Whether you are staying on campus or staying home with family, your first semester of college can be a stressful time in your life. New classes, new professors, a new place to live, and being away from home provide new challenges for which you may not be prepared. Good news for some, college gives you an academic fresh start. Students who have done poorly in high school are no longer dogged with a low GPA. Students who have done well in high school often already have the organizational skills needed to be successful in college.
A quarter of all students drop out of college in their freshman year, and less than half survive past the sophomore year. The best way to ensure that you are part of the half that makes it to graduation day is to start off on the right foot. Let’s look at a few things that will give you the best foundation to launch a great academic experience.
- Don’t overload. Taking too many classes in your first semester will only cause you unnecessary stress. As you browse your course catalogue, you will undoubtedly find many courses that sound amazing. You know that you need to commit to your core classes as well. To keep from becoming overwhelmed, take 4 or 5 classes at most.
- Go to Orientation. Bring a pad of paper and a pen. The college wants you to succeed. The orientation will not only provide you with school policies but also ways that you can involve yourself in college life. Getting to know the campus and what is offered will save you time and aggravation.
- Meet your Academic Advisor. Academic advisors are there to guide you through your educational experience. They know that you are just starting out, and they understand that you may not be familiar with how this whole thing works. Your advisor can help you plan and pick classes that will best fit your major. Stay in touch with them even after picking classes as you will need their help at the end of the semester when you are choosing classes again! The goal of the Academic Advisor is to see you succeed and see you walk across the stage.
- Meet your professors. Professors will post Office Hours in the syllabus. Particularly in the beginning of the year, they will find themselves quite lonely during this time. Swing by and introduce yourself. This will give you time to feel out the professor, making a good impression at the same time.
- Always go to class. This seems like a no-brainer, but going to class is important. It may seem tempting to steal one more day of summer, what’s one class going to hurt? In a 16 week semester where you only take two classes a week, the answer is, a lot. Not only do you miss a chance to ask the professor to explain greater details during the class, but absences count towards a participation grade. If you know you are going to miss a class, tell your professor ahead of time. Maintaining communication with your professor shows them that you are responsible, and take their class seriously.
Jason Biggs said it best, “Like anyone who goes to college; you are leaving a familiar surrounding and a comfortable environment and your friends and everything, and you are starting fresh. It can be pretty daunting.”
College is your new beginning. This is a time of chrysalis. You will be expected to grow and mature. Take your time, plan carefully, be thorough, stay positive, and succeed. You can do it!