Make no mistake, going to college or university for the first time is sure to fill you with a whole bunch of different emotions. These will probably include a mixture of excitement, anticipation, nerves, fear or even downright terror!
After all, going to college isn’t the same as school.You’ve officially ceased to be a child and are now taking those first steps on that road to adulthood.
Many issues might concern you – such as moving away from home for the first time, meeting new people and teachers, different methods of teaching and learning, finance issues…. The list goes on. And then when you read many of the statistics that are bandied around in the media and various other sources – such as how many students drop out before completing their sophomore year, or how many never see their education through to gaining their degree – you can be forgiven for that slow spin cycle in the pit of your belly turning up the pressure to full speed.
But in spite of all this worry the great majority of students get through those first, tenuous weeks of college with relative ease. Most people settle in and begin what very often turn out to be life-long friendships with their fellow students, as well as settling into the crucial learning routine that’ll see you heading towards your degree goal.
Because being at college is so different to school, you will need to adjust your way of thinking a little to ensure that you settle in as quickly as possible. So we’ve put together a ‘Top 10’ of surviving those first few nervous weeks.
1. Organization. College simply isn’t the same as school, where you’re given structured lesson, study and work time. At school you were led by the hand, with teachers informing you (and then reminding you) of assignment due dates and similar. This doesn’t happen at college or university. Here the tutors will post necessary due dates on the noticeboard and then it’s up to you to hand them in on time. It’s not unusual for the whole semesters due dates to be posted at the beginning, and it’s your responsibility to read, digest and have your work completed in time.
So a big tip here is to get some organizational method. This could be a wall calendar, your iPhone or Blackberry, a physical diary or whatever works for you. But you need to take a note of these dates – and keep tabs on them throughout the semester to ensure that your work is completed on time.
2. Attend the college orientations. Many campuses are enormous, and the quicker you get to know your way around, the better.Attend every orientation going. Not only will this help you learn where everything is, but it’ll give you the chance to meet as many people as possible.
3. Get to know your tutors. It can only be an advantage for your tutors and professors to know who you are. They have a large amount of faces to remember, but when the time comes that you need a bit of more personalized help (and you will), if your tutor knows who you actually are then this will be highly advantageous.
4. Get to know as many people as possible. It goes without saying that your room- mate and those in your halls of residence are likely to become your surrogate family.Friendships made here often develop into those that last a lifetime. You should also try to get to know as many people in your classes as possible too. A large network will be very advantageous throughout your education, especially if a time comes when you might have to miss a class for whatever reason and need someone to help get you back up to speed.
5. Stay on campus. This can sometimes be tricky, especially if you suffer from homesickness. It’s highly likely that you’ll never have been away from home for an extended period of time before. Perhaps you’ve left a girlfriend or boyfriend behind, or you miss your friends and family. Whatever the reason, do your best to stay on campus – at least for the first few crucial weeks. That way you’ll allow yourself the time to settle into your new lifestyle and begin to adapt.If you really do feel so lonely or homesick that it begins to affect your health or well-being, then take advantage of the counseling services offered by your college. Talking to someone really does help, and you don’t have to suffer on your own.
6. Find the right place to study. This might sound obvious, but it can take a little doing.Perhaps your room is the right place, or maybe the library or even a local coffee shop. It doesn’t matter where – but should preferably be somewhere reasonably quiet and where you won’t be disturbed.
7. Get involved. You’ll find there’s lots of activities on-campus. Finding some leisure interests is an ideal way to unwind, as well as meeting like-minded people. So pick a couple you think you might enjoy and get stuck in. Just be careful not to over commit yourself in your enthusiasm. After all, you’re going to need some study time as well!
8. Get a good alarm clock! Let’s face it, college life often involves late nights. And your Mom’s not there to ensure that you get up in time for class. Whatever you do, don’t get into the habit of missing early morning classes. College is your big chance to get your education off to a flying start – and that means you actually need to attend your classes.
9. Watch your finances. The beginning of your college life is the time to make a budget for those finances. As tempting as it might be to take advantage of all those ‘wonderful’ credit card deals that will soon begin dropping through your mailbox, if at all possible you should refrain. Post-college debt is at an all-time high, and by being as restrained in your spending as possible you’ll be a happier (and better off) person when you leave college and begin your working career.
10. Don’t forget to enjoy college. Lastly, but definitely not least, try to enjoy yourself. Sure, college is hard work, but it’s a completely new experience and one that you most likely won’t ever have the chance to do again. Work hard, study hard and, in all likelihood, play hard. There’s a reason so many people have nothing but fond memories of their college days. So enjoy!