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First day, first show

The opening day of college can be both exciting and intimidating. Here’s a guide on what to expect and how to prepare

education Updated: Jul 13, 2011 11:09 IST
Pankti Mehta

Walking into those gates signal the start of a new phase in your life, a sudden shift from years of familiar schooling into a sea of unknown faces. Nervous? Don't be. The big bad world isn’t so bad if you have the right approach. There's a great chance those gates hold within them the best few years of your life. Read on for a guide to help you make a successful fresh start.

What to carry
Carry a notebook and a pen to take down your timetable, or any other notes
A mobile phone or diary to take down potential friends' contact details
An umbrella or windcheater because you don't want to show up dripping wet
Passport sized photos for your ID card
An open mind – you may have been very popular or very shy in school, but college is a new bginning for everyone.

How to dress
This may be the first time you break free of the uniformed dress code and have the chance to dress as you like.

“Don't go overboard with your dressing on the first day,” advises Reena Mehra, an alumnus of Jai Hind College. “You do want to show your personality, but wearing an outrageous outfit may not make it easy to fit in. It could be intimidating for others to come talk to you.”

Wear a toned-down outfit that plays with colours and prints, but isn't inappropriate for an academic environment. If possible, check with seniors or teachers about the college dress code beforehand. If this isn't feasible, jeans and a top (not too short or strappy please) are a safe option – beware that some colleges don't allow sleeveless tops. Boys, too, should check if shorts are allowed.

Getting there
You probably visited the college earlier when filling out your forms or checking the lists, but if you haven't had a chance to, map your route out one day in advance. In this season, expect delays in public transport schedules and plan accordingly. It's not a good idea to be late on your first day. It may create a bad impression with your teacher and it may make you uncomfortable to walk late into a class-full of people you don't know.

Campus connect
If you've reached early enough, use your time to get to know the campus. “I found a friend on my first day of college to walk around with, just to get a feel of the place,” says Trinette D'Souza, student, St Xavier's College. “It was sort of scary at first, especially because the college building is intimidating. We walked around to the foyer, which is where everyone hangs out, and it was a great way to get a sense of the college atmosphere and the buzz on campus.”

Getting to your class shouldn't be too difficult. Most colleges will have a blackboard or a notice board telling you which class is on which floor – if not, you could ask a passing student or the receptionist. After the class, you may want to ask a couple of people that you interacted with if they want to get a bite at the canteen. That will give you a chance to check out the canteen and to spend more time making friends.

Don't worry if you lose your way often in the first week, but make a special mental note to remember where your classes are, so that you aren't late because you forgot.

Making friends
After having a long-term school group that knows you inside out, it can be difficult finding a new set of people that you connect with. It may take you a little experimentation to find the right fit of friends, so don’t be afraid of talking to several people.

“Everybody is not outgoing, but everybody is here to make friends,” says Anjali Malpani, counsellor. “Go with an open mind, and don’t make snap judgments. Don’t get instantly attached to people, because it’s important to make the right kind of friends. Find out who they are, what their habits, ideals and lifestyles are like, before you give them the ‘friend’ label.”

Don’t judge people because of the way they speak or dress. Be nice.

To mentally prepare
College is fun, but that’s not all it’s about. After being spoon-fed in a disciplined school system, being thrown into the whirlwind of college life brings with it a lot of responsibilities. No one tells you when to study, how much to study, or what you should be doing. Know what you want to achieve from the beginning, and keep that goal in sight. If you lose the drive early on, it may cause ennui, lack of interest and ambition. Take the initiative, join societies, ask questions in class, take part in college fests and have lots of fun, and they will, indeed, be the best years of your lives. Good luck!