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Answers to Your College Questions

I'm afraid I won't fit in at college. How do I find my place on campus?

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first-yearThe truth is that you might not find your place right away when you start college. It takes work and time.

Everyone seems to forget to mention this to you. Finding your place is so important—because if you have no place, you’ll end up lost, and if you’re lost with no place, there isn’t anywhere to go, and that’s when you will want to go home.

In high school, everything seemed to just kind of fall into place. You might have found your place by participating in athletics, the student council, plays, debate, a student newspaper, academic clubs, or some other kind of activity. Your parents might have pushed you in a particular direction, or maybe it was a friend or older sibling who helped you get involved. But in college, you have to work to be the one to help yourself find your place. Without as many friends around and without as much structure to your day, it doesn’t all just happen right away.

Start with what you know and go from there. Seek out the places where you were most comfortable in high school. If you’re athletic, figure out how you can get involved with club sports and intramurals. If you’re into academics, figure out how to get involved with academic clubs and organizations. When in class, talk to your professors. Allow them to know you. Work to make new friends. The goal in doing all this is to make college comfortable and create a world of options. The more comfortable you can be, the better college will become. The more options you have, the easier it will be to make choices that fit your personality. No matter the size of your school, put together a plan. Visit your campus’s website, talk to your resident assistant in the residence halls, talk to the people in the student activities office and counseling office. Talk to older grads from your high school who are already on campus. Just don’t sit around waiting for the world to make you happy. Don’t expect your college experience to just magically happen. You have to be the one to get up, get out, and get involved. You need to be the one to make it happen.

Bottom Line

Attending college is like attending a live event that has general seating. The ticket gets you inside the venue. You have to be the one to put yourself in the center of all the action.

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Harlan Cohen is the author of The Naked Roommate series of books and is one of the most widely read and respected syndicated advice columnists for people in their teens and twenties. His column, "Help Me, Harlan!," is distributed by King Features Syndicate. Harlan regularly tours high school and college campuses giving presentations to students, professionals, and parents. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Follow Harlan on Twitter @HarlanCohen.

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