Movies and television shows don’t always get it right when it comes to depicting what going to college is really like...and thank goodness for that. A cappella groups aren’t as scary as they may seem ...
... and your high school rival probably won’t surprise you as your college roommate:
The truth is, the image of the station wagon pulling up to the ivy-covered building, filled to the brim with shower shoes and extra long sheets, does not reflect the college experience for a majority of students of higher education in the United States. In fact, only approximately one in 10 students actually lives on a college campus, so why should college preparation checklists be focused on buying bean bag chairs and scented dryer sheets?
Whether you will be attending college online, commuting from home, or coming to a university campus, keep in mind some key tips to help with the transition to the college experience.
✓ Practice time management
College courses are structured much differently than high school classes. In college, courses tend to meet for longer periods of time but fewer times per week. You may think that this will free up a lot of time, but you may find it more difficult to dedicate time to completing assignments or reading materials before class, especially when you may be working, participating in extracurricular activities, or taking care of family members.
As classes begin this fall, focus on practicing good time management habits. Cornell University’s Learning Strategies Center recommends creating a schedule with fixed activities like classes, work, church, organization obligations and flexible activities like recreation, study, and socializing so that you can determine what needs to be accomplished and what you most want to make time for.
Something that most college students will tell you is that the semesters tend to fly by... By the time you feel like you finally have a schedule down, it will be time for midterms already. Take time now to review your college’s academic calendar and think ahead of everything you need to accomplish so that you don’t encounter any surprises in the fall!
✓ Make a budget
Everyone knows that college is expensive. Between paying for tuition and purchasing professors' precious (read: pricey) works, college is certainly an investment. However, what students might not consider are the hidden costs of college that may creep up and crush the bank account. Want to join an on-campus gym facility? There will likely be a semester fee. Want to socialize with other students and go out to dinner? It's not included in a meal plan! These cost considerations are not relegated only to those pursuing their degrees on a college campus.
Some online programs may incur additional budget expenditures, such as assessment or technology fees.
Don’t let these figures scare you. There’s so much you can do to help you prepare for these additional costs. You can practice managing a budget by using online tools to help you track spending habits, such as Mint.com. You can become as informed as possible about future costs of college and ensure that you allocate resources for these expenses and prioritize how you want to be able to spend your money.
✓ Create a plan for staying in touch with family and friends
Whether you are attending college from home or attending class in a campus setting, your schedule will certainly experience a shift, and you will want to ensure that you make time to stay in touch with the people who matter most to you. Luckily, technology has made it easier than ever to text, snap, email, WhatsApp, FaceTime, Facebook, or Skype our loved ones… However, with all of these modes of communication, it can be easy to confuse staying in contact with engaging in meaningful conversation.
As old-fashioned as it may be, scheduling a phone call with parents and/or grandparents can be a great way to make sure that you are sharing your college experiences with the important people in your life. They can also help you as you make key decisions in your undergraduate career, like what major to select or which clubs or organizations to pursue. College is a great time for exploration, and it is important to create a strategy to incorporate the key people in your life to help you reach your goals!
Everyone’s college experience is going to be different, and that is what makes this time so meaningful. Rather than adhering to the set checklists compiled by Bed, Bath, & Beyond, or even by me, you should use this time to think critically about how to make the most out of this incredible opportunity and determine your own to-dos for preparing for this next adventure!