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A View Ahead: Thinking About The Skills You Need for the College Student You’ll Become
As a driven and intelligent high school student, you have probably been preparing yourself for college. You’ve been taking AP classes, attempting to master those standardized tests like the SAT and ACT, saving up money to pay for college, and learning how to manage your time and handle many responsibilities.
However, there are some aspects of college that you may not have been preparing for such as the lifestyle changes that are going to come when you enter college. After all, you may have never lived on your own for a long period of time, paid bills, searched for off-campus housing, and many other things that most college students do.
In addition to the lifestyle changes, college comes with a new end goal. Whereas in high school, you are competing against other qualified students who are your age and applying to the same colleges, in college you are competing with the much larger and more diverse workforce for internships and jobs. The competition is much steeper.
How can you prepare yourself for these inevitable lifestyle and mindset changes while you’re still in high school? To learn the most important skills you’re going to need to develop for college along with our best tips on how to start building these skills, keep reading.
1. Accepting Constant Change
The sudden and drastic change that comes with initially entering college can be overwhelming for many students and cause some stress and anxiety. Then, once the shock of the initial lifestyle change has passed, you will still be faced with change throughout your four years of college through things like new and challenging classes, unique job opportunities, and new living situations. You’re going to need to learn procedures and coping mechanisms to get through all of this.
The key to overcoming the stresses of constant change is to not dwell on how different everything is but rather focus on how exciting this new chapter in your life is. Try to put yourself out there and embrace your new situation — this includes going out to social events and making new friends, joining lots of new clubs, and taking classes with the attitude that you’re about to learn something new and valuable.
2. Accepting Feedback
In college, you are inevitably going to be judged by your professors, employers, and sometimes even your peers. After all, you’re going to be applying for clubs and organizations run by other college students, receiving feedback on tough assignments in classes, sending out a bunch of internship/job applications possibly to get rejected from quite a few of them.
The key to accepting all of this feedback in college is to not take it personally. Most of the time, the person evaluating you and your skills will barely know you, so there will be no ill-will in their evaluation of you. Take their feedback and suggestions as their way of helping and ensuring that you’ll do better in the future.
In addition, make sure to take the feedback seriously. Take the time to read over and think about the feedback you receive, including the harsher criticisms. The only way you’re going to improve and not get a certain critique again is to accept the feedback, critically evaluate it, and adapt accordingly.
3. Understanding How to Take Care of Yourself
Unlike in high school, where your parents did a lot of the basic household and self-care work for you, in college you now have to make your own schedule and be in tune with your physical and mental health, including personal hygiene, getting enough sleep and completing your coursework. For so many college students, taking care of themselves turns out to be a real challenge because they’re so busy with classes and other work, and there’s nobody around to remind them about self-care in college.
The key to not letting your physical health get away from you in college is to make a conscious effort to carry out basic hygiene and health practices every day. If you have to, make a checklist of basic things you need to do every day and check them off as you do them. For instance, you can tell yourself that you have to make sure you go down to the dining halls and eat at least three meals per day, you have to shower at least once a day, etc.
Remember that you can always enlist your parents to help in this endeavor, since they’ve taken care of you and know what’s required. They’re the ones who will remind you of those small chores you wouldn’t have even thought of, like wiping the table after every meal. They’re also the ones who may be willing to call or text you to remind you to take care of yourself.
4. Understanding How To Market Yourself
You may be thinking that you will already know how to market yourself thanks to your college applications, and it is true that you do have to sell your personality and your achievements on your applications in order to get into college. If you would like some expert help on building your academic and extracurricular profile in such a way that will make it easy to market yourself to college, check out our Mentorship Program.
Once you enter college, however, you are going to have to learn how to market yourself in a whole different way. Instead of selling yourself to colleges, you are now selling yourself to employers, and they see so many diverse applicants during a single day that you will need to really stand out in order to grab their attention.
One thing you’re going to need to do to market yourself to employers is to reformulate your resume to look less like a college resume and more like a professional resume. You’ll also need to keep updating it as you get more extracurriculars and work experiences under your belt in college.
You’re also going to have to learn what aspects of yourself and your accomplishments to highlight to employers and learn how to sell yourself in a relatively short amount of time at events like job fairs and interviews. To learn more about marketing yourself in a short amount of time to employers, check out What’s an Elevator Pitch, and Why Should a Highschooler Write One?
Lastly, you’re going to have to actively assess what career field you might want to enter after college and structure your classes and extracurriculars according to the skills needed in that career field. This isn’t to say that you can’t take classes that aren’t in your intended career field, but rather you should know which courses are the relevant ones to include in your elevator pitch and resume.
5. Understanding How to Keep Your Momentum Going
Whether it be during midterm season, finals week, or just a particularly stressful day, you are guaranteed to feel exhausted and burned out at some point during college.
During those times, you’ll have to come up with new ways to motivate yourself and make yourself feel better on your own. You won’t have your parents in the same house to talk to anymore, and your friends may not be able to help you like they could in high school because they’ll have their own commitments to worry about.
Some universal ways to keep your momentum going include taking a break to let your brain rest a little bit before you get back to work, making sure you get a full night’s sleep so you feel fresh, and talking to your professors and teaching assistants to get help where you need it. However, every person is different, so take some time to figure out what motivating techniques work best for you.
While college can be an exciting time, it can also be a transformative four years. You’ll have a wealth of new responsibilities, tasks, and lifestyle changes coming your way, but as long as you don’t let these overwhelm you, you’ll be fine. It may be helpful to take it all one day at a time in the beginning, and eventually you’ll get the hang of college.
If you’re curious to learn more about what college life is like, check out the following blog posts:
Lastly, if you’re looking for more personalized guidance through high school, consider the benefits of CollegeVine’s Mentorship Program, which pairs each student 1:1 with a mentor from a top college who can help you develop the skills you’ll need for becoming a successful college student.