As a soon-to-be first-year student may tell you – they've been primed for the “best years of their life" once they arrive on a college campus. Maybe their "senior summer" has been a mix of good-byes and good-times with friends and family members. Breathing in the relief of knowing where they will be in the fall, yet realizing that it may feel a little like the first day of kindergarten, may require pulling out forgotten skills. A fresh start may be precisely what some first-year students need. So much of the college search focuses on finding best-fit schools to build familiarity and opportunities. Putting into place skills that will help students engage as soon as they arrive at school will help first-year students settle into their new campus home and have a successful transition. Successful college experiences are about what you do while you're there. The polished image of college life may gloss over the steps a student may need to take to help build college success. The transition to college may require a little scaffolding. With that in mind, former first lady Michelle Obama's initiative Reach Higher is introducing guidance for first-year college students on a new youtube series starting this fall. Having some guidance and tools as students prepare for move-in day and their first year at college can help smooth out some of the bumps and optimize the first-year college experience.
Participate- Raise your hand. Sit in front of your classes. Eat in the cafeteria. Talk to students and faculty in the elevator, the lobby, or in the halls. Look for friendly faces in classes - they could be part of your new study group.
Orientation- Sign up for activities that will introduce you to your new campus, town, or classmates.
Clubs - Ready to try something new? Sign up early in the semester. Try out one or two clubs or community service groups. Hesitant? Start with something easy like a Squirrel club. Figure out which clubs you like. Ask around for suggestions.
Academic Support- Find out if there is academic support on campus. What are the hours? How does it work? Are services capped? Do they need to be scheduled or on a first-come, first-serve basis? Are services free? Will you need tools to help you stay on top of assignments and projects? Is it time for a bullet journal or a new app?
Athletics- Were you an athlete in high school? Look for club and intramural teams that will offer flexibility, but provide the challenge level and team spirit you're looking for. Try a new sport that you didn't have time for. Your interest and ability might be a great fit for something new. Go to sporting events. Some campuses with team sports offer discounted tickets for students.
Wellness– Catch a cold? Have a sore throat? Need someone to talk to? Rely on breaking a sweat to re-charge or de-stress? Taking care of “you” is key to being a successful college student. Knowing what health services are available, time of drop-in hours, and the location of the pharmacy before you need them will help you handle any bumps. Take a recreational class or use the Rec Center. Nothing beats stress more than a good workout.
Show up to classes- Why go to college if you're not going to attend class. Even if you're stuck with a few 8:00 a.m. classes, go to class. It may mean an earlier bedtime the night before, but the whole point of college is about learning. With each semester or quarter, you'll figure out how to nab a better schedule.
Go to Office Hours– Face-to-face conversations with your professors can expand the way you approach your classes, and learning in general. Conversations with your professor may lead to finding out what brought them to love the subject they're teaching, their career path and may even create opportunities for working in that field or help you refine what you want to major in.
Try new things. Try new things. Try new things. I’ll say it again. Try new things.
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