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4 Things You Can Do Now to Make Your College Transition Easier
Congratulations! You’ve worked hard, you’ve waited, and now that moment’s come: you’ve gotten that coveted acceptance letter from a college that you really like. You’ve visited, you’ve done your research; you’re absolutely sure that you’ve picked the college you want to go to, and you’ve committed. Your financial aid’s finished, your dorm’s picked out.
So, you’re pretty much done, right?
Well, you could be. But take it from someone who’s been there and done that; there’s definitely some legwork that it’s good to do before you appear on campus for that first day of orientation. They’re not necessarily must-dos, but you’ll definitely thank your past self once you’re on campus for doing these four quick things.
Save a copy of your application
Hey — we get it. Application season is over, and nobody wants to think any more about those dark times. Thankfully, most people at college think that way too. Nobody’s going to ask for your SAT or ACT scores or what your Common App essay was about — application season’s something that most college students have collectively agreed to forget.
But if you’re thinking of joining some extracurriculars straight out of freshman year, or maybe getting an on-campus job or internship, this is where your ex-college application will come in handy. See, many of these positions require that you submit some kind of resume in order to be properly considered, and as a freshman in college, the most valuable experiences you’ve had were probably in high school.
Your college application often can double as a high school resume with a couple of tweaks, and even your essays can be re-appropriated for the short answer questions that some extracurricular organizations like to append onto their applications. They tend to ask about your strengths and weaknesses, your personal goals, your interests — wait, doesn’t this sound familiar?
So save yourself the trouble of having to write a high school resume or CV completely from scratch, and keep a copy of your application materials somewhere accessible. And even if you don’t end up using them during freshman year, you can always delete them, burn them, shred them — whatever you’d like — a year later. The delayed gratification makes things much more satisfying.
Speak with your academic advisors ahead of time
At most colleges, freshmen are asked to pick their classes during the summer, which (for most students) is a very eye-opening experience. Sure, you’re given some rudimentary guidelines by the college on what classes you have to take to graduate, but oftentimes there’s no rule or regulation telling you when exactly you should choose to take each class. Usually, STEM-based departments are a little more specific than humanities departments about when to take what, but much of the time the system gives you the student much more freedom than guidance. You’re pretty much allowed to choose whatever classes you want.
Plus, eight semesters (or 16 quarters) goes a lot more quickly than you think it does, and if you do change your intended major or career path in the middle, the classes you’ve picked in your early semesters can either make the transition easy or make you pay dearly.
Because of this, it’s definitely worth it to set aside thirty minutes of your time and arrange a phone call with an academic advisor or dean at your college before picking out your very first semester of college classes. This goes double for those of you who are still undecided or are not that confident about your major choice — talk to these people. They’ve seen many students come and go, they know that many students leave with a different major than the one they marked on their application, and they’ve helped these students through it all. Even if you’re absolutely sure about your major choice, it’s still worth getting a second opinion on your classes, just in case.
An added perk of talking to a human advisor before class selection is that sometimes these advisors know the student side of class selection — which professors are cranky, which classes are popular, which majors are suited to which learning style and personality. Getting that extra perspective on your classes can be the difference between finding a major you like and sticking to it for eight semesters, or having to take a ninth semester because you came to the same result via trial and error.
Join your class’s Facebook group
Most colleges have some kind of social media presence for their newly-admitted students; some are open pages that anyone can join, and others require confirmation from an email with the college’s correct .edu extension.
Either way, these pages are great places to meet other members of your class before you arrive on campus and share knowledge with each other. In fact, some colleges will actually have social media representatives staffing the page so that any questions students ask will get answered by someone who knows what they’re doing. Some alumni and upperclassmen also join the page to help out new freshmen, so you can get information from sources from a vast array of backgrounds or find some mentors to help you out.
These pages don’t go away after freshman year, however; they often evolve into general forums for discussions about student life or campus events as the years go on, and are great ways to keep yourself in the loop about campus news. During senior year, for instance, it’ll be the place where people post about graduation logistics and job opportunities. So there’s really no harm at all in getting a head start and joining up before you get to school.
Develop your elevator pitch
We don’t mean in the same sense as you would for an interview, but you’re starting off college, and it’s often helpful to have a preset image in your mind ahead of time of how you want to present yourself. What are some things about yourself that you want people meeting you for the first time to know? What’s special about you? What do you like, and what do you hate? What do you hope to do here at this school?
You’re not going to be drilled for all those questions, but in your first few weeks at college, you’re going to be meeting a lot of new people and playing a generous amount of icebreakers. (We’re speaking from experience — some of us were freshman orientation leaders and this is exactly what they train us to do.) A lot of the time, these icebreakers ask you to disclose some fun facts about yourself or some personality traits that you have to total strangers. Let’s be honest — those are not easy to think up off of the top of your head.
It definitely helps to at least go over these basic baseball card facts about yourself a few times in your head before you come onto campus, because frankly, this meeting people stage is going to comprise most of your early months on campus. You’ll be asked to introduce yourself over and over again, whether it be at RA meetings, orientation events, or on the first day of class. If you can have a set of answers up and ready to go, it’ll make things a lot easier on you, especially if you’re a little more on the shy side or don’t like to talk about yourself as much.
The transition from high school into college is definitely one of the bigger ones in anybody’s life; it’s a lot of new information to take in at once and a completely new environment to get used to. Though everyone’s experience is ultimately unique, we hope that this post can ease the process and help you build a network of people who can help you. Because that’s one of the most important things you ultimately learn in college: in terms of help, ask and you will receive.