How exciting! You've made the move, you’re on campus, and it’s 8 AM. You have to drag all the boxes from the car in the parking lot up 3 flights of stairs in 90-degree heat within an hour. By 9 AM you have to be in some building that starts with an “H” with your teammates, who are also moving in, with 3 forms of ID, a medical history, and your insurance cards. By 11 AM you’ll be finishing up the concussion tests after an EEG from a stranger, and now you have to get to the academic center across campus by 11:15 AM. Find your advisor (whose name you can’t remember or find the email from), pick up your textbooks, confirm your class schedule, drop all of the things you’ve picked up in your room, and be at the gym to pick up some pieces of gear for the first day of practice tomorrow. Oh…and every other freshman athlete is trying to do the same thing as you and you don’t know anyone. What a fun first day and it’s not even noon! Ready?
While not exact, this is a generalization of what it’s like to enter college as a student-athlete. On my first day, I remember feeling so overwhelmed and stressed out. I thought I knew what it meant to manage my time. I always had a planner or calendar that was up to date with detailed notes on my phone. I even had my boxes labeled and packed 2 months before even leaving my house. But, when the doors opened to the dorm hall, I had no idea what was going on. Since then, I have learned the impact the first day has on your entire 4-year experience. As prepared as we feel, we prepare from the perspective of being a ‘normal’ college student and not an athlete. From no fault of our own, it is simply that no one knows what it’s like unless they have done it themself. You are given a limited amount of information beforehand which makes the reality feel scarier than it is. You have to adjust to new scheduling apps, physically navigating a new area, being poked and prodded all morning long, the paperwork, never getting fully comfortable in your new home, hundreds of other students moving around you, and so much more. It’s quite overwhelming and disorienting. The worst part…this is just the beginning and you already feel like you’re drowning.
If I could tell my 17-year-old self anything on that day, I would remind her that everyone she met that first day was just as confused and stressed as her. It’s important to know that as “out of place” as you may feel, the people around you are the best ones to turn to! A simple introduction can instantly make you feel at ease. Someone around you knows where that “H” building is, how to get there and who you’re looking for - it’s not a trick. Your recruiting classmates are going to be your biggest ally during this time, even if you’ve never met them like I hadn’t. This is the first time you are truly alone, navigating the day as your own conductor without a safety net. Your new coaches, teammates, roommates, and support system are just beginning to interact with you.
Knowing you are not alone is step 1 to navigating this new ‘normal’. Realistically, this is the last thing on your mind. So how do we know that we will make it to the end of this hectic day? When it comes to moving in, make a checklist of high-priority items you need help with. This may be anything from putting your clothes in drawers to having your friends or family clean the room while you get your boxes from the car. Whatever will put you at ease when you get back to the room that night. (One ‘MUST’ that I recommend is putting up at least 1 piece of decor. This is your home now and having things around that remind you of home will help you to stay calm).
Throughout the day, you’ll likely have a number of meetings. Before you get to campus, take an afternoon to sit down and put all your known meetings into a calendar with time, name of the person you are meeting, location, and what you expect to happen. Setting a reminder for 30 minutes before the event can be even more helpful.
An example may look like this: you set a reminder on your phone for 8:30 AM that you are meeting the academic advisor, Ms. Jane Doe, in the Hill Center to make your fall schedule, pick up textbooks, and schedule study hall. In the weeks leading up to move-in, you will receive emails with some of this information. Fill in your calendar as you go to make it less daunting and confusing on the actual day. The final piece of this puzzle (and the one I struggled with the most) is knowing where to go. When you are making your reminders, reference a campus map to get an idea of where specific buildings are. As you’re walking from one place to another, don’t be afraid to use a GPS to guide you (I promise, it’s not as embarrassing as being late because you got lost but didn’t use your resources). During your walks take a mental note of what you pass. Anything you can get ahead of to feel one percent more confident in what’s going on, DO IT!
I know these tips seem simple. Why wouldn’t you use a map to get around an unfamiliar place? Well…that’s because in college, for some reason, it feels like everyone knows you’re new and you’re uncomfortable enough as it is. The truth is, no one is paying that close attention. In fact, showing that you have taken the initiative on your own and use your phone for more than texting usually puts you at ease, shows you can problem solve, and is one of the few things you can control.
A quick recap of what we learned to survive move-in day!
You are NOT alone
Make a list of what you NEED help to get done
Decorate a little
Make a calendar as you get the information for move-in
USE A MAP
I am not saying that these ‘quick tips’ ensure a smooth, simple day, but they certainly provide your mind a small break from all the chaos because a less stressed version of you took care of some of the overwhelming things already. Remember, you can’t avoid the stress but you can learn to handle it. Move-in day is more than just getting settled into a new building for us. We have responsibilities that the majority of students never have to do or even think about. It’s hard, we know that, but you don’t have to struggle through this alone.
Burgundy Walters (she/her/hers) is a senior Biochemistry student at Mississippi State University. As a student-athlete, she is passionate about making other student-athletes feel less alone and educating others on the particular struggles this group faces. In this blog series, Burgundy hopes to highlight her experience as a student-athlete to expand awareness of the unique stressors she's had to face throughout her college career.