This year, Elon University is welcoming the 1,688 freshmen comprising the class of 2027 to campus, according to the admissions office.
Itumeleng Shadreck, counselor and outreach coordinator for Elon’s Counseling Services, said adjusting to college can take time and students struggling academically, socially or emotionally should give themselves grace — especially since for many students college is their first time living away from home for an extended period of time. Shadreck said new living arrangements, classes and classmates make adapting to college a difficult task.
Many students struggle with homesickness, which Shadreck is normal, even beyond freshman students. She said it is important to balance contact with family and friends back home with creating new bonds on campus. Beyond balancing relationships, Shadreck recommended exploring values, creating space for gratitude, understanding self care and being intentional about basic needs.
“It can be really helpful for you to think about what's driving you in different situations, because that helps you make really good decisions,” Shadreck said.
According to Shadreck, defining values creates a framework for decision making, which can be helpful for navigating the college experience. She said creating time to embrace or acknowledge positive changes can make the transition feel less overwhelming.
“A lot of times we can get very focused in on what's going wrong and what's really hard,” Shadreck said. “When we do take a step back, we recognize, ‘Hey, there's good stuff happening here, too.’”
Shadreck said it is important that students are intentional about meeting their basic needs, such as eating and getting enough sleep. According to Shadreck, when homesickness begins to impact daily functioning, such as struggling to attend classes or eat food, this can be a sign that homesickness is more than just an adjustment period. In this scenario, she recommends students utilize the resources Elon provides, such as counseling services.
According to Shadreck, there are several ways for Elon students to connect with their peers, such as introducing themselves in class, forming study groups and joining clubs. Elon offers more than 250 student organizations focused around various interests, hobbies and identities.
Junior Owen Bramanti is president of Student Union Board, a student organization on campus that hosts free weekly events, including themed bingo nights, trivia and live music.
When Bramanti first started at Elon, he said attending SUB events helped him find a group of friends and keep him busy throughout the semester.
“If I wasn't busy then I was like, ‘Oh no, I'm missing so much at home.’ So I was either getting ahead of my work, hanging out with friends — really just something that kept me busy for those first couple of weeks,” Bramanti said. “So going to events, going to get lunch with someone new, going on a walk with someone really, really helped me transition into what college was actually like.”
Shadreck said finding groups to join can be overwhelming but recommended an initiative from Student Involvement.
Involvement ambassadors are a group of Elon students, available year-round, that help other students get connected with the campus community. According to Shadreck, involvement ambassadors work with students one-on-one to help find the organizations and events that match their interests and can also attend meetings alongside the student they are working with while they adjust.
Students can sign up for consultations with involvement ambassadors online through PhoenixCONNECT. Involvement Ambassador Maya Phinney is a senior at Elon and said she’s done several of these consultations since she started last summer.
“It's really hard to just kind of jump in and join things and going to meetings alone can be really scary,” Phinney said. “We're here as a resource to talk to you about your interests – because there might be clubs that you don't even know exist, but if you tell us your interests, we can help kind of match you up with things that you might enjoy and you might get a lot of good experiences out of at your time.”
Phinney is in a few student organizations herself, such as Elon Feminists for Change and Equality, Phoenix Phanatics and Students for Peace and Social Justice.
Bramanti said visiting different clubs and finding a group that matched his values and interests helped him find his friends and make his Elon experience more fulfilling.
“Honestly, if you just find those one or two organizations that really you have a connection with and that you're willing to put a lot of effort into, it really makes your college experience worthwhile,” Bramanti said.
Phinney’s biggest tip for students trying to be more involved on campus, or find a group of friends, is to attend different events and meetings.
“Just say yes and show up. It can't hurt to go to a meeting, go to an event,” Phinney said. “Chances are there's going to be someone who's in the exact same position as you who doesn't know anybody and you're still trying to figure out where they belong at Elon. So just show up.”
Connecting with Roommates
New roommates are another difficult aspect of the transition to college, according to Shadreck.
“Roommates stuff is very challenging because a lot of times you're being paired with someone you don't know,” Shadreck said. “Everyone kind of grew up differently and so your values may not always be in alignment with someone else's, in terms of how you like your space to look, what time you like to go to bed, some of that stuff.”
While students are encouraged to create roommate agreements, Shadreck recommends roommates revisit these agreements at checkpoints throughout the school year, keeping a solutions-oriented mindset.
“Your needs change, or other stuff shifts, or this isn't quite what you pictured,” Shadreck said. “So as much as you can, be transparent upfront.”
According to Shadreck, there are a variety of resources available through Elon for students who are struggling with homesickness, aiming to be more involved in campus life or trying to find a balance between academics and social life.
Counseling services and TimelyCare are both free resources for students seeking counseling and mental health services. TimelyCare offers both scheduled appointments and in-the-moment counseling.
Student organizations post upcoming events to PhoenixCONNECT. Bramanti recommended checking the site for students looking to get more involved on campus to find activities and events they could attend.
Another resource Shadreck recommended for students is Elon’s Learning Assistance, located in the Koenigsberger Learning Center. Learning Assistance includes both tutoring and academic support services. Shadreck recommended Learning Strategies tutoring to students who want support in creating a study plan or balancing their academic endeavors and social life. According to the Learning Assistance website, learning strategies tutors can help peers build skills such as time management, organization, study strategies and more.
“Even if you're feeling discouraged, try your best to still go to class,” Shadreck said. “Try to connect with people in your classes because a lot of times you're going to be seeing them multiple times a week.”