Summer is chugging along at full speed. By now, kids are probably well adjusted to the dulcet sounds of back-to-school commercials.
Alas, not all students are experiencing the same return-to-school butterflies. For those recent high school graduates, some are gearing up to enter a world unlike anything they have likely experienced.
Living on campus in college is an experience beyond just education. For freshman students, their challenges won't come only in the classroom.
According to Deb Crater, director of community life for Cornerstone University, an overlooked challenge for freshmen is independence.
"Students come to college with different levels of independence," Crater said.
College introduces a new concept of independence for some young adults. Growing up, many of us can believe we have a false sense of independence when living under our parents' roof. College thrusts us into a new unknown which encourages true independence.
Crater said she's had instances where parents try to call and arrange the meal plans for their student. When a parent does this, they rob their child of the opportunity to practice independence themselves.
College is an opportunity to learn how to handle everyday interactions and conflicts. Depending on a child's background, mom and dad may have been counted on for help in these kinds of interactions and relational conflicts.
To help counter potential struggles to this adjustment, Crater said the Grand Rapids-based university has well-trained resident assistants for new students to talk with and learn from.
Along with learning through this newfound independence, those who previously had their own room must adjust to having a roommate as well.
Cornerstone University makes sure to send roommate assignments to new students well in advance of the new school year. This gives the opportunity for the students to begin communication with one another early by means of university email. Many also search on Facebook for one another.
Furthermore, Crater said the university takes additional steps to help get all the freshman students, whom will all be facing similar challenges, on the same page.
"We set up a class of 2018 Facebook page for students to communicate on," she said. "Some look at it, some interact."
The university also has a first-year experience program called Terra Firma. It's a yearlong program designed to help freshman develop a firm foundation during their initial year.
In Terra Firma, students are broken into small groups of 15 students or fewer. Each group has an adult leader. They meet once a week to do a service project together every other week. Terra Firma actually provides a class for credit, containing several books and articles they read together.
Implementing these kind of solutions help freshmen students adjust to the challenges of college. It also showcases how Cornerstone is more than just another school, but a student-focused learning environment where Jesus Christ is central.
"What sets us apart is we really believe college is more than just the classes you take," Crater said.
Cornerstone has a policy that you must live on campus (unless you are commuting from home) until you are 21. Research shows that students who live on campus experience a more full and rich college experience.
For more information on residential life at Cornerstone, visit cornerstone.edu.