This post is advice I wish I’d received before I went away to college. I lived away from home all four years, so some of this advice is tailored to that experience. However, you’re furthering your education, I wish you the best of luck and congrats on your graduation from high school!
- Find your resources on campus. There were quite a few offices that had I known how helpful they would be, I would’ve learned about them within the first week. The first is the Testing office. This is the office that handles accommodations for those with any kind of learning disability when it comes to taking exams. It’s important that you go and talk with them about your specific needs early on and provide any documentation required. The second I would recommend is the counseling center. Most colleges have a counseling center and provide short-term support.
- Try different clubs. One of the most wonderful things about college is all the new experiences you can have. There’s a club for almost everything. I went on a campus tour and they had a hide and seek club. If there’s not a club for what you’re passionate about, make one! You’ll probably need a faculty adviser and then you’re off the races. If you try a club and don’t find your tribe there, no worries, this is what college is for. I, myself, tried three or four campus ministries before finding one that I liked. Even after I found one, I liked, I ended up switching eventually after some theological differences. There is no shame in evolving or changing your mind, it’s only a shame to stay where you don’t feel comfortable.
- You’re RA is your friend. The resident assistants that live on each floor are there to help you. Sometimes they will host events in the dorm, and they want you to be successful. They are there to enforce the rules and make sure no one burns the building down (don’t get any ideas) but they’re also there to answer any questions you might have. I’d also recommend if you have a problem with your roommate that you can’t work out between the two of you, an RA is an objective third party. Get to know your RA.
- Find the right major. I don’t have any advice on what the right major will be for you. That’s something you’ll have to figure out! I can tell you if you change your mind, that’s normal. The average college student changes their major three times before graduation. I encourage you to take a variety of classes and pay attention to what you enjoy and are good at. The ideal major is something you’re good at, enjoy, and can make a living at after graduation. Even if what you love is something others don’t think is a good investment, go for it anyway! The skills you learn in say a theater program could lend themselves to sales, teaching, and a variety of other careers. The goal of a degree isn’t always a specific job, it can also be to broaden your mind and teach you how to think critically.
- Talk to your roommate. You’re lucky/unlucky enough to be living on campus. The good news is you’re close to all the cool activities and your classes (hopefully). The bad news is that most dorm rooms feel and look more like a shoebox than a room for two people. You and your roommate must share this space and not go crazy! If you have any concerns regarding them inviting lots of people over, how loud they are, how messy they are, etc., it’s best to discuss this upfront, before a conflict ensues. It’s harder to have a constructive conversation when you’re both upset.
- Office hours are essential. Depending on the size of your classes and college, your professor might be teaching hundreds of students. Office hours are where you get to know your professors on a more personal level, and they can answer more detailed questions than they can in lectures. Even the most intimidating professors can be your biggest cheerleader. I took English 2 and cried in my professor’s office because I didn’t know how to write an essay to his standards. He sat there, listened, and gave me tissues. He ended up being one of my favorites because he challenged me in ways other professors didn’t. Even if you only pop in to introduce yourself, go to office hours once.
- Ask for help early and often. The tutoring center at any college can help you wind your way through a myriad of difficult and bewildering classes. They tend to be packed around finals and midterm time, so it would be best to seek help before everyone else has realized that they also need help understanding the quadratic formula. Tutors often have tips and tricks for the course and how they survived. It is a resource to not be underestimated.
- Try new things. It’s hard to think of another time in your life where you’ll have as much free time or so many different activities to try in such a condensed area. If there’s something you’ve always wanted to do and is now offered on your campus, go for it!
- Let go of expectations. Everyone has a different college experience. Some people keep the same major the whole time, and some people change given times. I was always told college was the best four years of any person’s life. I had some good times in college, but I wouldn’t say they were the best of my life. That puts a lot of pressure on those FOUR YEARS. If you’ve been thinking about it for years, try to just see what the experience has to offer and not worry if it’s not matching up to your expectations. Just enjoy the ride!
- Believe in yourself! There will be a time or two throughout college where you wonder if you have what it takes, you do. You’re smarter, funnier, and better than you think you are. There are so many people around you who want you to succeed, including me. Wishing you a restful summer and a great start to your next educational adventure!
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