The thought of starting college can be overwhelming. Whether you are entering college directly from high school or have decided to attend after taking a couple years off, the idea of taking college classes can be intimidating.
The truth is no matter how much preparation you feel you have done, you are going to experience new situations. The following are seven things you need to know before starting college.
1. This is Not Going to be Easy
Earning a degree takes hard work, determination and time. Even those students who were on the honor roll in high school or who breezed through AP classes are going to need to adjust to a new way of learning.
It is important to utilize the resources that are available to you at your college. Your academic adviser may be able to help you stay on track by recommending which courses to take.
It is also a good idea to set goals – both short-term and long-term. Share your goals with friends and family members; they will help to keep you accountable. A mentor, possibly someone who is working in the career field you are going to school for, is another person who can help keep you motivated. If you don’t yet have a mentor, chances are you will meet them in college.
2. Your Instructors Won’t Be Like Your High School Teachers
Instructors will play a major role in your college experience. They have the knowledge and experience in the career area that you are hoping to join and will likely have valuable connections to professionals in that field.
Unlike your favorite high school teachers, college instructors will be less willing to accommodate late work, whether you have a “valid” reason or not. College is preparing you for the work world and in the work world, late isn’t acceptable.
For many instructors, the number of students they interact with on a daily basis makes it difficult for them to know each student by name, but it is worth your while to get to know them. When it comes to preparing for the job search, instructors who have gotten to know you and who believe in your potential may be willing to provide recommendation letters or serve as a job reference.
3. Time Management is a Must
Classes, assignments, work, fun, etc.! Effectively managing your time is necessary to combat stress. The structured environment that you likely came to appreciate in high school probably won’t be the case in college. Your class schedule alone will vary from day to day, sometimes with multiple hours in between classes.
Using a daily planner helps you keep track of the tasks you need to complete. Whether you decide to use a paper planner or a smartphone or tablet app, make an effort to keep it up to date. Keep track of when you will do homework, when you have to work and any events you are planning to attend. Being able to look at a full week or full month schedule will help you feel less stressed and determine when you need to say “no” to attending events.
Attend all of your classes! It can be easy to skip class, so holding yourself accountable is a necessity. Consistently attending class will alleviate stress and help to ensure you don’t fall behind. If you must miss a class, be sure to connect with your instructor as soon as you can to determine how to stay up to date.
4. Your Job Search Starts Right Away
The reason most people attend college is to receive the training to begin their career. Use the time you have while in college to form connections and gain relevant experience that can help you upon graduation.
Most colleges feature a career services department with advisors who can assist you with everything from creating a resume to practicing your interviewing skills. Many career services advisors also work with employers to post available positions for current students and graduates. Start working with your career services advisor at the start of your college career, as they can help you set and achieve you career goals.
Be on the lookout for networking events on and off campus, as these events offer a great opportunity to network with professionals and fellow classmates. Even if you are at the start of your college career, networking events can lead to part-time jobs or internship opportunities.
5. Introduce Yourself
College will arguably be the most convenient time in your life to meet new people. Take time to introduce yourself to instructors, classmates and college staff members. Not only will getting to know people make your college experience more enjoyable, but those connections you make can serve as resources down the road.
The classmates you meet can be friends, study partners, career resources and more. Colleges offer a variety of on campus events, which provide a fun and easy way to meet new people. Events can range from student appreciation barbeques to presentations from public figures.
Campus clubs are another way to meet fellow students who share common interests. Many colleges have clubs specific to your program of study or recreational interests.
Be on the lookout for off-campus events as well. If you are attending college in a city you are unfamiliar with, off-campus events can help you become familiar with your surroundings.
6. It’s Okay to Fail. Sometimes.
In college, you will take classes that are going to require hard work and complete assignments that are going to be difficult. Remember that no one is perfect and you may receive a low grade on some assignments or exams. It is important that you understand why you received the unsatisfactory grade.
If you receive a grade you are unhappy with, ask your instructor if he or she is willing to discuss the grade. Schedule a meeting with your instructor rather than stopping by; this will allow them time to review the assignment or exam and grade you received. It is best to talk through your instructor’s thoughts on your work. If you are unsure where you went wrong, you won’t know how to improve unless you communicate.
Depending on your instructor and the class, there may be an opportunity to earn extra credit. It doesn’t hurt to ask your instructor if that is an option.
7. Ask for Help When You Need It
There are many options when it comes to receiving academic assistance during college. Most colleges have some sort of resource center that offers academic tutoring. In some cases, tutoring sessions are targeted by program or course.
Prior to administering an exam, some instructors will hold optional review sessions. Attend these sessions, as they will help provide you with a focused plan for studying. These sessions will offer more insight into what you can expect on the exam.
Study groups are another way to stay on task. Ask your classmates if they want to form a study group. Study groups are not only beneficial when it comes to preparing for an exam, but if sessions are held regularly, they can help you stay on task throughout the term of the course.
Bottom line: college is an exciting time, but requires a lot of work. If you stay focused and utilize the resources available, you can find success.