You don’t know this, but my second semester in college ended with me on academic probation. My excuse – I lacked the maturity and discipline needed for a successful first year. I am sure people expected I would never graduate. If so, they were wrong. With prayer and support from multiple directions, I finished strong. Now years later, I get to start my sixth year teaching a course for freshmen that helps them better prepare for a successful college experience.
As I build my syllabus, there are five things I want to share with you to prepare for a great start to college.
1. Get (back) in the habit of reading
It can be a magazine or leisure book, but read. Many of my first-year students talk to me about the transition of having “easy” work their senior year and not being ready for all the reading in college.
After reading, talk to someone about what you read. It does not have to be a book discussion. Regular conversation topics such as “I was reading in Billboard that Beyonce’ Lemonade topped the chart again…” That basic example shows the framework of how your class discussions may go with your lesson readings.
2. Create a plan
Create a broad or specific plan. Not every student goes into college with a major, but some students start college questioning whether they will finish. Don’t let that be you. Have a plan to finish even if it is as loose as saying, “I want to graduate from XYZ university with passing grades and make my parents proud.”
Start with the understanding that you will finish. For those that like planning, I highly recommend reviewing your academic plan, exploring class descriptions, drafting ideas of organizations you may join, and looking into internship opportunities that will give you experience.
3. See yourself succeeding on campus
If you can visit campus before classes begin, do it. Walk to your classes and meet people that you can assist you while there. If you cannot visit campus, go through the school’s virtual tour. Imagine yourself being successful there. Get an idea of how you will navigate from one class to the next, when and where you will eat.
4. Balance work and fun
Some students come to college after a summer of working a paid job while others come to college after a summer of fun and relaxation. That transition can be difficult for both sets of students. If you have worked the most of the summer, find time to relax and enjoy yourself before school starts. I hear stories of students working all summer and are easily worn out after a few weeks of college. At the same time, if you relaxed and enjoyed your entire summer, identify ways to get you in the habit of working again. If possible, before starting college, identify what helps you relax. Then, learn ways to relax when/if college becomes stressful.
5. Practice responsibility
Sometimes students come to college without the experience of spending time away from family, managing their own money or making their own decisions. At the same time, some students start college already contributing to their tuition or other expense, such as a cell phone, apple music, Spotify, books, etc. expense. I have learned that students are often challenged by the difficult decisions they have to make in college. Some look back and wish they made wiser decisions about how they spent their time and who they spent it with. Practicing responsibility, in general, can help with your decision making.
Use these next few weeks to practice responsibility with tasks you may do on your own in college. A small way to do this is by doing laundry, getting your own groceries, preparing your dinner, determining a budget, saying no to activities you feel pressured to do, etc.
I want to close with this quote from Toni Morrison.
“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have some power, then your job is to empower somebody else.” ~ Toni Morrison
I pray that this post and all future posts empower you to succeed. If some of you reading this have suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.
This post is dedicated to my Godchildren starting college, Aleah and Trennin. Wishing you the best that all life has to offer.
Written by: Aurelia Spaulding Photo by Joshua McKnight from Pexels