Going to College for the First Time
Listen to Podcast Episode No. 18
Going to College for the First Time / Prof. Daniel de Roulet
Most of your education—especially the last four years—has been pointing to this moment. But now what? What should you expect from going away to college in the fall, and what can you do this summer to get ready?
1. Close the door on high school and focus on the future. We know this isn’t easy. You’re leaving behind friends, family, significant others, the familiarity of your home and your town/suburb/city—in some cases, country—to start a new life, and it’s hard to say goodbye. On the other hand, there may be some advantages to leaving some of these things behind, and college is a good excuse to make the break. We’re just saying.
There are few times when people have the opportunity to start life anew, even to reinvent themselves (on-line role-playing games excluded). Are there things you didn’t like about your high school life? Are there things you didn’t like about you in high school? Have you been interested in areas you have never had the chance to try out? Do you want to redefine your relationship with your parents? Now’s your chance.
2. Learn as much as you can about your new environment. Although nothing substitutes for actually living through a new experience, finding out about your new environment with soften the culture shock that many students feel at the beginning of college. Get on line and see what you can find out about the college’s location and surrounding community, its campus, its students and activities, and your professors. Get out your schedule of classes for the fall and try to find the buildings—get a sense for whether your walk from class to class will be one minute or fifteen. Find you residence hall on the map and try to find some pictures of the rooms. Visit your professors’ websites (most easily found through department websites) and see what their interests and expertise are.
3. Do some pre-course work. Sometimes the first week of classes is a little overwhelming, especially in terms of finding out how much you’ll have to read and what your assignments will be. Find your course syllabi on-line, if they are available and up-to-date; see what books are required for your courses at the bookstore, especially paying attention to the edition of the textbook required. If you find the syllabi, read them repeatedly, so that some of the information becomes second hand to you before your classes begin. Consider buying the recommended edition of the book before you get to your college and do a little introductory skimming and reading. You might get a good deal on the books, and you’ll avoid some long lines during the first week.
4. Begin to make a calendar for the year. Once you obtain your course syllabi, note key exam and assignments dates—these notes will help you manage your time, decrease your number of surprises, and help you to decide how to best balance study and social events. Also, write in important family and friend dates—birthdays, anniversaries, and the like.
A little work in the summer can make for a smoother transition in the fall. And enjoy your summer—outside of work and thinking about college, find time to revel, rest, and recharge.
Recent high school graduates: what concerns do you have about going to college?
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