Transitioning to College: What to Expect: Part 2 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 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



1) 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 the University of Virginia had to offer before you even got there?

I actually roomed with a girl I knew from high school who had also gotten into UVA and was planning on going. So I knew her and liked her enough to the point where I thought we would be fine roommates (Shout out to Emily Avery for being a great first year roommate!!). We somewhat coordinated our decorations and talked over the summer about living together/ just getting to know each other more.  I definitely read up on the Nursing program online, what classes I would be taking, went to orientation and had a tour but other than that, I kind of took things as they came at me.

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?

So coming into UVA I knew maybe a couple of people from my class who were going as well, but I wasn’t as close to them so essentially I knew Emily and we were in the transition together. We lived in what UVA likes to call “New Dorms” (but I guess now they would be called the “New Old Dorms” due to all the newer dorms that have taken place since). These were the lucky dorms with air conditioning and newer furniture.  They weren’t in the middle of Grounds but were close enough to not have a huge problem getting to class at a decent time. Moving in was fun due to the number of people and cars about, but not as extensive as I thought (though, you should probably ask my dad who graciously carried all the heavy stuff about how much “fun” move in was). It took a little while to figure out where everything was and the good shortcuts but by the first couple of months, walking to class in any weather and knowing how much time it takes to get there to plan ahead came easily. Getting into a routine of when to eat (especially where and what nights to avoid at which dining halls) and who would you go with also took time to figure out and get used to. It all came down to planning in general but specifically, your time beforehand so that you weren’t scrambling at the last moment.
rotunda3)  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?

Emily and I definitely communicated on who was bringing what. We coordinated colors a little bit and who would bring a rug or trashcan etc. It ended up that I brought both frig and microwave, and although we did not use it as much as I thought we would, it was still useful and came in handy when one missed dinner or didn’t want to leave the room. I think this may be a personal preference, but I do definitely remember using it and liking that it was there.

What I couldn’t live without first year: raincoat, rainboots/snowboots and a good winter jacket are a must. You may think I’m joking but one of the major realizations you have to go through your first year is that you are outside way more than in high school.  You have to walk to class, regardless if it’s snowing and you think it’s negative degrees.  And this means you must be weather appropriate at all times, unlike in high school where you could possibly get away with a lighter jacket because “I’m just running inside really quickly and won’t be outside long”. In regards to your dorm room, I took a printer, decorations/pictures, cleaning supplies (Clorox wipes/Swiffer) and lots of clothes.  Refrigerator and microwave I think could be a personal choice.

Didn’t need: as many clothes as I did bring and too much school supplies. I didn’t really bring any extras since UVA supplied the bed, desk and wardrobe. You really don’t have room for extras. Really all you need is clothes, some school supplies, some food, cleaning supplies, some dishware, your books, and bedding supplies.

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.

This question is so hard for me now because that’s all I know now and 3 years ago seems so long ago! But the one thing I keep coming back to when I think about this question is the fact that at school, I was and still am the final say on what I do (in my life, in my school work, in my relationships, on the weekends etc.). When I was at home, I had to ask for permission to go to so-and-so’s house and spend the night with so-and-so. Most things that I did had to be run by my parents. When you are at school and “on your own”, you make those choices. You are the final say. You do not need to check with anyone if you can go there at this certain time or engage in this activity instead of that activity. You are it, and you must know your schedule, your wants and needs, your right and wrongs and who you want to be at school. It is an awesome thing to experience and grow in yourself, yet it is a scary realization of how much power and say you have that can change courses of actions for your life and beyond.

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 trade off considering the convenience of living on campus?

Oh, living off Grounds… For me, yes it is worth the trade off for a couple of reasons.  First, you can start to live like a young professional and learn how to keep a house/apartment and get along with your multiple roommates. This is not only super important in growth as a person, but also really sets you up for how to live outside of college. Second, you have more freedom and space to do what you want with your living area. For instance, I was able to paint my room in my house that I’m currently living in now, and that rocked. Third, you get to get your own groceries and set your own times on dinner or bedtime. You have more freedom of choice and autonomy when you live off Grounds and this further grows you to be an actual adult outside of the college years.

As much as I love the perks and greatness of living off Grounds, there is definitely more responsibility. You have to do chores, buy groceries, pay rent, take care of the house, fix problems in the house and in roommates, and be more of a mature, accountable person in general. Again, it’s a chance to grow as a person and be ready for the “real world”.

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