Incoming spring students face worries about making new friends

Incoming spring students face worries about making new friends

Freshmen students at Lee University gather at the Science and Math Complex.

Photo by John David Clark

Spring: the season of new beginnings. Most students are worried about a new semester and their New Year’s resolutions, but some students are worried about something different—attending a whole new school.

Despite the depleting size of the incoming spring class, freshmen and transfers arriving in the spring semester bring a fresh perspective to Lee’s campus every year. However, many of these students come in with the fear of not connecting with their peers.

Mallory Smolen, secretary for the Student Engagement committee of the Student Leadership Council (SLC) and student worker for First Year Programs (FYP), believes these positions allow her to play a consistent role in new students’ lives and see firsthand the differences between the spring and fall classes.

“It can be harder for students to connect in the spring,” Smolen said. “We want freshman and transfers to come on campus and know that they can find a home here. We want to see them go through their four years successfully.”

According to Smolen, FYP plans for approximately 70 to 80 students at spring orientation. This is in stark contrast to the typical fall class, which reached 880 last semester.

According to sophomore communications major and spring 2019 transfer Annie White, Lee’s new spring faces can feel lost at sea without the boundless social opportunities of the fall.

“Everyone else kind of knows what they’re doing,” White said. “So you kind of feel like an idiot sometimes.”

Students wandering around campus and struggling with a map may be commonplace in the fall, but is a much rarer sight in January, White explained. However, White said that these struggles do not outweigh her decision to enroll in the spring as opposed to waiting for the fall.

White transferred from a community college in Virginia, where dual enrollment credits allowed her to earn her associate’s degree in just a year and a half. From there, she knew she wanted to go to Lee after visiting and falling in love with the campus.

Photo by John David Clark

One of White’s most pressing concerns was making new friends when everyone else had months to find their group, but this fear quickly dissolved, as she said Lee students welcomed her upon her arrival.

Junior nursing major Anna Hutchison transferred in the fall of 2018. For her, it was not the lack of social activities but the frenzy of jumping into junior-level courses that made finding friends difficult.

“I jumped into nursing school starting all my hard classes instead of easing into it like freshmen are often able to, therefore not having much time to knit myself into relationships,” Hutchison said.

But like White, Hutchison found that her concerns were short-lived.

“Thankfully, I have found ‘my people’ and am grateful for the place I am in right now,” Hutchison said.

Smolen explained that clubs on campus like SLC go the extra mile to ensure that new people can get connected to friends.

“We’re intentional about how we include members because even if they don’t stick with the club, we want them to know there’s lots of options,” Smolen said. “Just know that everyone has been in the same shoes. They know exactly what it’s like to not know where they fit in.”

Though campus clubs may not be quite as active with beginning-of-semester events in the spring as in the fall, spring freshmen and transfers do get the benefit of traditional fall commencement events, such as the Service of Dedication in chapel, Deke Day, family and faculty dinner and Club Lee. These events are simply scaled down to match the numbers.

Spring freshmen or transfers are either placed in a Freshman Gateway or given a transfer leader, which gives them an additional resource for their transition.

“My transfer leader, Sam Smith, has been a wealth of information when I needed it,” Hutchison said. “All the nursing professors have been my saving graces as well.”

White emphasizes that ultimately the obstacles of entering college in the spring are minor, and students should not be intimidated by the idea.

“Don’t be afraid to transfer in the spring. It’s not that bad. Whether you’re a freshman or a transfer, just put yourself out there,” White said. “Don’t be afraid to try new things and meet people. Trust God and what He’s going to do with your time at Lee. Mic drop!”

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