As you think about heading off to college in the next few months, there is no doubt that a great adventure lies ahead! And while there is no doubt adventure will be involved, the reality is that intermingled with those fabulous new experiences will be times when it does not quite resemble that mental picture of perfection you have in your head. The most important thing now is to know that and to be as prepared as you can for whatever lies ahead.
Establish Habits Early On
In your new setup, you will be solely responsible for ensuring you maneuver successfully through your changing responsibilities. Establishing a strong foundation of solid habits at the outset can be key to your success. Start each day with a plan. Step back each week to assess the week behind you. Spend time looking to the week and month ahead to ensure your upcoming deadlines are well accounted for in your plan. Distill the outcome of this reflection to a planning structure that works best for you, whether in some electronic format or even a simple list system that you use to maintain your course. Make certain that the structure you create allows for the necessary time devoted to your studies, but also allows for some much-needed downtime as well.
A great book to read over the summer as you prepare for your first semester is Atomic Habits by James Clear. An excellent guide to starting good habits, stopping bad habits and for designing an environment that is built to enable your future success!
There are numerous ways to engage your mind in studying and preparing for each of your courses. Building this structured studying effort focused on being prepared for each class and staying current will be key. Carrying a full course load is nearly a full-time job. For example, if you are taking 12-hours of coursework you should expect to spend at least 1-2 hours outside each classroom hour, sometimes more, doing assigned reading, working on assignments and papers or studying for exams. This quantity of studying won’t happen unless you properly plan for it. Identify study methods that work best for your style of learning – consider self-study and study group options as part of this structure.
Take time upon arrival on campus to identify opportunities to engage in your new community through clubs, organizations or volunteer opportunities that are of interest to you. Do not make the mistake of waiting for these groups to seek you out but make it a priority to seek them out first. Involvement in your local community has numerous benefits, but one of the most basic is that it connects you to people that have similar interests. Building your network of friends and acquaintances expands your ever-growing circle of localized resources which is key to your success. College is a great place where you can take classes and learn about the career field you have identified. If you find you are not yet fully committed to that field or have possible interest in another, this is also a perfect opportunity to explore new areas of interest with elective coursework or organizations you choose to engage in. You may find this leads you down a different path or you may find the confirmation you seek in the path you have selected.
Take Care of Yourself
Time devoted to your academic pursuits is important, but just as important is making sure that you have a plan to take care of yourself in the process. Be intentional about carving out time to spend with friends, to engage in physical exercise and to explore your new surroundings. This may seem basic, but when you are faced with due dates and deadlines it is easy to forget to stop and take a time out on occasion. Use these breaks as outlets and rewards for a job well done as you successfully knock off your academic goals.
Self-Advocacy and Resources
You will always be your own best advocate. Advocating for yourself in a new environment can be scary or difficult at times. Bear in mind that you are best equipped to understand your needs and communicate those to others around you that are in a position to help. As part of this process, do not forget you have numerous resources you can tap into for help along the way. You pay a lot of money via tuition and that gives you access to these resources. They can include resources like tutoring, office hours with professors, campus counseling, career resources and more. Far too often, college students do not take advantage of these resources. The people working in these offices are experts who are experienced in working through common challenges of young adults in this important transition from high school to college.
Be open to the idea of a network of mentors and actively be on the lookout for them as you go through each day. Mentors come from a variety of places and can be peers, older students, professors or local community leaders. Selecting quality mentors and absorbing their well-intentioned advice creates yet another pathway to success.
Your Parents & Family Back Home
Remember this time of transition is just as difficult, maybe even more so, on your parents or family back home than it is on you. While your view of this experience is one covered in the excitement of a big new adventure, they are working through the difficult realization that you have in fact grown up on them! Be patient with the ones you love as they navigate uncharted waters. Recognize that they may come across as over-bearing and trying to control your new adventure from afar, but rest assured they have only your best outcome in mind!
College is so much more than just an extension of a learning process begun in high school. College truly is going to be your next great adventure. It will be what you make of it and you will be the primary determining factor of your success. Be prepared to embrace new things – new friends, new experiences, new cultures and new learning. You did not arrive where you are by accident. Your hard work and determination got you to this point – this launch pad