell busied himself by working part-time on campus.  He also joined the competitive speech team and has traveled around the country competing for EIU.

And don’t forget the parents of new collegians.

For moms and dads who are coping with empty nest syndrome Mary Dell Harrington and Lisa Endlich Heffernan started Grown and Flown: Parenting from the Empty Nest as a resource for parents of high school and college age children.

The popular Grown and Flown blog and Facebook group can be a go to resource for parents at this emotional time of year.

Articles zero in on the worries parents of college students have, such as 50 Steps on How to Say Goodbye in a dorm Room, and 12 Things to Remember as you say Goodbye to your daughter.  The blog and its approximately 300,000 Facebook followers share in the “conversation, commiseration, and real joys of parenthood” so that parents also can not feel so alone.





— Returning college students offer tips and insights —