Just a few months ago, I wrote to the high school class of 2017. Having just graduated two months prior, I wanted to share some advice for how to make their final year the best. This article was published just before I left for college and many of my friends who are seniors began their final year of high school. Now, a good percentage of high school seniors have received acceptance letters to multiple colleges and for those who chose early decision, their decision was made.
Now, I have finished my first semester of college and I definitely don't have it all figured out, but I know a little bit about the beginning, which for many, will be the hardest part. The college experience begins differently for everyone, but here are some tips on how to survive your first semester in college.
1. Don’t be afraid.
Prior to leaving for college, afraid does not even begin to sum up the emotions I was feeling. It would be my first time away from home and I did not want to leave my family. I grew up in a small town and went to school with the same people for 13+ years. I thought that I would struggle making friends and being away from home. I did a little bit the first few days, but I decided to put myself out there and I met some amazing people. This is a big step toward independence. You have craved independence, but once you get it, you do not know what to do with it. It will take time, but you will figure it out.
2. You actually have to read the books or articles that are assigned.
Procrastination is my middle name. One of my best skills in high school was whipping out a paper on a book that I did not read, the night before it was due. That is not the case in college. I hate to break it to you, but no matter how boring a book or other reading may seem, you have to read it.
When I was assigned to read an article or short story in high school, I saw that as I had no homework. If you do not do the prior night’s reading in college, you cannot participate in the discussion and it is obvious to the entire class. The professor will not care because it was your choice and it will only impact you negatively in the long run. Long story short, do your work.
3. The key to a good relationship with your roommate is communication.
If something your roommate is doing is bothering you, you have to tell him/her before it gets worse. You are both living in a small space, and if you are not communicating it will get awkward. You need to respect each other’s space and let them know if something is up. You do not have to be best friends with your roommate, but you should have a good relationship with them.
Regardless of how different you and your roommate may be, you can get along if you establish respect. When something is not working for you, let your roommate know.
4. Go to the dining hall.
After the first few weeks of living off Sodexo food, my new friends and I were pretty done. We ordered food at least once a week. It was a big waste of money. We realized that, and tried to go to the dining hall more often. Chances are your meal plan has already been paid for, and you should make the most of that. The food is not good, but think of how much you are paying for it. If you do not use those meal swipes, you are wasting money, and if you choose to order food instead you are wasting even more money. You will get sick of dining hall food and you won’t feel like walking there, but you really should go.
5. Cram studying does not work.
All of my tests this semester were either cumulative or on multiple chapters. You will be thankful that you spread out your studying when you get to the night before, because you will realize you know more than you think you do. Cramming will not work when finals week comes around because you will be studying for multiple large tests. You will get a syllabus the first week of classes and it would be a smart idea to go through your syllabus the day you get it and write down all the dates of tests in your planner. By doing that, you will not be surprised, and you can be studying as you go along without the professor having to mention it.
6. College Wi-Fi is horrible.
My high school's Wi-Fi was actually horrendous and I could not wait to go to a school with Wi-Fi that worked. With everyone on their laptops, phones, tablets, and other devices, college Wi-Fi is actually worse than in high school.
Going into college, I went to bed fairly early. I did my homework early and was in bed by 9:00. That changed real fast. The first weekend of school, I got really close with some girls on my floor and we were up until all hours of the night. We soon realized that did not work because the 8:00 a.m. classes the next day were a struggle. Being a college student, a lack of sleep is a given. You will be up late finishing papers, projects, studying, or just watching Netflix. You can spend hours studying, but if you are not sleeping well, your grades can suffer.
Congratulations to those of you who have been accepted to colleges. You should be proud and excited. You still have a semester to go before you will be official college students, so appreciate that time. Appreciate the time you have with your family, friends, teachers, and the place in which you have grown up. Do not let senioritis get the best of you. Your college will get a final transcript. Finish strong and prepare yourself for the next step.