College is more social, more stressful, more rewarding, and full of more potential than many incoming freshmen expect. You don’t have to learn these things the hard way, though. Avoid fumbling through your first months and peruse the tips below to get in the groove of higher education before you watch your parents drive away on move-in day.
Get Your Communication Skills Up to Snuff
High school and college are two very different animals. In high school, you have an established group of friends, a low-stakes relationship with your teachers, and the ability to walk into a diner and walk out with a job with very little effort.
In college, however, you’ll be challenged to develop meaningful personal and professional relationships that require you to know how to create a positive dynamic for group projects, how to have an intellectual conversation with a successful professor, and how to impress a potential employer when you interview for your dream internship.
Get a leg up by watching interviews with professionals on YouTube to see how they speak to one another. Hold mock interviews (even if only in your mind) with your imaginary-dream-employer. Read up on common interview questions and take the time to research the careers of your soon-to-be professors.
And, last but not least: If you carry yourself like an adult and a professional, you’ll be treated like one. Don’t let yourself cower in the shadows of those that seem to be “above” you!
Become a Pro at Time Management
For some, coasting by in high school was effortless. You could write that one-page paper the night before the due date and cram the morning before a test.
College makes high school habits difficult (and stressful) to maintain. Your parents won’t remind you to do your homework, and your often-crazy schedule is entirely in your hands. Learning how to manage it early will make the many things vying for your attention, from parties and dates to tests and papers, much easier to juggle.
Use the weeks before college to get in the swing of having a set schedule. Use calendars, reminders on your phone, and time management apps. Smartphone and tablet apps like Evernote, Remember the Milk, EpicWin, and Super Note can help you keep your life and your work organized.
Set an alarm to get up at the same time (before noon) every weekday. Commit to reading ten pages every day and hold yourself to it.
A little discipline now will make employing it when you have real deadlines much less painful.
Know You’re Not Alone, and Make the Most of Orientation
Every student that walks onto campus on opening day is feeling the same self-consciousness, excitement, and anticipation that you are. You may fear being alone, but this in itself is a bonding opportunity…because every other freshman on campus is going through the same thing.
Don’t be afraid to say “hi” to people in your orientation groups. Share your opinion at the end of presentations. Put yourself out there during orientation week to make settling in easier. The best part is that everyone is too busy trying to make friends to judge anyone.
Research Ways to Make Friends on Campus
Plan the clubs and activities you want to check out before you arrive on campus. Think about what you love to do and then check out your school’s website and Facebook pages to find opportunities to meet like-minded students. Many schools make it easy to browse their clubs, activities, and volunteer opportunities.
If you like acting, put the audition dates for the fall play on your calendar. If you’re an artist, reach out to the college’s painting group to let them know you’re interested. That way, you have a group of like-minded people ready to go before you even get to campus.
Parents and soon-to-be students: What makes you the most nervous about college? For those who have gone through it, how do you wish you’d prepared better? I’d love to hear from you.