Photo courtesy of Connor Davis

If you’re a new transfer student, the start of this school year is likely the most exciting yet terrifying point in your college career. Whatever made you leave your old school is now behind you, but the fears of making new friends and struggling with rigorous classes are lurking ahead.

I went through this stressful process when I transferred to DU last year, but once I was able to adjust, I never regretted my decision. Here are some tips that helped me navigate the transition and find my home as a pioneer:

Put yourself out there to make meaningful friendships

Making new friends is easily the most intimidating part of changing schools. It can be easy to feel like the odd one out in groups of friends that have already been formed, or while surrounded by freshmen at on-campus events during the first few weeks (Free pizza is only enticing for so long, after all). The deck can seem even more stacked against you if you live off-campus. However, if you put yourself out there and strive to make lasting connections in your classes and clubs (get phone numbers, set up study/lunch dates), you’ll steadily make new, quality relationships.

Branch out, but not too much

Be it Fraternity and Sorority Life, Student Government, DUPB, religious and service groups or special interest clubs, there are so many new and interesting aspects of campus life that you’ll want to get involved in, especially if you came from a smaller or less social school. But be careful – this is an area in which there can certainly be too much of a good thing. If you listen too much to your excitement and don’t realistically assess how much free time you have, you’ll quickly find yourself committing to more than you can handle. Don’t run the risk of your passions becoming more stressful than fun, or worse yet, navigating an awkward departure from an organization where people are counting on you. I would recommend trying out as much as you can during your first three weeks, then narrowing your campus involvement down to two clubs/orgs/projects that you’re really passionate about.

Expand your mind (and maybe your major)

Academics is an area in which you should give yourself full reign to explore as much as you can. This may seem counter-intuitive as you likely feel in a rush to finish your degree in four years, since your credits didn’t transfer in neatly to our delightful quarter system. But to whatever degree it’s possible, take as many elective classes as you can in whatever interests you. DU has fantastic professors teaching small, engaging classes in nearly every department. I guarantee you won’t regret taking that supposedly impractical liberal arts class that’s calling your name. You may even discover a new passion that will take you beyond college.

Share, don’t compare

Don’t forget that you have a unique, fascinating story as a transfer. Depending on your circumstances, it may take a while to shake the feeling of being “behind.” The reality is that you’ve become wiser and more experienced in life decisions than most people your age through your transfer experience. Share this story with people you meet; wear it with pride. Avoid comparing it to the more “typical” stories you’ll hear, or thinking that your peers have a leg up on you by staying at the same school.

Take time to process

Lastly, don’t try to be a hero. There is nothing wrong with struggling emotionally or mentally with this big transition. Even if you aren’t too challenged, still be intentional about processing through it now; the whirlwind of midterms will be here before you know it. Don’t be afraid of frequently calling your parents or old friends, writing in a journal or making an appointment at the Health and Counseling Center (Let’s Talk is a more “temporary relief” counseling option as well).