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How Can I Make the Transition to College Easier?

Worried about starting your first semester in the fall? Check out our experts' top tips to help you make a smooth transition from high school to college.

Laurie Kopp WeingartenLaurie Kopp Weingarten
Certified Educational Planner
Co-founder & President, One-Stop College Counseling
The end of senior year can be exhilarating, and as summer begins, students become increasingly excited about embarking on their journey to college. But fears and self-doubt may creep in as you begin to worry about the unknown. Here are 10 tips we offer our students at One-Stop College Counseling to help ensure they make a smooth transition from high school to college. Follow these steps to get off to the best start possible and have a great experience!  

  • Read your emails every day. Colleges communicate through email and will send mass messages about everything from campus events to COVID-19 updates, which will help you feel connected.
  • Join clubs right away. It’s the best way to meet new people, and getting involved increases happiness. Don’t skip the club fair in the fall!
  • Make an effort to meet your professors at the beginning of the semester. That way if you have to contact them later because of an emergency or if you’re sick, they’ll already know you.
  • Read the syllabi for each class. It’s important to understand course expectations from the start. And you might even discover a bonus—we’ve heard some students receive extra points on tests for finding hidden messages in the syllabus. 
  • Write down reminders for due dates. Your parents won’t be there to nudge you, and it’s up to you to get all your work done on time.
  • Don’t hesitate to visit academic or mental health counseling if needed. There is no stigma in doing so, and these services are often included in your campus fees, so take advantage of every resource available to you.
  • Venture out of your comfort zone. Whether it's taking an elective class that strikes your curiosity or performing at an open mic night, trying new things is how you’ll grow!
  • Create an academic plan. Figure out what you might be interested in majoring in and start exploring. It’s fine to change your mind, but entering college with an initial goal can be helpful.
  • Keep an open mind. You’ll be exposed to a lot of new people, beliefs, and ideas at college, and you need to be flexible.
  • Call home. You don’t want your parents sending out a search party for you because you’re MIA. It happens more often that you’d imagine! 

We also recommend that you:

College is a wonderful time in your life. Make smart choices and look forward to enjoying these next four years! 

CX experts generic imageJim Terhune
VP of Student Affairs
Swarthmore College 

  • Read everything your college sends you and be sure to complete tasks on time (e.g., submit housing forms, register for courses, etc.).
  • Don’t let your family choose your courses or look over your shoulder when completing these forms.
  • Spend time thinking about why you’re going to college and what you want to take away from the experience. It’s easy to get caught up in doing things because others around you are, even if it’s not what you want. Be open to new things, but have some ideas about what you are hoping to achieve in college.
  • Don’t try to plan out every detail of all four years before you even start. Some of the best things will be the things that you can’t anticipate. Fully reflect on your experiences and move forward thoughtfully.
  • Work hard in all of your classes during your last months of high school. The best predictor for struggling academically in college is coasting and letting grades slide at the end of senior year. The academic expectations are going to be far greater in college, and the worst thing you can do is get into bad study habits just before you start.
  • Talk with your family about how often you want to communicate with them while you’re at college. Between calling and texting, it’s really easy to be in constant contact with people at home. But a big part of college is about managing your life on your own, and that requires establishing new norms.
  • But don’t go six weeks without talking to your family either. It’s good to become a more independent and self-reliant person, but that doesn’t mean cutting ties. The right amount of communication differs for people given your circumstances.

Connect me with Swarthmore! 

Leslie KrafftLeslie Krafft
Associate Director of Residence Life and Housing
University of Redlands
What does it take to make the most of freshman year? In addition to a willingness to try new things, introduce yourself to new people, and develop a new appreciation for ramen noodles, here are some ways to really ingrain yourself on campus and get into a routine.

  • Go to every event during orientation. You only get to do this once, and you never know where you will meet your best friends or get the information that gives you an edge.
  • Take the time to explore the campus. You’ll get a chance to find your class locations before the first day of school so you will feel more prepared and confident.
  • Go to class early on your first day in case you get lost. Set alarms in your phone to alert you 15 minutes before each class so that you are always on time.
  • Take care of your body and your mind will follow. If you worked out daily in high school, don’t stop. Get enough rest. Make time for what is really important.
  • Get up in time for breakfast every day. There is nothing worse than running straight from bed to class. Take the time to fuel up and wake up.
  • Don’t be afraid to try new things. Think about the person you want to be and make sure your choices reflect that value system but always remember to be safe and smart about your decisions. 
  • Introduce yourself to everyone around you. Everyone is eager to make friends during the first few months of school, so it's not weird to walk up to strangers and say hello.
  • Don’t hold back on being yourself. You will find friends who appreciate you for who you truly are. Hang out with people who make you happy and help you succeed.
  • Get involved in at least one extracurricular right away. You may want to take it slow and settle in, but joining just one group can give you a sense of family on campus and help you manage your time. This is where you will find the people who share your interests.
  • Talk to your roommate openly and early about issues. Roommate issues almost always start with some little thing that doesn’t really matter. When you let it fester and build, it is much harder to fix it and move on.

Find more expert ways to make the most out of college in our Student Life section, which offers advice on clubs, mental health, school-life balance, and so much more.

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