Congratulations! You will soon embark on the next phase of your life. For every person, this journey will be different. And no journey is better than another. It is what you make of it ? so seize these moments!
To those of you who are jetting off to a four-year college or university, I would say on average it takes about six months to fully transition into college. Consider these tips to ease your transition:
- Unlike high school, in college, there is no bell that rings to warn you that class is starting. You are held accountable for getting to class on time and prepared for the day's lesson. It is up to you to figure out your assignments and find resources on campus for academic support. My best advice: learn to advocate for yourself. It is a skill you will never stop using.
- Be aware of lectures and other events (outside your class schedule) occurring during the course of an academic year. They can provide pleasure as well as profit.
- Less is more when it comes to your dorm space. Your living quarters are tight. Coordinate with your new roommate(s) to bring shared supplies such as a TV and a microwave. Don't forget to pack the essentials: shower shoes (flip-flops), a shower caddy to hold your personal items such as shampoo and soap, and ear plugs (speaking from experience here ? you might get a roomie who snores!).
- Look for the clubs and organizations on campus that appeal to you and get involved in them. This is a great way to establish your community within your campus and make new friends.
- Learn to be thrifty. You're a college student ? live like one! If you are lucky enough to have a monthly allowance (thank your parents!), avoid spending it all in the first week. Another life skill that is critical to learn and will stick with you well beyond your college years is knowing how to budget. It will probably take a couple of months to figure out your spending habits, but once you do, live within your means and stick to your budget.
- Get to know your professors. Don't be shy about asking them for help or seeking advice on academic and personal matters; they are eager to help. If you are planning on attending post-graduate school or applying for research or internship opportunities, you will need letters of recommendations.
- Most importantly, you are not alone. Homesickness is a real thing. Talk to your RA (Residential Advisor) and your peers. Everyone is feeling the same way. Call home often when you are feeling lonely. A pep talk from Mom can lift your spirits in a jiffy. And, know that as homesick as you are, your family is also transitioning; they miss you, too.
I hope that one day you will have a hilarious guest speaker at your college graduation, like the University of Virginia did in 2013.
To those of you who will be starting at a community college, I applaud you. You are making a wise decision to reduce your college debt and take time to explore classes while determining where to transfer and what to major in. Consider these tips to ensure a successful community college experience:
- Start this summer. Get a leg up on your peers by taking one or two classes before the fall term begins. This will not only help you in your transition to college but also get you a few units closer to transferring.
- Visit your Transfer Center often to learn about your options and to meet College Representatives to learn more about campuses you might be interested in applying to. Arrange meetings with your Transfer Counselor to get a full understanding of articulation agreements and then design a transfer plan.
- Get involved on campus. Joining clubs and organizations not only aligns your experience with a traditional four-year college; it also is a great way to gain a sense of leadership and community, as well as items that you will want on your college application in the future.
- Learn to advocate for yourself. Navigating the community college system can be tricky. Explore your community college to find the academic, social, financial assistance, and health and wellness resources you will need to be successful.
- Find out if your community college offers an Honors Program. If they do, apply. If accepted, you will have a cohort of like-minded, transfer-bound peers. It is a built-in academic platform and support group.
- Starting at a community college can transform your future. If there was a college you really wanted to apply to in high school but didn't have the grades, this is your chance to reinvent yourself. I have witnessed many community college students transfer to notable institutions like Stanford, Columbia, UCLA, UCSD, to name a few.
Here is a link to an inspiring story from a former De Anza College student who is now the U.S. Chief Data Scientist.
To the class of 2015, Dr. Seuss best sums it up in his delightful story, "Oh, the Places You'll Go":
Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!