College is no joke. And while it can be the best time of your life, it’s also not the non-stop party you’ve seen advertised. Especially if your grades start tanking. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by how much is going on, all while living on your own for the first time.
So how can you be better prepared to knock the first year—and the next three—out of the park?
- Take ownership.
Practice this senior year and keep it going all summer long. Set your own alarm. Make your own breakfast. Keep track of your own schedule. No one is going to babysit you in college, and by the time you learn you’re not doing so great in class, it’ll be too late.
- Go to class.
This one sounds simple, but trust me, you’ll be so tempted to skip. A late night might set you adrift, or maybe fun breakfast or lunch or dinner plans will make you want to blow off Econ or Psych. Your friends are all skipping, and your professors don’t even take roll, so what’s the big deal? It’s super easy to fall behind, and missing in-class time will mean you have no idea what will be on the exams. You also won’t learn much of anything, meaning the next level of the same course will be nearly impossible to pass.
- Increase your attention span.
In high school, classes are less than an hour long and usually only 40 or so minutes of that time
is spent on the actual lesson or lecture. In college, this is not the case. Classes meet less
frequently and are longer in length, as are lectures. Before you start freshman year, work on training your ability to sit still for longer and stay on one subject for at least an hour. When all else fails, you can strategize note taking or other strategies to keep you engaged during longer lectures!
- Establish a study schedule that includes actual studying.
Studying is not the act of taking notes, writing down definitions or making flashcards. It is working on the actual comprehension of the material, which means re-reading, asking yourself questions, working through problems, explaining concepts to and discussing them with others clearly. To stay on top of the crazy amount of material one semester’s worth of a class can cover, you need to study regularly and effectively. Start practicing senior year!
5. Identify your support system.
It is hard to dive into a whole new world, all on your own. But don’t worry! If you are proactive, there are people around to help. Talk to your counselor. Audit classes before you choose one. Find out about campus tutoring resources, and research off-campus tutoring options that will keep you from getting stuck. Whatever you do, don’t let feeling lost make you passive about getting help. The sooner you identify an issue you’re having and find help dealing with it, the sooner things will improve.
- Find your passion.
Easier said than done (times 1 million!). But the point here is, don’t wait until it’s time to declare your major to think about what it should be. Pursue hobbies and find out what jobs are related to them. Shadow people in jobs you are intrigued by. Read up about or dabble in classes or online lectures in topics that intrigue you!