Off to College! Ten Tips for Students
1. Tour the Campus.
Don't wait until the last minute or until you have an emergency. Locate where your classes will be, the professors' offices, the likely parking options, bookstores, healthcare/pharmacy, advisors/counselors, cafeterias, laundry facilities, etc. Take note of things like hours of operation or how long it takes to get from one place to another. Remember that campuses look a lot different when classes are in full swing and everyone is in attendance!
2. Go to Class.
Showing up and participating really does make a difference. You never know when you might need a teacher to go to bat for you or a classmate to help you with a project. If they don't know you, you've lost a valuable resource. Know yourself, if you are not a morning person, try to avoid scheduling an 8:00 class. Be wary if your brain is prone to tricking you into avoiding work with ideas like, "Oh skip it just this once" or "You don't really need to be there, you can get the notes". Treat class like the Netflix movie that you paid for, so you watch it to the end, even if it isn't as good as you thought it would be! (Tip: Before you sign up for classes, you can read course reviews to see what your peers thought of Chemistry 101 with Dr. Green).
3. Go to the Library (at least try it).
Explore the resources there. Ask questions, get assistance, find a great spot to focus without distraction. Using the library can mean the difference between being at college for a semester vs. being there all four years!
4. Be Prepared.
Find out what you need (use a reliable source or sources) and get those materials promptly. If you are having trouble getting something you need, get help quickly. Don't give up or spend too long waiting for that book to come in at the discount book store. Try ALL of the potential resources (parents, friends, professor, advisor, retailers) until you get the materials you need.
5. Ask for help.
After you have tried to figure it out on your own, ask for help. There are no dumb questions and everyone on campus is really there to help students succeed. This is not the time to be stubbornly independent! The professors, advisors, counselors, librarians, teacher's aides, and your peers are all potential resources.
6. Be Open-Minded.
College offers a lot of varied experiences. You are more likely to enjoy the experience if you bravely embrace the new. You will take courses in things you have no experience or confidence in. You will meet people who are really different. Trust yourself and leave your comfort zone!
7. Manage Your Time.
You may be able to get through college without managing your time wisely, but I don't recommend it. Why suffer through the stress of all-nighters, missed deadlines, and less-than prepared for exams?
Use time management and organizer tools (planners, calendars, phone apps). Time yourself and see how long it takes you to do basic daily things like get shower, dress, eat a meal, or go for a run. Then time how long it takes you to read a chapter, research a topic, or write a page. Use this information to realistically make adjustments to your time planning. It is much less stressful to keep up with things as they come than it is to have to play catch up. Do you really have time to straighten your hair or play that video game?
8. Follow the Syllabus.
What you lost the syllabus?! Get another one! Don't give up, someone has one. If the professor really did not give out a syllabus and is not telling you what is expected, you are not off the hook. Make a plan anyway. The campus calendar tells you when mid-term and finals weeks will be happening. Research online to see what the course syllabus looks like when taught by other professors at other college campuses.
9. Take Good Care of Yourself.
Make sure that you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise, relax, and have fun. College is a marathon, not a race. Pace yourself and try to keep a balanced lifestyle.
10. Persistence is Key.
You are going to experience some challenges. You might fail a class. You might get your heartbroken. You might change majors or change schools. Get through these things, survive them using all of your internal and outside resources (family, friends, etc.). Use disappointment and failure to build your character. Make changes when it makes sense to change things. Let go of the things that don't really matter. Persistence will get you to your goals.
Lynn Wadelton, Ph.D.,Lic. Clinical Psychologist