For some reason, many people cringe when they anticipate and experience change in their lives, even though we all know that change is inevitable.

Whether you are a traditional or a non-traditional student, change can be a scary thing. According to Bennis and Thomas in their book, "Geeks and Geezers," "Success ... emerges as a result of an individual's ability to adapt to crisis or challenge."

Before moving to Miles City, my family and I read Dr. Spencer Johnson's book, "Who Moved My Cheese." It was delightful, thought-provoking and helped us transition from Idaho to Montana - new schools and friends for all of us. While we knew this change was self-induced, one thing we learned was that no matter what happened our happiness hinged solely on our ability to adapt to change.

So, if you are embarking on a new life as a first-time college student or a student returning to college, how can you adapt to change?

Traditional students

You are the ones who have just graduated from high school and often are leaving home for the very first time. On one hand, you are excited to leave the nest and spread your wings. On the other hand, you are a bit skittish about leaving home and stability (or perhaps, it's just mom's cooking and her washing your clothes.) But, you know you have to take this giant leap to fulfill your goals. What should you do to adapt to this great change?

First of all, rely on your first instincts: Believe that it is exciting to go to college. You have prepared for this step for at least 18 years. For the first time, you will be totally on your own. Remember what you have learned, and apply it in your life. Finally, don't forget your roots.

Nontraditional students

You are the ones the academy calls "more mature learners." You have been out on your own, and you probably have experienced what "Geeks and Geezers" refers to as "defining moments or crucibles." Usually, these are events that define how you will live your life or at least live your life from the time you experience one of these "crucibles."

Most of us have experienced many of these so-called crucibles, and they have created serious barriers to obtaining an education. But now you are here, ready to give it your all. The question from any of these experiences hinges, not on what happens to us - for it is a given in our society today that many of us will have various experiences - but what we learn from the experience, what we take from it and how we define the experience.

Often when we face trials, roadblocks, and barriers, unfortunately, many of us require what Bruce Willis has classified as a "Waaaabulance" because we have defined our crucible as a negative, perhaps debilitating experience. So when you crawl through your defining moment and emerge from it, look at it holistically, if you can, and make a commitment that you will overcome these challenges. In essence, you make the commitment to change. Move forward and never look back.

For some of you, it will not be much of a challenge to change. For others, these challenges offer a long-term and, perhaps, a bittersweet renovation of your entire life. But it's never too late to start your future. Since we know change is going to occur, why not be the guiding light and direct the change yourself? Gandhi once succinctly wrote, "My life is my message." So, the question we must ask ourselves is this: "What is my life's message?"

The effect on family

Whether you are a traditional or nontraditional learner, your family experiences enormous change, too. How do you help them cope? Do you,

a) Read "Who Moved My Cheese?" and "move with the cheese and enjoy it?"

b) Incorporate your family into your college experience.

c) Let them help you with the change.

d) Visit with the counselor at the college.

e) All of the above.

Hopefully, the ultimate choice is all of the above.

Amazingly, when you return to school you begin to grow and develop academically and emotionally. You begin to enjoy a sense of accomplishment and freedom. If family members are not part of growing and developing with you, you tend to grow apart. Unfortunately, animosity slowly creeps into your relationships, often destroying them. Discuss the ramifications of enrolling in college with your loved one or family members. Take a class together or help each other do homework. Walk them around the campus and visit the library. Enroll your child in a program like "Kids' College" or something similar. Talk to them about what you are doing, and show them that college is important to you and your family's future.

All colleges and universities provide a variety of services, including financial aid, counseling, advising and tutoring to help you with the transition to college. Be sure to take advantage of these services.

Bottom line is, according to public speaker, Peggy Phillips, "True success requires patience, teamwork and managing change... You don't have to like change in order to manage it successfully. You don't have to be comfortable with change and you can succeed despite your discomfort."

Finally, professor and famous author, Oliver Wendell Holmes sums up nicely what we should do with change, "We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, and not drift nor lie at anchor."

We must believe we are the ones in control of what we do. We must adhere to Virgil's philosophy of old, "They can because they think they can." Therefore, think away and be successful.

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