A Freshman Once More
● By Robert Frey
Advice On Transitioning From High School To CollegeBy Hailey Hensgens Fleming
For many budding minds, college can be a magical time of new beginnings, fresh perspectives and promise. Endless possibilities grace the horizon and the world is yours for the taking. However, such freedom is not without burden. The transition into adulthood has officially begun and decisions you make in the first year of college will have serious implications on the rest of your college experience as well as your career. With so much hanging in the balance, making that transition from high school to college can be very intimidating. Luckily, a few local admissions experts have offered some advice on what you can expect when you step on campus for the first time and ways to make the shift as smooth as possible.
A New Academic Ball Game
The academic transition from high school to college can be staggering. Class times are shorter or less frequent, but the content you’re expected to process and internalize will double or even triple in size. In order to stay on top of this new workload, serious adjustments to your study habits will be necessary. Nicole Lopez, the New Iberia SLCC Campus Coordinator, explains, “I tell students to expect to spend one hour a day with each class. Don’t procrastinate and wait until the last minute for your studies and go to class.” She adds, “You pay for that class so go to it.” Although daunting, maintaining a rigorous study schedule is possible if you review your notes after each class or find a study partner to work with as Dewayne Bowie, Vice President for Enrollment Management at UL, suggests. “I always advise students to form study groups in every class they have,” he states. “Get together with two or three other students in every class and meet together on a weekly basis.”
It’s often said, “If you fail to plan then you plan to fail.” This statement is spot on when it comes to a successful college career. Gone are the hand-holding days of high school when teachers bore the responsibility of ensuring your success. Once you enter college, that responsibility transfers over to you. Paul Broussard, the Manager of the Academic Advising Office at SLCC, says it like this, “We call it ‘self-management.’ Before, they were managed by their high school or their parents, but here that management has shifted. Now, they’re independent people who are running their own business.”
For a college student, your business is your grades and the easiest way to ensure success is through proper organization and time management. “Get a planner. If you don’t have a planner then use your phone. It’s the only way you’re going to keep organized,” says Lopez. “Right when you get that syllabus on your first day of class, take it out and write down when all of your tests and assignments are due. You should also post your academic calendar on the refrigerator so you know when all the crucial days are,” she adds.
Know Your Limitations And Plan Accordingly
Part of the beauty of college is the freedom you have in creating your own schedule and managing your workload. For incoming freshmen, this autonomy may be completely new, but you can set yourself up for success by being honest about your limitations. “If you’re not a morning person then don’t schedule yourself for an 8 a.m. class,” explains Lopez. “It’s also not necessary for you to graduate in a certain time frame or pull so many hours,” she adds. “If you have a full-time job then maybe you shouldn’t be a full-time student. Take it slow and take two classes and your job or perhaps explore the flexibility of an online class.” One-size-fits-all does not apply when it comes to college and your experience can be form fitted to your preferences and needs, so don’t be shy about naming them.
Know Your Instructor
When you step into that college classroom for the first time, you will quickly notice college professors and high school teachers are very different. Most professors function autonomously, have different teaching styles, as well as their own quirks and preferences. Some will let you come into class if you’re running late and some will tell you not to even bother. It will be your responsibility to adapt to them and make the most out of it. Read their syllabus carefully and make every effort to get to know them beginning on the first day of class. Your professors are people too and they want to see you succeed so ask questions and visit during office hours to take full advantage of the resource they are.
Set Realistic Expectations
Expectations surrounding academic and social outcomes for incoming college freshmen can be pretty lofty. Maintaining a GPA in high school is typically much easier than in college and sometimes, for those Honor Roll students, that realization can be a difficult one. For this reason, Broussard explains it’s important for new students to be able to cope with imperfection. “If you are that A and B student in high school you should probably have some real conversations with Mom and Dad. It’s possible that it can happen again, but it’s also possible that some of those other letters start showing up as well and that has to be okay,” he says. Now, don’t misunderstand, your target should always be set high and your best work should always be expected, but give yourself grace when necessary.
The same can be said for social expectations. College is not just an endless party with no responsibility. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. As a student, you are now responsible for managing your time and learning how to spend it wisely. “We have to be confident that when everyone turns their back, they will still do the right thing,” says Broussard. “That’s the difference between high school and college. There’s always someone watching, maybe a coach or a counselor, and when they get to college no one is.” Choosing between a night out with friends or a night spent studying at the library for that major exam will be necessary and, hopefully, you will be prepared to choose responsibly.
You Don’t Have To Know Everything
Starting classes, knowing the ins and outs of campus and determining a major that will affect your career path for the rest of your life can be pretty terrifying things. It’s understandable that incoming college students feel the need to know it all from day one and experience the intense anxiety that produces. However, Broussard explains that anxiety is not necessary. “We try to get them to put things in perspective and let the students know they are starting a long process,” he says. “Their first semester is only their first semester and all they need to worry about is registering for four months of classes. They don’t have to know on day one what day 575 is going to look like.”
Well laid plans rarely work out over the course of a college career so don’t feel the need to have everything set in stone and take advantage of the resources available to you. Visit your academic advisor, speak with upperclassmen in your major or speak with a counselor. You don’t have to do it alone. “They don’t need to have all the answers. They just have to ask all the questions. Ask the questions and we’ll get them to the right people,” adds Broussard.
Go To Orientation
Orientation days are wonderful for first time college students because they are designed to answer your questions and fill in all of the gaps. You can take a tour around campus, speak with financial aid advisors, put together a schedule with an academic advisor, learn to manage your online student account and, most importantly, meet new people. You aren’t the only one worried about starting this new phase of life so buddy up with someone over your common interests and tackle it together. Knowing what to expect does wonders for your nerves. Orientation days usually begin in March and are held once a month leading up to the fall semester. You can contact your school’s admissions office to get signed up.
Yes, college is primarily about earning that degree, but there are also valuable lessons to be learned through a little social interaction. Getting involved on campus is an essential part of every college experience and is highly encouraged beginning your freshman year. “Get involved in the life of the campus and join two student-type organizations,” states Bowie. “One should be related to their major in an academic organization or club and one should be social. They both will help them to make connections with other students on campus and it’s a way they can get involved in their campus and give back,” he adds. Attending other university events, like concerts, sporting events and dorm socials, will also help incoming students adjust to their surroundings as well as develop a sense of belonging.
Be Prepared for Your First Day
Back to school excitement is a wonderful thing and, when you’re starting college classes, it’s only taken up a notch. Being prepared for your first day in high school probably mean t your book sack was packed perfectly, your uniform was fresh and binders were neatly labeled and organized. Shockingly, being prepared for your first day of college is much simpler. In addition to a notebook and something to write with, students should be armed with a hard copy of their class schedule and a loose plan. “So often we have students show up and they don’t know what building to go to. Having that printed schedule means that other people can help them get to the right place,” explains Broussard. Also, having a game plan for the day and knowing what needs to be accomplished, like obtaining a parking permit or an on campus job, can get your semester started on the right foot. “Having none of the answers, but all of those questions for that first week is important,” he emphasizes. “Again, not for the whole four years, but just for five days during that first week.”