As the summer season sets in and the last high school graduates walk across the stage, we all remain hopeful for new experiences that the fall season and the start of a new school year will bring. For most graduating seniors, the thrill and exhilaration of high school graduation will wane as the summer break concludes while eagerness and possible anxiety will commence as you await the beginning of your college journey. Incoming college freshman can be proactive in ensuring you are prepared to succeed in college and beyond. Follow these 5 useful tips to help prepare for your new life on a college campus.
1) Understand the layout of your campus.
Knowing how your campus is set up can be very important for success during your college years. If you can choose which dorm to stay in make sure that you find one that is close to where most of your classes are going to be. Take time to explore the campus and find out where each of your classes is held. Unlike high school, not all of your classes will be in the same building Residing close to your class locations means you won’t always have to be in a rush if your morning routine happens to take an extra 5 minutes. We all know how getting up in the morning can sometimes be a pain.
You will also want to know where the dining hall and restaurant options are in relation to your dorm and classrooms. Making a mad dash to get lunch at the same time as 1,000 other students won’t be too much of a hassle if you’re eating near your next class or dorm. In my experience, I have also used the knowledge of my campus to find the perfect spots to study or do assignments. Finding that right environment that encourages you to be productive is also key. I could never study or do work in my dorm room, but you could catch me on the 4th floor of the library any day of the week. Know your campus layout so that you can use it to your advantage.
2) Use your resources.
There are a plethora of resources to get support and assistance for students on most college campuses. These resources can help you with a range of issues that you may run into as a student from a physical injury to help on that bio lab. It is important to know what resources are available to you and where they may be found. Sometimes emergencies happen, and they can be resolved faster and more efficiently if you know exactly where to go. Academically, the best thing you can do is at least occasionally attend tutor sessions for some of the classes that you have and build a relationship with an academic advisor and/or career counselor. Going to tutoring sessions and maintaining communication with your academic advisor are great ways to remain academically astute and get any unanswered questions addressed. You may also get lucky and have a tutor who is willing to help you with your homework as well. Never be afraid or ashamed to go in and get help from your academic advisor either. As adults, we like to be independent and figure things out on our own, but your academic advisor has been hired by your college or university so that you don’t have to do that. Always remember that there is help for you during your college journey if you know where and how to access it.
3) Keep an eye out for financial aid.
Most departments within a college or university have scholarships and financial assistance that they will provide to students who apply and meet requirements. It is important to talk to your professors and department staff to stay in the know about scholarship opportunities. Going to tutoring, as was discussed in the previous tip, can also help you get your foot in the door for scholarships. You will be able to connect with older students who can help you as well. You will also need to visit your actual financial aid office and check to see what they can do for you. They may also recommend that you apply to a work-study program. These programs will allow you to make money to help pay for tuition while also working on campus. Money is out there, but it is important to know where and how to obtain it.
4) Invest in the right technology.
Today’s educational environment can be very saturated with tech. In some classes, you won’t even see a piece of paper because the professor has decided to convert her/his whole teaching style to digital. In this case, certain devices are becoming necessary for the modern student to thrive. Number one gadget: A LAPTOP. This might be the most important for a student today besides their brain (up for debate). And when paper is being used in the classroom, it might also be a good idea to invest in a printer. One of the excuses I’ve heard the most for being late in college was something along the lines of “My paper wouldn’t print at the library.” If you have your own printer then know where else you can go to print. Some computer labs around campus may be able to provide free printing and use of computers in the event you are not able to secure your own. Consider your technology needs when requesting and/or applying for financial aid as well. It is also likely that financial aid for some students will include refund money. Remember that your refund money shouldn’t be used for a shopping spree or a night on the town. Investing your financial resources wisely is essential to set yourself up for success – and technology needs should be part of your investment.
5) Get to know your professors.
On day one it is very important to speak to all of your professors and at least tell them your name so they can put a name to a face. Some professors do not even see some of their students at all. That student is then reduced to a name, an ID Number, and her/his grades. Don’t be a number. Show your professor that you are a person who takes their education seriously, and they will be very willing to get to know you. There is so much help on class concepts, homework, and tests that can be received from your professor if you know them on a more personal level. Everything that you will apply for from here on out will require at least one letter or recommendation. Who better to talk highly of you than your professor that you have befriended over the course of the semester? Getting to know your professor from the start has nothing but positive outcomes. You never know what kind of opportunities they may open up for you in the future.
Mendell Grinter is the Founder & Executive Director of Campaign for School Equity - nonprofit organization committed to the equitable utilization of high quality educational options. Grinter is also a member of the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30.