The college transition is an infamously treacherous time in young adulthood. First-years are suddenly thrust into a whirlwind of changing environments and new experiences that come with their own kind of baggage. Ithaca College made a few integral changes this year regarding their transition process for first-years, presumably in an attempt to make this transition easier on their students.
First-year students dealt with heavier limitations in regards to their own classes. They were automatically placed into intro-level courses required for their major, as well as a predetermined first-year Ithaca College Seminar (ICSM).
First-year exploratory major Ruby Kiesewalter, has mixed opinions on ICSMs: “On the one hand, it would have been nice to have a choice in the classes I’m taking,” Kieswalter says with a laugh. “There’s definitely a few I would not have put myself in. On the other hand, I think it made the transition easier. It was one less thing for me to worry about. This new process takes away the anxiety and disappointment that so often comes with course registration.”
However, in a way, the process is just delayed; come spring, first-years will be joining the rest of the student body in the perilous task of independent registration.
“I do have some anxiety about registration…but I’m taking it slow,” Kieswalter said. “I’ll get there when I get there.” Kieswalter recalls watching her friends at home excitedly hand-pick their classes, whereas one day her schedule “just showed up.” One of the courses that magically appeared on her laptop was, of course, the notorious first-year ICSM.
At IC, first-year seminars are designed to be an informative class surrounding a specific topic, as well as a chance for new students to meet one another and learn about the on-campus resources IC has to offer. In Kieswalter’s experience, these seminars have been hit or miss. For one, she enjoys her In the Heights themed seminar.
“It’s kind of specific, which is sort of funny…but I like the musical, so I’m enjoying the class. It’s interesting and personal.”
At the same time, she does say that her seminar doesn’t feel very different from other classes. Kieswalter explains that her class has been making connections between central themes and characters in In the Heights and how they could apply to the college transition. Her roommate, however, is having a difficult time making connections in her class, therefore she is not getting much out of the experience.
IC planned plenty of events and opportunities for first-years to integrate themselves with one another. Prior to orientation, a program called “Jumpstart” is offered to new students as an optional two day experience. Students are split into groups and taken on “field trips” to explore the greater Ithaca area.
This was first-year journalism major Autumn Valdes’ favorite part of her college transition. During Jumpstart, Valdes had the opportunity to meet good friends, was introduced to stores and coffee shops downtown and overall felt more oriented in her surroundings.
Following Jumpstart, new student orientation took place from August 17th to the 22nd, almost right up to the start of classes. As part of orientation, students met with the same small group of peers everyday as well as one student orientation leader.
“It’s nice to have a routine right off the bat,” Kieswalter states. “Move in however, was very ‘go go go,’ which kind of set the tone for orientation. It was very stressful.” Though stressful, Kieswalter explains that events like club fairs and welcome performances, interspersed throughout orientation, got her and her friends “excited for what’s to come.”
Valdes had similar experiences. “Orientation was not the place to connect with everyone. Everything felt forced. Jumpstart wasn’t that way.” She went on to explain how orientation “felt more like a mandatory thing, not something that was fun.” She expresses that orientation had the potential to be helpful. “I wish orientation was a better experience. Maybe two orientation leaders would have been better? It was a bit awkward one on one.” Valdes explained that with two orientation leaders, students are more likely to connect with at least one of them.
As for the social aspect of transitioning to college, Kieswalter admits that it was a bit tough during those first couple days.
“You just don’t really know how to put yourself out there,” Kieswalter said. “Honestly, the social events felt forced. Especially the night socials. They felt exclusive for groups of friends that had already found each other.” Kieswalter recalls leaving evening socials fairly quickly, feeling a bit out of place among people who seemed to have already formed friend groups.
Valdes even says that one of the most difficult things to get used to has been “some of the people.” She goes on to explain that “meeting new people can always be hard because at home you know everyone and you’ve been growing up with them. You kind of have to figure out who you click with and who you don’t. It’s not a gamble, but it can be hard because there’s a lot of different people here.”
Another struggle Valdes has run into during her time at IC is balancing cross country and classes.
“The cross country schedule is so different from high school,” Valdes said. “At first I felt like I had to choose between being committed to the cross country team and getting involved in clubs and extracurriculars. I didn’t think I could handle it all. I thought it would be too overwhelming for me.” After a few weeks she came to the conclusion that maintaining this balance is possible “it’s just… a lot.”
Since starting classes, Kiesewalter has begun to feel more at home here at IC.
“The professors are welcoming,” Kiesewalter said. “It’s really nice to have a relationship with professors. I remember hearing some high school horror stories but that really hasn’t been the case.”
Valdes finds herself reminiscing on her high school class experience. “I was a lot closer with my high school teachers, I mean I spent everyday with them,” she recalls. “It’s just a different relationship now, which is sad because I was so close with some of my teachers.”
Some parting advice Kieswalter would give to those going through the college transition, or really any big life change, would be to remember that “everything comes with time, you just have to wait it out.” She explains that she is excited to look back on her experience and be able to “laugh at how much [she] was struggling.”
Eve McDougall is a sophomore Television & Digital Media major who understands the nuances and challenges involved with transitioning from high school to college.