High school senior year and the summer before college represent critical times as college-bound students aim to prepare for the transition. For many students, the first semester of college serves as a challenging life change. Academic success during the first year often depends on a student's level of motivation and use of effective study strategies.

Develop an Educational Plan

You don't have to know exactly what your career will be when you start college. However, it does help to work with academic advisers to develop a course plan. Focusing on general education requirements during the first two years allows students to investigate program majors. You can meet with career services staffers to find out what career paths your skills and interests align with. This helps equip you to select a major near the end of your sophomore year, or the start of your junior year.

Take College Prep Courses

A 2007 "Boston Higher Education Partnership" study noted a gap between typical academic standards to graduate high school and those required for college entry. Students who complete a standard high school curriculum might be ill-equipped for immediate academic success in college. Students planning to attend college should consider advanced classes or college prep course during their junior and senior years. While more challenging than necessary for high school completion, advanced high school coursework can make students more prepared to learn in freshmen college classes.

Use Visits Wisely

Getting comfortable in the college culture is critical to success. During visits, it is important to explore the campus, including recreation centers, student halls and cafeterias. Students should talk with admissions representatives and faculty members in their potential area of study. Talking with other students is also a good way to learn about the college, the campus culture and any potential issues that might be stumbling blocks to a positive experience.

Build Relationships

Stress, lack of belonging and general feelings of discomfort can impede success for new students. You can overcome these challenges by developing positive relationships with key people on campus. Meeting with faculty members during the first week of classes can help you get acclimated to the academic side of college. Visiting the academic support center helps in learning about the availability of test-taking training, writing workshops and other support services.