Many excited high school graduates are preparing for their first year as a college student this month. Incoming college freshmen usually have unrealistic images of what college life is really like, based on movies and TV shows they have seen.
This tip list will help you review your expectations as you plan your move and your new life as a young adult.
Get Comfortable With Fast
Unlike high school, you only have 16 weeks to complete a huge amount of material in every class you take. In fact, you may cover as much in 16 weeks as you did in an entire year of high school!
Don’t underestimate how fast college classes move and how important it is to stay on top of things from the first day! Procrastination and assumptions about having lots more time to complete assignments or raise your grade can mean starting off your college career on the wrong foot.
Visit Your Academic Advisor
Colleges do their best to make academic plans as clear as possible for students, but checking in with your advisor is always wise.
Do this even if your university doesn’t require freshmen to schedule such appointments. Showing up on your advisor’s doorstep for the first time a semester before graduation usually means requirements unmet, which leads to staying in school another semester…or more.
Re-schedule Routine Tasks
A lot of life is “hurry up and wait,” and this applies to college life too. Little things like doing your laundry on Sunday night, taking showers in the middle of the afternoon (right after they are cleaned, if possible) and eating on a schedule that is a bit before or after the typical busy times will offer you more time to study.
It’s easy to start feeling like you don’t have enough time to go to class, study, socialize and still be hygienic and fed. But taking a little bit different approach to routine tasks will free up a lot of time and minimize your frustration at waiting around.
Think Twice About Social Media
It’s so easy to stay in touch with friends now, and you will be sorely tempted to share all of the details of your new “adult” life with those people you left behind. But before you post that picture or that detail about last night, ask yourself, “Would I want my grandma to see this?”
Harsh, I know, but even grandmas are on Facebook and Tumblr! And more than that, so are university professors, scholarship committee members and graduate school admission officers. With a click of a smartphone button, you could be damaging your reputation in ways that cannot be reversed.
Use Your Campus Email
Campus email is how colleges now disperse information to students. If you aren’t checking it, you are missing out on important reminders and opportunities that you may not found out about otherwise until it’s too late.
If you find yourself not checking it often, consider connecting it to your personal email account so that you only need to check one location. Also, use your campus account when emailing professors and other college professionals. Many students have personal email names that aren’t appropriate for academia. You don’t want the first impression you make on an influential person to be a negative one.
Pack Only The Necessities
Many students haven’t shared a small room with another person for years, if ever. It’s easy to believe that you will need and want practically everything in your room at home, but honestly, there just won’t be room for all of that stuff in the dorm. Put all of the stuff you would like to take with you into one area of the house.
Let it sit there for a couple of days and then go back and make logical, realistic choices about what really goes with you. Think practical, not emotional. Take one or two favorite things that will make your room feel more like home…but that is all.
Utilize Your Meal Plan
Find out where you can use your meal points. Some colleges, allow students to use them at coffee kiosks, grab and go markets, and even off campus local restaurants. Learn how your college deals with points left over at the end of the week and make sure to use them up before you lose them.
Consider starting out with a lower meal plan than you think you may need. Why? Because most universities won’t allow students to lower their plan once the semester starts, but they will, of course, let you raise them. Dining plans are expensive, so make sure that you are using yours to the fullest.
The other side of freedom is responsibility. Being away from home affords many choices that are best made with discretion, so that regret doesn’t become what you think of when you remember your college days.
Everything from walking alone at night to loaning a “new friend” a much-beloved item can be something that sounded good at the time, but doesn’t turn out well. The consequences will vary, but a little foresight and good common sense will serve you well in all areas of college life. When in doubt, don’t.
Join In On Campus Life
Some students find it challenging to start over again in a new place. Suddenly living among strangers can be intimidating, but joining in on activities right from the beginning will not only be fun, but get you feeling at home quickly.
If you haven’t already, scope out the clubs, intermural sports, groups and teams that your college offers. If you have always been interested in something, but haven’t had the opportunity to try it, now is the time! Joining campus groups helps you meet new people who are like-minded and is also a great way to sharpen your leadership skills and build your community awareness.
Yes, that may sound boring, but moderation really is key to completing your college degree. You may be under the impression that college is all about excess-that it is almost a requirement-but it isn’t, or at least, it doesn’t have to be.
For example, you may be able to pull a few all-nighters over the semester, but not every night. You may be able to skip a class if you aren’t well, but not constantly. That is, at least, if you want to graduate. Making “everything in moderation” your motto will make you a happier, wiser college graduate.
Communicate With Your Roommate
You and your roommate don’t have to be BFF’s but you do need to maintain good communication so that the time you spend in your communal room is pleasant rather than stressful.
If you have a problem with something they are doing, find a good time to discuss it. If you need help dealing with serious issues, ask your resident assistant to mediate. Letting irritations build is a sure way to building an unhappy “home life.”
Guard Against Technology Failure
Always back up your files. Save all files and documents until classes are over and your final grades are in. Then you can delete those papers and assignments.
If you are taking online classes, always type up all work in a word processing program and save it. There only has to be one little bleep in the online system for you to lose everything you just wrote. Saving and backing up your work will protect you from having to redo assignments if the worst happens.
Like I need to tell college students that, right? But I am talking about technology that helps students stay focused, stay organized and study smart.
There are all kinds of free apps and programs available where students can make virtual flashcards, build mind maps, keep on top of their exams and learn how to best write various types of essays. Technology can be a huge help to students who take advantage of it.
Check The Syllabus
A course syllabus is a contract between the student and the professor. Once you have it in your hot little hand, you are responsible for understanding all of the material in it. Every professor has different rules by which they govern their classes. Thinking about taking off a couple of days early over a holiday? Check your syllabus.
Think you remember when that big paper is due? Check the syllabus. Need to talk to the professor about material you don’t understand? Check the syllabus. Information that is vital to your performance in each class is located in those few sheets of paper. Things like number of absences allowed, assignment due dates and professor office hours can all be found in each class syllabus.
Seek Help, The sooner, The Better
Don’t wait until final’s week to learn where the tutoring center is or how to use the library online catalog. Every online college offers their students tons of free services, and unfortunately that you should take advantage of.
If you have questions about material, go to your professor’s office hours right away. Not sure how to get started with a research paper, go see the college librarians. Unclear about the formulas for your math and science classes? Go to the tutoring center. There is no shame in needed some extra information! It’s only a shame when students need help, but don’t seek it out.