Are you anxious yet excited about starting college??
Having been through the experience of leaving home to attend college 8 hours from home I understand the anxiety that comes with the project. Now as an experienced counselor I see how stressful it is and want to offer some specific tips that will help you get through the first year.
· Spend the Summer READING– you can do it on your phone, use ‘real’ books or google on amazon or local library to get more versed in the subjects you will need to take for your first year. I would suggest reading a novel, non-fiction or trade magazines in the field you have chosen for your career. I will also suggest reading a book on communication skills, business strategies and some memoirs on the leaders in the field you want to start your career in. Know that you will NOT have time to read for pleasure for the next few years – only on breaks or summer vacations –until you graduate. The amount of reading most degrees require can be overwhelming – get into the discipline of reading daily!
o I will also suggest reading a novel about people of other countries– immigrants, refugees, current history, cultural challenges that are DIFFERENT from your own. If you know what nations will be represented in your dorm – read at least one book by an author from that country – learn what their living conditions, foods, traditions, values, families, environment are really like. Too often we have no clue how the other world really lives – by doing this you will also be more aware of when you are offensive, inappropriate, foolish or respectful.
· Use YouTube for great videos on social skills, meeting people, starting new jobs, what to expect, and ‘hacks’ – It constantly amazes me what is available at a touch of a button – and you can watch over and over, get answers to embarrassing questions and watch how others do things successfully. I found those for guys and social skills were right on target with great tips. I will also recommend www. kahnacademy.com
· Set up Smart Phone Apps for Time Management – Project deadlines, countdowns to tests, making outlines, flashcards, quizzes and specific tools for the courses you have to take. I find that many have serious issues with remembering when projects are due; tests need to be taken, meetings with classmates for project development, reminders to complete steps of a large project.
o Program you contacts with names of professors, advisors, support personnel AHEAD if you can. You never know when theywill be needed.
o Program Emergency numbers – Dorm Resident assistant, Security personnel/office, Healthcare facility, Physician, OB/Gyn.
o USE phone calendar and set up reminders as soon as you get syllabus – set up advance notices/reminders/alarms –before the stress starts!
· JOIN SOMETHING – anything – volunteer – you will NEED to expand your exposure to the world of your career. Find out from advisor what clubs, projects, associations, teams or advocacy groups that are on campus and join at least one – if not 2 – (not too many) – for each one you participate in you will build interesting friends, supportive and experienced peers and begin a network that will help with finding ‘open doors’ later.
· When in the dorm for the first day –week – month – LOOK FOR THINGS YOU HAVE IN COMMON with others. Pay attention to logos, sports on TV, clothing worn, what others are paying attention to, books carried, favorite foods, topics discussed. They may look different but there’s ALWAYS something in common – pay attention to that – that is where you start a conversation. Compliment and comment that you ‘like it too’ or ‘I noticed you watch/play/have’ . . . always gets the conversation ball rolling – other fall backs are pets, foods, parents, girlfriends. . .
o Check out TV’s and what others are watching that you enjoy and ask to join them – in my day soap operas were the major ‘game changer’ to get to know others – our day would stop for ‘All My Children’ – all meeting after lunch together to watch it – then off to classes.
· Attend gatherings, parties, seminars, on campus activities – there are usually LOTS of them – and most are low cost. Go! Most don’t like to go alone – initially you may feel uncomfortable asking new people to join – but do it – expand your horizons! The opportunities on campus are WHY college is so expensive! Take advantage of everything they offer! We had movies, crazy theme parties, educational seminars, food theme events, recreational activities, field trips and large musical events – most were free! Get your money’s worth!
· Urban campuses are often cities within cities – and quite cloistered. You may not have to leave the campus very much at all – a lot of students don’t – either because of time, money or taking advantage of what is already on campus. My campus had a world famous Art Museum across the street – we didn’t visit it until the last 2 days we before we graduated!
