Transitioning to College: What to Expect: Part 2 of 3 (Ian Fuller)

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 second part of a three part interview 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 James Madison University. They have agreed to offer some insight and answer some questions regarding their transitional experience from high school to college. There is one more interview to go. If there is a question you would like them to answer, contact me at


Ian1) I remember when I was a entering my freshman year at Virginia Tech, the internet wasn’t even around yet. It prevented me from meeting my future roommate either through email or on Facebook. Today, there are so many ways to get connected to your roommate and your school before you even set foot on campus. Did you reach out to your roommate prior to arriving at college? What are some of the ways that you acclimated yourself with what JMU had to offer before you even got there?

I didn’t reach out to my roommate prior to arriving at college because I already knew him. We played on the same club soccer team throughout high school, so I was already good friends with him before move-in day. Growing up, I visited JMU frequently. I went to sleep-away soccer camps almost every summer, and went to several JMU sporting events throughout high school. I sort of already had a feel for what JMU was like long before I applied. However, in terms of getting acclimated, I think adding/following your prospective school on social media is a great idea. Most schools are now on twitter, Facebook and Instagram which is fantastic because it gives prospective and future students the opportunity to gain an insight into certain aspects of a school. Taking a tour or simply just visiting a school during the week when class is in session is another great way to familiarize yourself with the campus and the school’s atmosphere.

2) Tell us about your overall transition: Did you live in a dorm? Did you already know your roommate? If you didn’t already know your roommate, what are some steps you took before arriving on campus to get to know them first?

I lived in a hall-style dorm my freshman year with 30 other guys. It was a little awkward at first, because I had to meet and acquaint myself with a lot of new people; but by the end of the first few weeks, we were all good friends. I knew my roommate prior to JMU. As mentioned earlier, we played soccer together for about 4 or 5 years before living together. I have friends though who chose random roommates, and have said that the best way to develop a relationship before moving in together is to reach out on social media. It’s a great way to start forming a friendship and also gain an insight into their lives. I would also recommend trying to get lunch of coffee with your roommate prior to move-in, especially if you don’t know them. That way you have the opportunity to become acquainted with them.

JMU3) From a practical standpoint, what are some things that you took with you your freshman year to your dorm room that you absolutely couldn’t live without? Did you communicate with your roommate regarding who was going to bring what? What are the things that you took with you or bought that you really didn’t need?

I think the most important things I brought freshman year were snacks and a refrigerator. I never realized how much I snacked during the day until I left for college. My meal plan provided me with three meals a day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner), but I always found I was hungry in between each meal.  Having a refrigerator was nice as well for cold foods and drinks. I also brought an iron and ironing board which were very convenient when I had to iron shirts and pants.  My roommate and I arranged who was bringing what before we moved in. We basically each brought two or three major things for our room. He brought a vacuum, Xbox and Keurig, and I brought a TV, trash can and a refrigerator. Communicating beforehand is really important because most universities have a couple restrictions on certain items. For example, at JMU only one refrigerator is allowed per dorm room.

I think that I grossly overestimated how many items of clothing I needed. I brought pretty much everything from home, and probably only wore about half of it. Bringing too many clothes can take up a lot of space, especially when two people have to share an entire room.

4) What was the most difficult adjustment with regards to “being on your own”. For me it was not having my parents around to wake me up and do my laundry.

I think the most difficult adjustment for me was going to class regularly, especially with my general education classes. A lot of incoming freshman have the perception they won’t have to take classes they aren’t interested in after high school (I certainly did), but for most colleges in Virginia, this isn’t true. A lot of colleges, especially ones like JMU, require students to take a certain number of general education electives (history, math, science, etc…). These are the types of classes that I struggled with the most in terms of consistent attendance. My first semester I had a very light course load, so I only had about three hours of class time each day. Three hours seems like nothing compared to a full day of high school classes, but it can be surprisingly hard to motivate yourself to go to class. A couple of my professors didn’t have attendance policies; and because I lived with thirty other guys, there was always something interesting going on that was much more enticing then sitting through a lecture. However, skipping eventually caught up with me. In late November, about two weeks away from finals week, I was struggling to learn all the material I had neglected early in the semester. If I had attended these classes, I feel I would have done much better, and not have had such a difficult time at the end of the semester.

5) Most students live on campus there freshman year but move off campus their sophomore year.  How much more responsibility is it living off campus in an apartment and is it worth the tradeoff considering the convenience of living on campus?

Living off campus is definitely a much bigger responsibility and adjustment when compared to living on campus. Students who live on campus generally have a meal plan, so they don’t have to worry about cooking, cleaning, or washing dishes. Students who live off campus might have a reduced meal plan (enough to get one or two meals a day), but still have to cook one or two meals a day for themselves, which can be a big adjustment for some people. Living on campus is also much more convenient because dormitories are generally located close to academic buildings, so travel time in usually no more than ten minutes. Living off campus might force a student to drive or take the bus, and then walk to class, which can sometimes take twenty or thirty minutes. Living off campus also means a student has to manage bills, everything from rent to utilities to groceries. I think living on campus for the first and maybe second year of college, and then off campus for the remaining years is the best approach. Both options have their pros and cons, but living on campus for the first few years is great because it allows students to get acclimated to the campus. Living off campus for the remaining years is beneficial as well because it gives students more freedom and independence, and also allows them to experience what life after college will be like.

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