Congratulations, graduates and parents! You did it! All that hard work paid off. Graduation was amazing and now you and your family can turn your attention to the next big chapter in your life – heading off to college. BUT…before you go, here are a few things to keep in mind. Freshman year in college can be rewarding, but it can also be frustrating and maybe even a little lonely. Think about these 10 ideas, and maybe even discuss them with your family before you go. Being prepared by having a transition plan in place before you head off to college can save you (and your family) some headaches.
- Attend freshman summer orientation. This is your (and your parents) first opportunity to be part of the college community. Learn about the many resources available to you, which are covered by your tuition (academic, health, mental health, clubs, etc.) There are people at your college whose sole job is to assist students’ and families’ transition to college. Be sure to meet them!
- Think about what you want to accomplish this year. You considered reasons why the college should admit you, now it’s your turn. What do you want out of your college experience? Academics – seek out professors and ask to do research projects. Sports – read your emails to sign up and try out for clubs and intramurals: Get those free student tickets and go to the games! Are you interested in theater or the campus newspaper? Many colleges have over 100 clubs and activities, so SIGN UP! Remember you will have a lot of free time in between and after classes, so fill your calendar with productive, meaningful activities.
- Attend the Orientation Week festivities on campus. How many ice cream socials or pizza parties can you attend? Yes, they may seem fun or they may seem dumb, but you should go. Attend the events which are steeped in the traditions at your school. You will be there with everyone else who doesn’t know anyone, and it’s fine to just say, “Hey, how’s it going? Where are you from?” Voila! Instant friendships.
- Leave your XBox home. You have to get out of your room to be part of your new school community. Make it a goal each day to go out and meet at least one new person. Before long you will have a group of friends to hang out with. Read your emails to see when events are scheduled. Sign up for stuff you like to do. Meet people everywhere you go on campus. Be mindful of your health – mind, body, and soul. Fuel your brain by getting enough rest and eating well. Take breaks from studying for physical exercise. Keep your eyes and ears open for the many opportunities your college has to offer.
- GO TO CLASS! Wow, there are classes in college? Yes, go to class. Profs take attendance with an automated attendance tracker. Sit in the front row of those huge lecture classes. Your professors may not know your name but when you stop by their offices during the semester for help, they will know your face and know you attend class. This gives you instant credibility, and maybe even the benefit of the doubt when you are .5 away from the next letter grade up at the end of the semester.
- Communicate with your roommate. Who is this person sharing your 8×11 bedroom? They may be great, but they also may be strange or worse. Speak your mind and be clear about what’s cool and what’s not. You have nine months to this school year, so speak up and get along as best you can. If you are BFFs, that’s great, but if not, that’s okay, too. There are many other kids to hang out with on campus.
- Keep in touch with your family. Decide when and how often you want to communicate and stick with it. Texting each other 20 times a day won’t do anyone any good. Mom, it’s okay to cry when you leave your baby at college. The first two weeks are awful, but it does get better! Students, it’s normal to feel homesick. Be available for each other and you will get through. The transition is a beautiful thing when it happens. Students, stay on campus and avoid going home every weekend. Parents, stick to the communication schedule and be brave….it will get better!
- WARNING! Parents may be upset with this one: Yep, alcohol, weed, and pills are on your campus. Students, remember yourself and your purpose here. It only takes one pill (laced with who knows what) to bring you to the hospital…or worse. Your impaired judgement can land you in trouble, or get you expelled, so keep your wits about you. Consent for sex is a real thing. Ladies and gentlemen, you are in charge of your choices, so make good ones. Parents and students can and should talk about these issues before leaving for college. What are your expectations? Speak up!
- Money, money, money, money. Every student can have an on-campus job. Your college knows academics come first, so you CAN work 5 or 10 hours a week or more. If you are looking for a significant amount money to finance your expenses, stop by the Financial Aid Office and check out scholarships and do the research for grants. Ask about ways to apply (and deadlines) for scholarships and grants not yet awarded. Apply to be a Resident Assistant next year to have some or all of your room and board expenses covered. Read your emails. Your academic department will send out mass emails when it’s time to apply for scholarships and grants.
- Exhale when things seem overwhelming. It’s going to be OKAY! Starting in a new school, with a new roommate, with higher academic rigor, and on and on can all add up to stress. Just take one step at a time and remember that your entire freshman class is going through the exact things you are. Reach out to your RA, give a call home for support, seek out tutoring help early in the semester. Whatever you need is available to you. Take one step at a time and you will get to the other side. Life in college can be great, but it can be frustrating at times. Keep a positive attitude, keep your wits about you, use your resources, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help when you need it. You can (and will) accomplish your dreams!
So there you have it: Off to college with a transition plan and things to think about as you are settling in on your college campus in August. Good luck to each of you and keep in touch with us! We’d love to hear from you.