· Make friends with the Dorm Resident Assistant/Director – they will be the first ‘know it all’ you NEED to know – Dorms should hold meetings and even have ‘officers’ and ‘elections’ just like high school! Join up – this is how you meet the most people fast! You will also be recruited to come up with ideas for socializing, parties, educational and recreational activities. Getting to know this /these staff can help later if/when you have trouble with noisy or obnoxious roommates or suite mates, have intrusive guests, or have other significant issues when/where a parent would be the ‘back up’ solution – they can give advice, guidance and support. If there is ever a safety issue – you will be very glad you already know them.
· Expensive items can get stolen, borrowed, destroyed. As much as they may help your ego or help with feeling like a member of a specific ‘type’ –invasions of guests in your room may also mean your prized jewelry, watches, expensive tech and clothing could also be ‘missing’ later. Leave it home for the first month – get a ‘reality’ check of your dorm/apartment – then determine what you can’t live without – and figure in how to secure it. You can have a safe.
· Practice ‘Life Skills’ at home – so you’re the ‘good roommate’ when you get there. Unless you ask for a slob and have no trouble living with one – learn to pick up after yourself, have assigned places for everything, do your own laundry, have places to study, be respectful of others sleeping habits.
· Find solitary – quiet zones on campus – away from noise of dorms. I couldn’t study much in my dorm – it was considered a ‘quiet dorm’ for transfer students but it rarely was! I discovered the ‘carrels’ in the library –saved me – but many campuses and professors want team work projects so finding meeting places is also important. Use your dorm room and suite area for lighter reading, reviews and relaxing after the disciplined work study is done each day.
· The best way to avoid drugs, access to drugs, excessive alcohol consumption is take advantage of all the other activities to do! Be so busy you don’t have time for them. Know your limitations with alcohol – hang overs on a test or project day can kill a semester, grade, class and career – don’t fall for it! If you are witnessing serious drug abuse or illegal consumption of alcohol – report to your Resident Assistant – and work WITH them to find other ways to have fun without them! Reach out to others you see avoiding and do activities with them! You are NOT forced to be with people who make you feel uncomfortable! There are too many other options – use them!
· Establish a routine that has education as the foundation – you should allow 40 hours to attend classes and study/read/complete projects. This ratio should allow enough time to get decent grades – and allow for recreation time and time for ‘chilling’ with friends. Many een build in daily naps! It is one of the best things of living away from parents but also easiest to fail at. Getting enough time in to accomplish what it takes to graduate is the PRIORITY – I’m sure your parents will continue to remind you too!
· Every course has a different language – study the vocabulary first! One you have a solid grasp on the language used – the course should be comfortably ‘easy’. This isn’t for just foreign languages – it’s for all classes.
· The ‘heads up’ is that the professors do NOT care if you show up, take the test, finish the project, speak up, participate or pass. They aren’t your parents, cheerleaders, or mentors. You are expected to step up to the plate – do what it takes and do it without personal attention, positive feedback or fear of punishment. They get paid no matter what, they watch 60 % of students leave and they aren’t judged by your behavior – only your grade. They may never know your name or even face – but you won’t the degree of your choice without following their lead – and completing their demands as THEY see fit.
· Dress appropriately – just because you can wear pajamas doesn’t mean you should . . . impressions count – those same professors may be approving your internships, job applications, career interviews and making recommendations that will change the course of your life.
The college experience is expensive yet priceless. But you are not a failure if you decide you're not cut out for it! Remember 60% don't make it through - or go back later - when they decide they are ready and dedicated to getting all the way through. If you're heart or interest isn't into 'it' - it is okay to stop - regroup and try out employment first. For many this either gives them the drive to focus on what they really want or shift direction and find what works best for their own personality rather than what they've been sold as 'should' do. If you're finding you can't keep up, have life changing events that throw you off, are spending too much time stressing over non-academic issues - then work with the college staff, a counselor and carefully determine what is best for YOU. For some it is actually a better investment to buy a house instead and go 'hands on' with self-employment, employer training, internships, apprenticeships and taking advantage of non-college education. Seek guidance from respected adults - especially those within the field you dream of - they will help with the wisdom needed.
In the meantime, reduce worry but DOING - take an active role in participating - asking - sharing and joining and you will be a graduate faster than you expect! Good Luck!