While your head might be in those warm summer clouds, you eventually need to prepare for what’s to come – heading off to college. If you are reading this, chances are that you have never experienced living on your own or having to fend for yourself. While you’re not fighting off jaguars or whittling sticks to flames, you will need to be capable of doing things for yourself. Here are some tips to help ease the adjustment:
Get Used to Getting Up Early
You may have perfectly architectured your class schedule. You may have made sure none of your classes start before 2:00pm and that you never have too busy of a day.
That, my friend, will change. Keep in mind - many colleges place freshman on the bottom rung when it comes to class choice. While you got all those classes you wanted this time around, the likelihood of that happening again is slim. At some point, you will have to get up and go to an 8am class. It might be your entry-level Spanish course, but believe you me that professor will be taking attendance like her life depended on it.
Getting up early? It’s really not that bad, especially when you consider how advanced alarm technology is these days. You can invest in an app that will gently ease you out of sleep to one that is designed to wake the dead. Some apps will sync with your body’s internal clock, making sure to get you up when you need too. (It is possible to sleep too much, if you can believe it!). Plus, you don’t want to be that person that rolls his or herself out of bed at 1:30 in the afternoon, pajama-clad and crusted with eye-boogers. It’s not a hot look.
Foster a Sense of Direction
And we’re not talking in the spiritual sense - you should literally know your way around campus. In the first couple of weeks, it is natural to feel overwhelmed by your unfamiliar campus, especially when you have to attend classes in various buildings with confusing floorplans and inconsistent naming conventions. We recommend that during orientation – or when you arrive on campus – you take a campus tour (even if you went on one when you first visited the school!). Try to learn the codes the university uses to describe each building, where each discipline is headquartered and the locations of common student areas and resources (bus stops, athletic center, library, student union, financial aid office, etc.)
Also, grab your schedule and take a few hours one afternoon to navigate all by yourself – get a sense of how long it takes to get where you need to go and the different routes available to you. If you get a little lost, even better. It is highly likely that at some point, your campus will be under construction. Roads close, paths along sidewalks are detoured (or maybe just plain removed). Being capable of rerouting yourself on the fly will help you be on time and ready for every class and social engagement.
Learn How YOU Like to Study
Most high schoolers are not taught how to study properly. Students are instructed to read the books and memorize the materials, but that’s typically as far as it goes.
We’ve had articles on the best apps to help you study for finals but we’ve never touched on how to actually study. Studying is not just a matter of sitting down and reading through a textbook, chapter after chapter. It’s synthesizing the information in a way to make it meaningful. It’s not rote memorization but an actual skill that you can manipulate and utilize.
Maybe you make flashcards or create study manuals. Maybe you actually read (and re-read) the textbook. Maybe you quiz yourself. Whatever it is, make sure you know and implement the study approach that works best for you and sets you up for academic success. Remember, raising your GPA after a crummy first year is extremely difficult.
Editor’s Note: One great resource you may never have been introduced to in high school are study groups. Throughout the semester – and especially around an exam - classmates will form study groups. Don’t be afraid to join in! Discussing and collaborating with your peers can not only help you cement content into your mind but also clarify any areas that pose a struggle for you.
Despite the environmentally-conscious era we live in, not all professors care about chopping down trees. You will get what seems like a million handouts from your professors, in addition to all the notebooks, binders, folders, PowerPoints, word docs and other tools you use to record and learn in school. These documents can be incredibly vital for studying and exams - losing track of them is not an option.
Thus, it’s important that you decide early on how you’re going to manage all your stuff. Choose a mode of organization for a course and stick with it. Know where your important files are and organize them by day. By implementing a simple method of organization, you will save yourself a lot of time and stress when you actually need to, ya know, study.
Learn to Cook – and How to Clean Up
Granted, cooking is a life skill that every person should really possess, but going off to college is good motivation to learn the basics. You may have dining dollars or weekly allowances of cafeteria visits, but both of those can run out. And you don’t want to eat fast food and pizza every day. (Okay, you DO want to eat pizza every day, but you have to treat yourself right – the freshman 15 is infamous for a reason.) A few yummy, easy and satisfying but healthy recipes that don’t require fancy gadgets will suffice.
Keep in mind, however, that most colleges require you live on campus in the dorms for the first semester. You may have a kitchen in your room that you have to share with a few other people or a kitchen that you share with your floor, 10-20 other lovely people. Or, if you are really lucky, you might share a kitchen with an entire building.
With that in mind, always make sure that if you cook, you also clean. Don’t be that gal or guy who makes cabbage-and-anchovy stew and then proceeds to leave all your dishes and trash in the community sink. Be mindful that other people use the space. Your building-mates are not your parents and they will make that known. Be kind enough to clean your dishes. And respect the space enough that if someone has to leave their dishes soaking, just go ahead and do them. This good will be reciprocated in some unseen way. Be the change you want to see in your community kitchen.