Recently, I have been asked by my brother and cousin about college. As seniors in high school, their interest in their older family member has peaked…and with all the wisdom I can impart on them, I thought it was only fair to share it online (I’m kidding about the wisdom part, but I do think I can help some of you out)!
Senior year for both high schoolers and college students has been different than past years, to say the least. With COVID-19 having impacted nearly a year of our lives, I have found that everything is just a bit more stressful when thinking about future education plans.
I myself am looking at grad schools, jobs, and what it would mean to go back home because not much is certain right now. However, one thing that has remained the same is when someone asks me: “Hey! What’s college like as a freshman?” I pretty much answer with a small giggle, smile, and say, “it’s an interesting experience.”
There are a few basic things that are difficult to understand until you live it, but they will come naturally. Homesickness comes and goes, and it definitely isn’t the same for everyone. You will eventually figure out how to take notes in a large lecture and stay attentive while the professor goes on (and on and on) about a topic you may never find useful (until it is, and you wish you had paid attention). Who to see on the weekends gets pretty redundant at some point, while the amount of friends you will try to make, fail to make, try to stay in touch with, and fail to shake never gets much easier either.
But! Do! Not! Fear!
There are a few things to know before college that may make the transition a bit easier. Having an understanding of how your college’s general education requirements are fulfilled might help lower your stress levels when you think of classes. It’s easier said than done, but just knowing what kinds of classes and what pre-reqs you might need in the future can definitely lighten the load when it comes to picking your first few classes.
If you are living on campus (whether it be super far from home or around the corner) don’t forget to pack a fan, your favorite sweatshirt, and a water bottle. Trust me, you might think you’ll remember it, but it’s a bummer when you get to campus and realize you don’t have the comfiest, best worn-in, and most smelling-like-home sweatshirt because your mom said it was too old, too stained, or too-something for you.
There are also things you can skip out on packing: the 8,000 pens, the 4,500 perfumes and lotions, and the 50 pairs of shoes. It’s tempting, I know, but when you use all of 10 pens, two perfumes, and five shoes you’ll realize how much of a nuisance moving out is going to be.
My biggest piece of advice for academics is to use professors’ office hours. Office hours are a godsend, and professors enjoy talking about their lessons in a casual way. Even the most intimidating professors become approachable in a small setting. Plus, having a connection with a professor or two comes in handy down the road when you need advice on classes to take and recommendation letters.
To make the above point a bit easier to digest, I’ll let you know how I tackled interpersonal mentorships with professors.
I’ve always been on the extroverted side; however, it is still intimidating to walk into (or log into) office hours with a new professor. What I’ve done since freshman year is this: for the first week or so, I feel out my classes and decide which classes I may need the most help in, as well as which professors may be the easiest to approach. I usually hone in on one or two professors a semester who I think I can build a relationship with. (That doesn’t mean I forget about the other classes, I just use their office hours less frequently.)
I will use my semester to go to office hours and ask questions about the class, as well as what may be helpful outside of the classroom for information. Eventually, it becomes more comfortable, and sometimes you joke about having a specific seat in their office or ask about the TV show they mentioned last week.
I definitely do not have a close relationship with all of my professors –– there are probably more professors who don’t know my name than professors who do. That’s the nature of a big college though. Intro classes are large, and usually, discussions are taught by TAs, so that is to be expected; but if you take the first step, mentorships grow naturally, and they are the most helpful part in succeeding in school.
I know that was a lot of information thrown on top of all of the stress of applying to school, but it is easy to get bogged down in the application process, and then you suddenly just have to think about what happens next. What happens next is completely new and exciting, but it’s easy to get lost in all of the commotion.