Leaving for college marks a major transition in most
students' lives: leaving high school; for many, leaving home;
freeing yourself from parental control; and leaving old friends,
activities, and ways of being. Arriving at college signifies
equally momentous changes: exploring a new place, becoming
independent, making new friends, learning new things, making
your own decisions, and establishing your own priorities.
all the excitement, many students overlook the stress involved
in making so many big transitions in such a brief period of
time. In anticipation of these changes, we recommend thinking
through as many of the particulars as you can in advance.
The more prepared you are for college, the more ready you
will be to confront new pressures with a minimum of panic,
frustration, or depression.
are some things to consider as you head off to college:
are at a higher level than high-school classes; the material
is presented at a faster pace; and professors are likely to
assign more reading, writing, and problem sets than you may
be used to. The harder work is something all first-year college
students contend with, so don't think having to struggle to
keep up is somehow a failing on your part. In order to give
yourself an opportunity to adjust gradually to the new academic
demands, choose a course load that includes some classes that
will be harder for you and others that will be less intense.
For example, if you took an introductory calculus course or
a second-year French class your senior year of high school
and don't feel like you quite mastered the subject, consider
repeating the course your first year of college rather than
moving on to a more advanced math or French class. The very
fact that the course is at the college level will mean you'll
encounter new material.
College is hard.
curfews, no more concerned questions from parents about whether
you've done your homework or where you were until 3 a.m. This
may sound like the definition of freedom, but freedom itself
can be stressful. You are responsible for managing your time
in college. If you cut classes and don't do your assignments,
no one will scold you that evening, but you may wish they
had when it comes time for the final and you don't know the
material. Buy a calendar and make sure you write down when
and where your classes meet, when assignments are due, and
when tests will take place. Give yourself ample time to study
rather than waiting until the last minute and pulling an all-nighter.
This may sound like obvious advice, but as a former college
instructor, I have had students come to me in tears because,
they claim, they didn't know what room the test was in; or
they didn't know there was a test because they'd lost the
syllabus; or they slept through the test because they were
up late studying and didn't hear their alarm.
College life is unstructured.
requires personal responsibility.
responsible for managing your money and for taking care
of your health. Credit card companies bombard college students
with offers, preying on most college students' lack of funds
and urge to spend. While having a credit card can be an
asset, living on credit poses the risk of adding to the
debt incurred through school loans. And while partying all
night sounds tempting to numerous students, the lifestyle
quickly catches up with many, who end up with mono or the
flu and, consequently, miss more classes. Getting enough
sleep, eating well, and generally taking care of yourself
will give you more energy to enjoy all that college has
to offer, without burning out.
you can recreate yourself in any way you want. No one at college
knows what you were like in high school. While forming new
friendships can be exhilarating, true friendships are formed
slowly, and the beginning of college can consequently be a
lonely time. Moreover, college is full of all sorts of new
social pressures. If you are unsure about participating in
certain social scenes or activities, don't hesitate to seek
guidance about the best ways to resist these pressures. Talk
to parents, trusted friends from high school, and college
A new social scene is part of the college experience.
College is full of resources -- professors with office hours
to explain ideas that weren't clear in class, tutors to help
you when you feel you still don't understand new material,
counselors with whom to discuss personal concerns, and often
resident advisors. The difference is that whereas in high
school these roles were often filled by parents and others
who sought you out, in college it is up to you to initiate
getting help. The good news is that once you do adjust to
college life, it opens new doors to all sorts of learning
-- and living.