It is a great feeling once your essays and applications; you’ve heard back from colleges, and are finally able to make your decision and send in your deposit!
However, once the university sweatshirt has arrived and you’ve had a chance to take a well-deserved break, it’s time to ensure that these next steps go as smoothly as possible. College can be a tough transition, but taking some steps both before and after you arrive on campus can help make the next four years the best they can be.
Before You Arrive on Campus
Plan to succeed. The first step for this is self-reflection.
- Spend some time thinking about your study habits, how you manage stress, and how you want to spend your time. The summer is a great time to do this; you’ll be out of high school and will need to set your own schedule and routines.
- Do you function best when you get in a run in the morning? Do you find yourself getting cranky if you can’t grab a snack at 3 pm? Knowing yourself before you go to college can help you plan!
- Be honest about what worked in high school and what didn’t. What did you do when you needed help?
- Be honest with yourself about the kind of support you will need. Will you need academic support? What medical professionals might you need to see while on campus (doctor, dentist, therapist)? Do you have dietary restrictions?
Once you have these elements in mind, start doing your research. Put your support structures, whatever you may need, in place before you arrive on campus.
- Your parents may be able to help you with much of this—identifying a bank to set up an account at or what medical professionals take your insurance. The university itself will also likely have health centers.
- Spend some time exploring what resources your university has. Is there a writing center? A math center? Other subject-specific resources? If you will need other academic support, what is the process for getting it? What dietary restrictions can Dining Services support and what is the process?
Once You’re There
Give yourself time to explore and adjust.
- In your first week or so of university, you may have something called the add-drop period, where you can both add courses to your schedule and also drop them without penalty. Use this time to explore new classes and test out your schedule.
- Truly explore your options. Go to activities fairs and try new clubs and events. Just because you go to an initial meeting doesn’t mean you have to stay involved. Consider taking a few classes outside your field.
- Meet new people and encounter different perspectives. Not all of these people will be your friends; not all of your courses or clubs will spark new and exciting interests, but that’s okay.
- Embrace the bumps and give yourself—and the school—patience. Adjusting to a new environment can be tricky, especially in a place where hundreds, if not thousands, of first-year students are doing so all at once.
That being said, if you are struggling, reach out.
- Talk to your parents and your friends. They may be able to offer advice or even just give you a space to vent or think things through.
- If you are struggling academically, speak to your professor or TA. You can email them or attend their office hours (their office and contact information is likely on your syllabus!)
- University classes are often less structured than high school classes. Make a plan of how you’re going to study. Consider forming your own study group or seeking out learning centers that the university may have already established.
- University health centers will be able to direct you to a range of resources for physical and mental health concerns.
Take Care of Yourself
- Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating appropriately, and drinking enough water.
- Having a social life is an important part of your college experience. However, make sure that you don’t veer too far to either end of the spectrum. Spending the vast majority of your time locked in your dorm studying can compromise your mental health. At the same time, spending too much time out and about can make doing well in your classes more difficult. Learning to find what works best for you is important. Talk to other, older students about what sorts of adjustments worked for them.
- Develop study habits that help you succeed. University courses frequently require more independent work than high school classes, so explore some of our study tips. Spend some time exploring what options work best to help you plan events and keep track of deadlines—it is a planner? Google calendar? A bullet journal? Whatever it is, find an option that works and stick with it.
College can be both exciting and daunting, but you’ve got this! Give yourself room to explore, make mistakes, and grow. It’s okay to seek help if you’re struggling and don’t forget to take care of yourself along the way. We wish you the best of luck in making your college experience the best it can be.