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Preparing Students for College: A Student Guide

Making the transition into college life is exciting. You’re starting a new chapter in your personal life and educational experience. However, there’s a lot that goes into making that jump, and adequately preparing can help make the changes and stress that come with this transition more manageable. Learn more about how to best prepare for college, as well as what to expect once you start.

Actionable Steps

The first step on the college preparedness agenda is to know what kinds of schools you are interested in attending. Community colleges are not going to have the same requirements as some four-year colleges. On the same note, state schools typically don’t have the same requirements as private institutions. And that’s without even discussing trade schools. Some will require certain testing before even considering your application. Others will request specific types of recommendations. Knowing in advance what your chosen college is looking for will increase your chances of acceptance while applying.

Preparedness for college is not just about academics. The prime college candidate does not simply get good grades and test scores, but is also an upstanding member of his or her community. There are some universities where this is going to be an absolute must. For others, it’s considered icing on the cake for applicants. Whatever the case might be, community involvement has never hurt a candidates’ chances, so do what you can to get involved whenever possible. Try to volunteer in something related to the field you’ve chosen to study.

The opportunities for involvement in your community are likely numerous and varied, which is a double-edged sword. For many, there is a plethora of volunteer opportunities, which means there is likely something to do that resembles the field you think you’d like to pursue. It also means that many other applicants are likely taking advantage of it, so make sure you are selective in the community involvement you choose. Take the opportunity to stand out among your peers.

Mental Preparation

Getting mentally prepared for college does not start on the first day of college, or even when you are accepted. It starts the minute you start thinking college is the right step for you. It is time to evaluate the different aspects of what makes a college student successful and determine how you’re going to tackle them.

For instance, if you are not organized as well as you could be, it’s time to make a commitment to your organization. Organization does not get easier as you go through school. It will only get harder as you have more and more responsibilities in addition to your schooling.

Also, be mentally prepared to try new things. You may never have the complete freedom that often accompanies college to go on an adventure, study abroad, and meet new people. Take the opportunity. No one has ever graduated college and said “My only regret is that I tried too much.”

Financial Planning

Preparing financially for college is a tricky proposition, but far from an impossible one. What makes it challenging is that the extent to which you have to prepare, and in what ways, depends on a number of factors. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Your income
  • Your parents income
  • Whether or not you’re staying on campus
  • Your major (which determines how much you’ll be spending in books)
  • Whether you will be full- or part-time
  • Scholarships

Therefore, the real first step to being financially prepared for college is to have the answers to these questions and many others before applying. Now is a great time, if you are receiving any assistance from your parents, to ask what they think is reasonable. If you apply to your dream school but they can’t afford it, you won’t be the only person feeling bad. Decide what you want to get out of your experience, and see how well that matches with your financial capabilities.

What to Expect in College

Determining what you can expect in college before you get there is important because college, particularly in your first semester as a freshman, can be extremely overwhelming. Not only are the classes typically more demanding than any you’ve previously experienced, but whether or not you succeed is almost entirely up to you. You can decide to show up to every class, get extra help during office hours, and really take advantage of everything each class can provide you, or you can not show up at all and pray to the academic gods when an exam comes along. It’s up to you, and knowing what to expect in advance can make it all a bit easier.

Outside of the freedom of the college student, the first thing you need to expect is that more will be asked of you academically than at any other point of your life. Expect to be overwhelmed, and in anticipation of this, learn good note-taking skills. The ability to take effective notes is the hallmark of the successful high school student. This is because each class is typically longer than any you’ve had to sit though. It can be difficult, after, say, a three-hour night class, to recall what was talked about even the next morning. Now try remembering what was said weeks or months later for a final exam. Note taking will be an enormous help to alleviate this concern.