From adjusting to a demanding schedule to figuring out how to get involved, school life is a whole new world. Here is some advice from people who have already run the gauntlet.
Don’t Fall Behind
College moves fast. In High School, you had about 8 and a half months for a class — now you have a little under 4 months. If you push off your assignment, they will quickly pile up and you will find yourself pulling a lot of all-nighters to dig yourself out. Start on your work as soon as it’s assigned and work on it a bit every day. You’ll find college a lot less stressful when you’re not always working up until the deadline.
Go To Class
Now that you’re a college student, nobody is going to force you to attend class. Most professors won’t have a participation grade and there won’t be any attendance taken. However, you will quickly learn that going to class can make the difference between a B and an A. Missing even one lecture can make you feel lost.
Do Well From The Start
One of the biggest mistakes students make is neglecting their GPA the first two years and then spending the other two trying to fix it. The classes you take your first two years are usually general education credits that are going to be easier than the core classes you take in upper-level classes. Doing well in those classes will give you a “cushion” for when you do poorly in an upper-level class your junior or senior year.
To give yourself an idea of how your GPA will be affected, check out our GPA calculator. It allows you to enter your current GPA and the total credits you’ve taken and then enter predictions about your other classes. It’s a great way to help you predict how will you need to do in your classes to reach your desired GPA.
Always Check You Calculator Before An Exam
Something as stupid as forgetting to change your batteries or checking to see if your calculator is set to degrees instead of radians can cost you a letter grade. Keep a pair of spare batteries in your backpack and check your calculator’s setting ritualistically. It’s such a simple mistake to avoid but too many people forget and regret it once they get their grade back.
Your First Friends Won’t Be Your Only Friends
When you’re starting college, you’ll probably be assigned to a dorm room by a computer. You are alone in a strange place, surrounded by people you don’t know. You’ll probably make friends with everyone on your floor when you start but you probably won’t be friends by the time graduation comes.
Once everyone starts to adjust to the college lifestyle, you’ll probably find other people you get along with much better. This is okay and is part of what college life is about. This doesn’t mean those first friends aren’t good, just not up to the full potential of friendship. You’re going to learn a lot about yourself over the new four or more years and your friend circles will change as a result.
Don’t Push Off You Hard Classes
Whether it’s Math, Organic Chemistry, or Physics, get it done early. Pushing off your one Math or Physics requirement until your last semester is a great way to fail and not graduate on time.
- You’ll be out of practice since the last time you took that class was in High School
- You’ll be stressed because you know you need to pass in order to graduate.
As much as you might hate the idea of spending another semester in Chemistry, Math or Physics, it’s going to feel great once you have it behind you.
Don’t Take Math Online
This is especially true if Math is not your strong suit. Taking a class online has its own set of challenges and, if you’re someone who struggles to understand the material, you don’t want to make the course anymore difficult. You might think that your professor doesn’t help much since you’re on YouTube most nights trying to learn how to do the homework but the lectures still help. You need to be able to ask questions and get advice on how to best study for the exam.
Don’t Buy Anything From The Bookstore
Unless you’re forced to do so, you should never buy anything from the bookstore. There are so many ways to find cheap college textbooks that you never have to buy one from the bookstore. More importantly, you can get many of your textbooks for free.
Also, never sell your textbooks to the bookstore at the end of the year. While they might be convenient, you’re not going to get a good deal. Find another student taking the class and sell it to them. It’s a win-win situation.
Don’t Buy Textbooks You Don’t Need
The best way to save money on textbooks is to just not buy them. While a textbook is crucial to some classes, other classes never use it. Sometimes a professor will only list a textbook as required because the department made the decision. It’s always a good idea to email your professor before classes start and ask if the textbook is required.
You’re Going To Get Overwhelmed
No matter how well organized you are, the pressure of college will eventually get to you. You are going to get frustrated and overwhelmed at certain times and while those moments might feel big at the time, they’ll be small and insignificant when you look back later. It’s important to learn how to manage stress in college because there will be a lot of it.
Everyone gets burned out sometimes; so it’s okay to take a day off sometimes. Getting a worse grade on a test is worth less than your future happiness and mental health. There is no reward for forcing yourself to work and suffering on purpose. Take a break, get help and you’ll be better off – so will your work.
Avoid Early Morning And Late Evening Classes
Nobody is going to wake up for school anymore and there are no more curfews. Waking up for an 8 AM class is going to be a painful experience and, while you might be able to pull it off for the first two weeks, it’s going to get harder as you get deeper in the semester. Missing class is going to have an adverse affect on your grades and sleep deprivation is going to affect your health.
Also, don’t push your classes to the end of the day. There is a reason Grade School always started early; your brain works best in the morning. The point of the lecture is to do your best to understand the material so that you can do the work later on. If you’re zoning in and out of lecture, then you won’t get much out of the class.
In short, take classes in the morning but make sure you can wake up on time!
Get To Know Your Professors
You might not want to go to office hours or talk to them before/after class but you’ll regret it when you need a letter of recommendation. If you’re applying to Graduate School, a Scholarship, Grant or anything academic you’re going to need a good letter. You might not have Grad School on your mind when you start but you don’t want to scramble to find letters your 4th year. Even if you don’t ever need a letter, you should take some to get to know your professors, they’ve been through a lot of schools and can give you some great life advice.
Join A Club
We’re not trying to sound like a College brochure but this is a really great way of meeting people. Chances are if you go to a club related to something you’re interested in, then you will find other people who you will get along with. Also, if there is a club for your major, it’s a great way to meet people who can help you with your classes as well as build your network for job opportunities in the future.
If there is a club for a subject you struggle a lot with, (e.g. Math) then it’s a great way of finding a tutor and getting advice on how to do better in the class. Remember that clubs can also be put on a resume if you take an active role and help organize events or programs.
Do Internships & Network
Going to college will get you a degree, but it won’t guarantee you a job. You need to do internships over the summer and network with people. Employers want to hire people who have both experience and a college diploma. Knowing how to get an internship your first year of college can really help you get ahead. Keep in mind that you will have about three summers before your 4th year so you need to make them count. Remember, it’s not the grades you make, but the hands you shake.
Sit Near The Front
You might have never sat in the front of a class before but you will want to start in college. Psychologically studies conducted by The College at Brockport have proven that sitting in the front will result in better grades. You’re more likely to pay attention, you’ll have an easier time seeing the board and your professors will recognize and remember you more easily.
Schools Offer Free Mental Health
There is no shame in using your school’s mental health services – they’re there for a reason. The stress of College is not something that you need to go through alone. Most schools require that you have signed up for their health insurance program so these counseling services are usually free. Ignoring your mental health will hurt your GPA, relationships, and physical health.
Sign Up For Classes Early
Unlike High School, you won’t get into every class that you want. If you wait too long, then all the good classes will be full and you’ll have to scramble to find classes that will still work for you. As soon as the catalog for the next semester is released, you should start planning your schedule. Then once your time to register starts, you can quickly enroll in the classes. If you’re still planning out what classes you need on the enrollment date, you probably won’t get the schedule you want.
Avoid Debt Like The Plague
The biggest problem with college loans is that they are so easy to get and you don’t have to worry about them until graduation. Once you’re out of school, all those debt collectors are going to come knocking. It might not seem like a lot of first but over the four or more years of college, you’re going to accumulate a lot of debt if you’re not careful and you will have to pay it back. Even if you’re lucky enough to get a job right out of school, you don’t want to have $50,000 in student loans to pay off.