January 18, 2018

Building a balanced college social life

The Road to College Success

Helping your students get ready for college living in an innovative/interactive way

Many students enter college without adequate preparation. Even with the most supportive parents, counselors and student life leaders, many wonder if they will fit into the college social scene. Others over-commit and find themselves struggling academically because they are pulled in too many directions. You can help your students face their anxieties, find balance and gear up for what can be an exciting college social life. Here are few tips to help you do this.

Get Involved…

New friends are arm’s length away

The simplest way for students to start getting involved is to connect with those around them. Instead of waiting for peers to start a conversation, they can initiate by introducing themselves to others in their class, dorm, library, etc. For the introvert, this can be daunting especially in a new environment. One way to face this fear is to remember that the student sitting next to them probably feels the same; waiting for someone to kick-start a conversation.

Being homesick is very common among college students, but you can teach them ways to cope with this. Suggest they explore the campus. This way, they will become familiar with the place and identify spots that interest them most. Filling their dorm room with familiar items from home will also make them feel comfortable. They can hang pictures of their family members and friends to make their dorm cozy and relaxing. Homesickness is a phase that passes once they become more comfortable with the new environment and step out to meet new friends.

Join intramural leagues at college

Intramural sports offers students several advantages including:

  1. meeting new people while doing what they enjoy,
  2. playing the sport they love,
  3. diverting themselves from stress related to school or work,
  4. building teamwork and sportsmanship, and
  5. working out physically to improve overall health and fitness.

Join campus clubs and organizations

Undoubtedly, joining clubs and campus organizations are the best ways to meet people who have similar interests on campus. Finding groups with similar values is a challenge for freshmen because there are a myriad of them on college campuses. It’s important to visit groups of interest evaluating each based on criteria of importance. Usually after 3 visits they will be able to determine if the group fits their values.

…But Don’t Over Commit

OK, we’ve discussed the best ways to get involved on campus, but an active social calendar should not out-weight consistent study patterns. The main reason for attending college is to get an education. Students must prioritize and manage their activities accordingly drawing the line when socializing hinders academic progress. This is where the mature and focused emerge and continue on to graduation.

As counselors, suggest they choose two groups where they can commit and be active. The commitment level will vary from student to student based on their class-load, work-load and other personal commitments. They need to know where priority lies and allocate time based on priority. The activity below will give students insight to how realistic their social schedule can be.

College is an exciting season of social exploration. It is important that students experience as much of the social scene as they can to learn more about themselves, create unique experiences and possibly build lifelong friendships. Each student’s social rhythm must factor priorities with academic excellence being at the top or near the top of the list.

Tools for an interactive activity

  1. Road To College Success Game – About 40 minutes of play needed


  1. From the Life Choices card deck pull only the questions related to Social Life (all questions labeled 2.x).
  2. From the Chances card deck remove all cards labeled 1.x, 3.x, 4.x and 5.x. Cards remaining will be the Social cards and the cards that deal with money transactions.
  3. Follow the simulation as outlined in the rules.

Post Activity

  1. Have students INDEPENDENTLY jot down their thoughts on following question: As a college freshman you are excited about meeting new friends and getting involved on campus. Below is a list of organization types that might interest you. Select two that you would consider joining.
    [ ] College Sports (ex/ Football team, Basketball team, Soccer Team, Cheerleader, etc.)
    [ ] College / Professional (ex/ Law Society, Chemical Society, Society of Engineers, Business Student Association, etc.)
    [ ] Fraternity/Sororities
    [ ] Religious Groups (Christians on Campus, Baptist Student Union, etc.)
    [ ] Ethnic / International (ex/ Asian Society, Black Student Union, German Club, Nigerian Society, etc.)
    [ ] Recreational / Intramural Sports (ex/ Ski Club, Chess Club, Tennis Club, Cycling, etc.)
    [ ] Political / Social Action (College Democrats, Habitat for Humanity, College Republicans, etc.)
  2. Next, write the amount of time needed to commit to each organization you join. In this example, to be an active participant in any group above, 4 hours per week is required. If you want to be involved in College Sports factor 12 hrs per week instead of 4.
  3. Next, team students up in groups of 3. Their job is to solve the scenario below as a team. Below is a table that defines the average hours for a typical student’s week.
    24 hours x 7 days = 168 total hours per week

    1. – Sleep / dressing time 63 hrs (8 hrs of sleep + 1 hrs getting dressed daily)
    2. – Class / Lab time 16 hrs (full time schedule)
    3. – Study hours/homework 30 hrs
    4. – Job hours 20 hrs (part-time job)
    5. – Personal business 12 hrs (shopping, eating, banking, cleaning, etc)
    6. – Casual socializing 12 hrs (hanging with friends, partying, dating, phone, texting, facebooking)
    7. – Travel to class & work 5 hrs
    8. – Group 1 4 hrs
    9. – Group 2 4 hrs
      = 2 hour left in the week

This student has been asked to join the college’s football team. (time commitment is 12 hours/week). He is an active member of two campus organizations now. He likes both groups and wants to join the football team as well. How can he adjust his schedule above in order to join the team? Come up with two possible solutions.



Deborah McClean spent over two decades working in the NASA Space Shuttle program, as an Education Consultant, before deciding it was time to focus her efforts on shaping the future in a different way, through preparing young adults to be leaders. She has 15 years experience in training & education and over 21 years in youth ministry that has given her a unique perspective on the needs of college‐bound students. Many HS programs aid students in getting into college or finding funds for college, but her company, WIN Multimedia Designs, addresses the practical aspects of “life in college” using various games, tools and simulations. Her goal is to provide practical guidance so students can prepare themselves for the transition to college. FacebookTwitterYoutubeEmail.


  1. Deborah McClean says:

    Thank for the reply Katie – I hope you enjoy all the lessons!

  2. Katie Jones says:

    I agree with this article. College really can help students develop social skills, including through different college events and activities.

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