Whether your college start is in a different state, a new campus, or at home and online!
Some students start dreaming about college as early as middle school, or even earlier if it’s a topic that comes up often in their family. It’s a jump to adulthood, a chance to pursue academic interests, and a place where we make life-long friends.
Yet it’s hard to know what you’re in for, no matter how excited you are to get there. Especially in the age of a pandemic, it may be harder than ever to imagine what a “real” college experience might be like.
Here are 5 things that every college freshman should know.
Cramming is not your friend.
Studying challenges likely came up in high school, but when an entire year’s course can happen in a matter of months, cramming will not help students remember much past the exam. College courses build on each other, and you’re expected to remember what you learned in the last class (or the last test). Looking for an alternative? Try Spaced Learning Practice, Active Studying, and Learning with the Senses. We’ve also seen some amazing flashcard techniques to help refresh and review over time.
Your professors don’t want to hear your excuses.
While college-level instructors can be just as friendly and kind as anyone, they expect you to completely direct and manage your learning. You’re responsible for figuring out how you best learn, memorize, or analyze information. You’ll need to cover more material in a much shorter amount of time, and that includes readings and other materials that never came up during lectures.
That said, professors do have office hours, and that’s a great way of developing a relationship with your professor and making sure you’re on the right track in your class. Academic services such as free or reduced-rate tutoring are also available, but you need to find them. Your professor will not point the way as they did in high school.
Your time is yours to use or waste.
Across the nation, incoming freshmen are often overwhelmed by all the options and choices they have without a parent or guardian telling them what to do. Free time slips away quickly, and students can often find that they are woefully behind in their academics because they weren’t paying attention. The most successful students set up study time the same way others set up dentist appointments or even their class schedules. It’s on the calendar, on a regular basis, and they stick to it!
You’ll be managing your money and meals.
When an incoming freshman has never had a job or been in charge of paying a bill or managing their savings, it can be a big learning curve to figure out their first year in college. Setting aside money for bills, savings, and college expenses FIRST is one way to handle the big influx of cash that comes with student loans or a summer job nest egg.
Paying for meals, especially if you’ve already paid for the campus meal plan, can also be hard on your wallet. We suggest you budget in advance and always know how much is ok to spend before you spring for pizza for everyone on your dorm floor. A popular budgeting app that we recommend is YNAB (You Need a Budget!). Their student version is cheaper, but has all the tools of the full-priced non-student program. You can get one month free with this link: https://ynab.com/referral/?ref=2xpYjQ40qm6DX52l&utm_source=customer_referral
You’ll be managing your moods.
Managing moods is also a challenge for students who are dealing with a new environment without the familiar support systems of family or friends from back home. Most, if not all, freshmen hit a rough patch at some point and it’s important to be prepared. College campuses will have mental health services when things feel especially difficult, and new friends, social groups, and clubs can help with energy and perspective. Be kind to yourself and prioritize sleep to be as strong as you can during tough times.
College is such a great time for academic exploration, meeting new people, and broadening our “pitifully narrow horizons.”
You’ll be negotiating space with your roommates, managing your needs, and figuring out how responsibilities truly free you to do what you most want to do in your life. It might take a few months (or the year!) to get there, but your road to independence will be much smoother if you know what to expect and prepare for these challenges!
Pacific Learning Academy is a one-on-one school offering single courses and dual enrollment, as well as full-time middle and high school. Pacific Learning Academy is Washington State Approved via the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI — see listings HERE) and a nationally Accredited private school via AdvancED/Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC). High School coursework is approved by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). We also offer tutoring in all subjects from 6th to 12th grade, including test prep, either in-home or local libraries across the Eastside (Issaquah, Sammamish, etc…).