To get over those feelings of confusion and alienation, Cohen advised students to take risks, regardless of how vulnerable it makes them feel. Cohen stressed what he called the three p’s: patience, places, and people. Students must have patience when adapting to and getting the best out of college life, they need to get involved in places on campus so they feel more connected, and they need people to be in their corner when they are going through rough or confused times. Cohen suggested that disconnected and alienated first-year students participate in organizations and athletics, and suggested involvement in career centers and internship programs for students who are on the cusp of graduating and making their own transitions into the workforce.
By Seth Eckman
“High school does a miserable job at preparing you for the uncomfortable,” said author Harlan Cohen, who on Monday, Oct. 28th, spoke to about 75 Millersville University freshmen in the Reighard multipurpose room in the Student Memorial Center located on Millersville University’s campus. For an hour, Cohen gave advice, sang songs, and fielded questions concerning the difficult transitions that first-year students go through and how they can become comfortable with their new, sometimes intimidating, collegiate environment.
Cohen is the author of five New York Times bestsellers and is a syndicated columnist. His advice columns, directed towards teens and young adults, have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Seventeen, and Psychology Today. In addition to writing, Cohen is also a public speaker, having visited over 400 college campuses around the country. Cohen’s latest book, “The Naked Roommate,” is a college handbook for first-year college students that offers tips and advice on classes, money, roommates, sex and relationships, and partying.
Cohen gave comforting words to students who were still getting used to the changes that going to college and living on campus can bring. “When you’re a first-year student, it’s really hard to say anything,” said Cohen, “and you’re not going to put yourself in vulnerable situations.” He stressed that freshman must first acknowledge their discomfort and intimidation. He routinely referred to this as “becoming comfortable with the uncomfortable.” “You’re in the best time of your life, but it’s miserable right now because you’re experiencing reality,” said Cohen. “If you look at what’s happening right now, it’s not about Millersville, not about college, but about the transitions in life. It’s about managing those changes.”
“I equate the first year of college as being stuck inside a snow globe filled with s—,” explained Cohen. “Once it gets shaken, you’re stuck inside it. It happens during transitions that are all a part of life. So what do you do? Do you hide, do you hate, or do you face it?”
Cohen said that most can overcome the intimidation that big transitions like college and post-collegiate life can bring, but one has to work hard. “You really have to want it to be good and want it to work,” noted Cohen. “We all have to give the opportunity the chance to show its good side.” Cohen said that college students have many options to get the best out of their time in college, and the best out of their lives. “The life you need to live is not about your only choice, but your best choice,” said Cohen. “You all live in a world of options.”
The event was sponsored by Millersville University’s peer mentor program. The mentors are sophomores, juniors, and seniors who live in the same residence halls as the students they are assigned to mentor. The mentors sponsor educational programs that emphasize transitional issues, encourage students to get involved in campus activities, and confront any kind of behavior that is detrimental to academic success.