Making the transition from high school to college can be a daunting proposition. Thoughtful planning and a sense of adventure will help you make the jump to independence with ease. After all, college is a testing ground for adulthood. Consider higher education as an opportunity to learn more about yourself, to try new things and get a taste of what it will be like when you are on your own. The college environment provides a network of support if you are willing to ask questions and seek help. Start by considering your strengths and weaknesses. What do you know are your areas of growth, and in what ways do you feel prepared for this new and exciting experience? If you are ready to take the next step in your academic experience, you will remember your college days as one of the best periods of your life. Consider these college tips as a way to be prepared and ready to experience success.
Get Involved on Campus
Success in college is not just about doing well academically. One of the most important college tips for a freshman is to get involved on campus right away. Begin by considering your personal, social and academic interests. Many colleges have more than 100 clubs and organizations that are hungry for new members. Check out the academic clubs that are tied to your major. For example, if you are an education major, join the emerging teachers club.
Next, consider signing up for an intramural sport or a Greek organization. Most clubs have an open house or a new member meeting complete with snacks and information. Choose one or two organizations to join during your first year. You can add more as you master your time-management skills. Getting involved on campus will help you meet new friends and pad your resume. Prospective employers will look favorably upon a college graduate who was involved and did well in school. If you feel uncomfortable going to a meeting by yourself, ask your roommate to go along.
Conserving Dorm Room Space
If this is your first time sharing a room, you may be surprised at how little space you have in a residence hall room. You can conserve space with a little creativity and ingenuity. For example, bring shallow tubs on rollers that will slide under your bed. Look for a trunk that can hold things you don’t need every day and can double as a TV stand. Go to a thrift store or garage sale and buy some milk crates. You can put them on the walls with non-marking adhesive to store snacks and toiletries. Talk to your roommate in advance and consider lofting your beds. The space underneath will give you room for desks or even a small couch. Bring flat hangers to maximize closet space and a shoe hanger that you can hang over your closet door. Finally, consider buying a unique container for your dirty clothes that can serve as a side table. If you plan ahead, your room will be the showplace of the floor.
How Do You Stay Healthy in College?
When you get to college, every day will be a buffet of options in the cafeteria. Your meal plan may offer the option to eat unlimited amounts of food. The choice of when and what you eat will be entirely yours. First, make sure to eat breakfast every day. If you start your day with a high-protein, healthy breakfast, you are less likely to reach for a sugary snack mid-morning. Your parents won’t be there to encourage healthy choices, so you will need to make sure to include fruits and veggies in every meal. Late-night studying is a sure fire way to work up an appetite. Be sure to have healthy snacks available and avoid ordering a pizza with your roommate at midnight. Don’t forget that beverages can be high in calories. A large mocha, super-size sugared soda or even a sports drink can add empty calories to your diet.
Finally, work exercise into your daily routine. Most colleges have great workout centers that are free to students. You can also join an intramural sport or play a pick-up game of basketball with your friends.
College Tips for Time Management
Your daily schedule in college will be vastly different than a typical day in high school. You may have one or two days that are entirely free from classes. You will get to plan your schedule. As you select classes, pick an 8:00 a.m. class only if you are a morning person. An important college tip is to get a planner or calendar. Begin by writing down all of your required obligations. This may only include class and work, if you have a job.
Next, schedule your study time. A typical rule of thumb is to plan three hours of studying for each hour that you are in class. If you take 15 credits, you will have 45 hours of study time each week. Being a college student is really a full-time job. In addition to class and study time, you need to schedule meals and exercise as well as time for social activities and student involvement. The key to time management is to stick to a schedule but approach it with a flexible mindset. If an opportunity to attend a campus event conflicts with scheduled study time, let go of social time and use it for studying. Successful college students set a daily schedule and then use discipline and a can-do attitude to stick to it.
Ensuring Academic Success
An important college tip for freshmen is to be prepared to retool your study skills. You will need to stay on top of your assignments, tests, projects and assigned reading. Your professors and parents will not remind you when something is due. It is up to you to make sure that you get it done.
It may be tempting to skip class, especially if your professor doesn’t take attendance. A key to doing well in college classes is to go to class and sit in the front of the room. Make sure that your professors know who you are. Don’t be shy. Introduce yourself, participate in class and visit your professors during their scheduled office hours. If you need help, be sure to ask. Most colleges have academic help centers. If you need a tutor or just someone to read over a paper, take the initiative and seek assistance. Develop a relationship with your academic advisor. If your goal is to graduate in four years, an academic advisor can help you develop an academic map that will help you stay on track.
Finally, be sure to register for classes as soon as possible. Midway through the semester, registration for the following academic term will begin. If you want to get the classes that you need and at the times that work best for you, you will need to be on top of the registration schedule.
Money Management Tips
As you begin your journey toward independence, learning how to manage your finances is critical. Working a part-time job can help defray expenses and pay for books. Often, a campus job offers the most flexibility with class and extracurricular requirements. Be prepared to fill out your FAFSA as soon as you get your taxes filed. If you need your parents’ tax information, you can fill out your FAFSA early and include estimated tax information. If you don’t have a credit card, consider applying for one. A credit card will help you build a credit history, but it is best to pay your balance in full each month. You may be surprised at how expensive college books can be. It is easy to buy books at the campus bookstore, but you may not find the cheapest prices. A creative college tip is to look online for better prices, or consider renting your textbooks to save money.
Career Planning Resources
Going to college is a noble endeavor, but determining a career path can be challenging. Most students change their major more than once during their time in college. Many students come into college as undecided in their major choice. The first two years of college will offer you the opportunity to take general education courses. Use these classes as an opportunity to explore academic major options. Visit the career development center as soon as possible. Most college career centers offer students the opportunity to take career interest inventories to gain a better understanding of how your interests match career and major options.
Don’t choose a major based on what your parents think is best for you. Your major is a gateway to a job that you may have for the rest of your life. Since most of your waking hours as an adult are spent at work, it is important to pursue something that will make you happy. After you choose a major, keep your eyes open for career fairs. You can meet prospective employers and practice interviewing skills by talking to prospective employers in an informal setting.
Mental Health Resources
College can be stressful. As you go through the self-exploration process of being independent, you may feel alone and homesick. It is important to stay on top of your mental health. Most colleges have counseling centers that offer free sessions to students. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment to talk about whatever may be troubling you. Most college students take advantage of this free service. You can talk to a trained counselor to sort through the daily stress of being a college student. You can even discuss questions about career or academic major selection. Resist the urge to go home when things get tough. A counselor can help you work through feelings of frustration and help you feel more in control. You may also find that journaling your feelings will help you gain clarity about your situation.
Safety on Campus
An important college tip for all students is to remain vigilant about safety. Don’t walk alone on campus or in town when it is dark. Most campuses have blue safety phones so you can call for help in an emergency. Some colleges offer a special service that enables college students to call campus security for an escort to their dorm at night. If you need to go to the library for a late-night study session, ask your roommate or a friend to go with you.
Similarly, don’t go to a party alone. If you do choose to drink alcohol, be sure that you have a buddy who will look out for you. Consider taking a self-defense class. You may even be able to take it for credit to satisfy a general education requirement. Practice safety in your dorm room too. Lock your door when you leave. If you have valuables in your room, bring something that locks to use for their storage.