Transitioning to College: What to Expect: Part 1 of 3 (Janelle Scala)

Transitioning to college can be a tricky time in life for students. There is so much unknown. How hard will my classes be? What do I do if I don’t like my roommate? What kind of extracurricular activities are available?

This is the first part of a three part interview with two college students, Janelle Scala and Ian Fuller. Both are juniors at their respective schools, Janelle at the University of Virginia and Ian at James Madison University. They have agreed to offer some insight and answer some questions regarding their transitional experience from high school to college. There are two more interviews to go. If there is a question you would like them to answer, contact me at

JaneleJanelle Scala

1) Give us a little bit of information about yourself. Where do you go to college? What made you choose that school? What year are you? What is your major?

Hi friends! I am a 21 year old, NOVA native living in Charlottesville and apparently the “South” which I love. I am a lover of pleasure reading, late night sweet tea or Frosty runs, the color blue, and my family/dogs. I sometimes make myself go exercise instead of watching Netflix or napping, and I also sometimes neglect to do my homework to spend time with people. I am a Christian and am involved in a community called InterVarsity (IV) here on the beautiful UVA grounds and love it (I also coordinate all the women’s Small Groups for IV, but that’s a different story). I love to joke and just spend time with people, but I am also an introvert so I completely love my alone time with quiet, books or movies.

rotundaAs stated above, I am a third year (junior) at the University of Virginia and am majoring in Nursing. I chose UVA on a couple of factors. I originally didn’t want to stay in state and wanted
to go down south more, but money and limited options for nursing schools got in the way of that. I was in the top 5% of my class in high school, but didn’t really know what that meant in regards to applying so I only applied to 5 schools and it ultimately came down to James Madison university (JMU) and UVA. My whole family has gone to school at JMU and loved it there. I thought it was automatic that I would attend their great nursing school and love it as well. Then financial aid and scholarships came in and UVA offered more; more money, more opportunity, and better programs. I decided to branch out and be different. I haven’t regretted it since.

2) What made you decide to choose that major?

I love this question because sometimes I don’t understand myself, especially this year, the hardest year for nursing at UVA, where it’s busy, hard, and sometimes discouraging. Also, especially since no one in my immediate or outside immediate family has ever done anything medical. But the best way I can describe it is that I have always been fascinated by the body; the way it works together, the amazing way that it protects itself, the beautiful design that God made it to work perfectly. I can study it all day (funny that I actually do for class) but still be amazed by it and the God that made it. Combined with that, I love people. I love helping, being there to chat with a fellow human, and serving someone when they can’t do it themselves. When you put those two together, you get nursing; the care for the body and the person.

3) What has been your favorite class you’ve taken so far and why?  What has been the most difficult class you’ve taken so far and why?

While I have loved all my nursing classes (okay… most of them at least), my favorite class thus far I would actually have to say would be an elective called Sociology of the Family. It was fascinating to learn about dynamics of familial relationships, culture differences, and the various theories about families. I still employ what I learned over a year ago, whether it’s when I’m caring for a patient or in my community of friends. The most difficult class that I have taken would definitely be a class in the nursing school called Pharmacology. It’s the third year class where you learn all about drugs, how they work, their side effects, their risks and all the different categories of drugs that you most know and memorize. It is an intense class where we learned over 100 drugs and had to apply them to our patient care. While I loved learning about them and still thought it interesting, the memorization and sheer volume of drugs was super hard. That final (all we learned that whole semester) has been the hardest final I have taken thus far.

4)  Tell us a little bit about what your week looks like?  When are your classes?  When are your breaks?

Okay, warning: third year, but specifically spring semester, nursing at UVA is the absolute hardest year and everyone knows it’s hard and you cry. So before you start thinking I have taken this much and these hours for the past 2 and a half years, don’t. I have not. That being said, third into fourth is hard and requires way more hours so really this will be my life from now on.

My class schedule looks like Monday and Wednesday classes starting at 8:30 am and ending at 3:30 pm. I have 4 classes on these days, one being an hour and twenty, the second 2 hours, the third an hour, and the fourth an hour and fifteen. I have an hour break for lunch between 12-1pm on these days. Two of my classes have a clinical component with them. A clinical is like a lab in the sense that I work with 8 other students and an instructor at the hospital and stay for around 8 hours, giving patient care. Here is where I am supposed to apply what I am learning in my lectures and practice my procedures and skills. We normally take vital signs, do system checks/assessments, give hygiene care to the person and the room, administer medication, educate about conditions, procedures, and medications, and be the person that is there for them in that day. Usually your clinical days are either Tuesday, Thursday or Friday. My two clinicals this semester are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 6:45am -3:30pm. I do not have class on Fridays.  On top of this schedule, I am involved in IV as stated above throughout the week. I lead a small group leader’s meeting and planning on Sundays for 2 and a half hours. I have a 3 hour executive meeting Monday nights, attending my own small group on Tuesday nights for 2 hours, our weekly Large Group (like a mini church service) for 2 hours on Wednesday nights, and Small Group Coordinating meeting and coaching for my position for 3 hours Thursday nights. I also meet up with small group leaders and people I invest weekly in for various hours each week. I also occasionally sleep—Friday’s are my saving grace to get work done.

5) Sometimes students can have a long break between classes. I remember being in college one semester where I had a five hour break between classes. What’s the longest break between classes for you and how do you spend that time?

I have an hour break this semester (definitely have had longer in the past) and it’s during lunch time. I usually spend that time eating with my friends for the first 30 minutes and then either, studying for a test next class, keep engaging with my friends or if it’s Wednesday, going to thehospital and getting my patient assignment for clinical for the next day and introducing myself to them. (We have to do that then spend around 5 hours filling out a 14 page document on their condition, medication, interventions needed the next day etc. so that we are prepared for clinical. We refer to these as prep and we hate them. They are actually really helpful and good for learning unfortunately!

6) On average, how much time would you say that you spend on work outside of class per class?

This depends on the class big time. For the classes that have clinicals with them, you spend a lot of time on the above stated prep. For classes that are just lectures, you spend more time studying for their tests because there are usually only a couple of them. On average, I probably spend 3-4 days studying for pathophysiology tests (nothing outside of that for that class), spend 2-3 days studying for my OB/GYN tests but then also a couple of weekends on two papers due in that class, spend 2-3 days on studying for my Medical-Surgical Nursing tests but then around 2-3 weeks on a big case study paper due in that class plus weekly 5 hour preps for clinical, spend a couple of weekends working on a research paper, presentation and article analyses in my Nursing Research class (but no tests outside of that).

7) Remember back to your freshman year and your initial month of being in college. What would you say was the most difficult part of transitioning from living under a roof with your parents to going to college?

 I remember having a learning curve for time management in regards to homework and extra activities. I also remembered leaving doing laundry to the last possible time I could do it due to not having someone reminding me to be presentable to school (let’s be honest, I still do that). Coinciding with that, grocery shopping was also a transition. If I wanted something specific, it took planning for when I could go, who could take me and if I wanted to spend my money here on this or something else. Really, in general, it was just that if I had a need, I needed to provide for it and it was up to me to get it done. Totally different from home where most likely my mom would think of it and help me get it done.

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  1. Transitioning to College: What to Expect: Part 2 of 3 (Ian Fuller) | Ivy Hills Academy

    […] with two college students, Janelle Scala and Ian Fuller.  You can read Part 1 for both Ian and Janelle.  Both are juniors at their respective schools, Janelle at the University of Virginia and Ian at […]


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