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Gearing Up For Freshman Year

Graduating high school and stepping into the unknown of college is exhilarating…and can also be a bit nerve-wracking. But never more so than this year, when the uncertainties of the pandemic have brought online models of education and quickly shifting plans to the forefront.

While you can’t prepare for every contingency, the best way to deal with uncertainty is to prep yourself ahead of time, and then be ready to adapt. Here’s a few ways you can gear up both mentally and physically in the months preceding the start of your college journey.

  1. Start researching your field of study. There’s no time like the present to start figuring out what you want to do with your life. While you may not choose your major in your freshman year, the summer before you begin college is an excellent time to do an assessment of your skills, talents, and goals and determine how they’ll fit into a career. (Check out our tips .) Starting school with some concrete goals will help you stay focused when things get challenging.
  2. Make your plan for online classes. With COVID-19 making life a bit of a guessing game, it’s best to get your ducks in a row for online learning this year. Make sure you have the technology you need, including a good internet connection. Set up your study space in a quiet area where you’ll be able to focus without distraction. It’s also a good idea to create some time management plans. Whether that’s using an app, getting a paper planner, or laying out your schedule on a wall near your desk. (Here’s a few more ideas. )
  3. Consider your college job options. While working during college might not be your ideal, it’s likely a necessity to help offset tuition expenses. The summer before freshman year is a good time to start figuring out your options. Consider what type of job will best suit your schedule as well as its proximity to your college. If you can find work that will provide you with experience and contacts in your chosen field, even better. (You can learn more about the benefits of working during college here .)
  4. Take advantage of orientation. If you’re considering skipping freshman orientation—don’t. Orientation provides a host of important information and resources to help you start school off on the right foot. Not only will you learn where you can go to get career counseling and help choosing your schedule, but you’ll also have a chance to meet your new classmates and make some friends. Take the time to introduce yourself to your professors if you can. Making these connections will put you a step ahead (and help you feel more confident) when school starts.
  5. Look into volunteering and social opportunities. Orientation is also a great time to learn about your school’s extracurricular activities. Even if you weren’t super involved in high school, college offers you a chance to start fresh. Try stepping out of your comfort zone by signing up for a club, the school paper, or community service. Not only will these activities boost your confidence and help you feel a part of your campus, but you’ll gain valuable skills that will make you more marketable when you’re applying for jobs. (Here's a list of some other valuable college resources available to students.)
  6. Figure out your finances. In the year prior to starting college, you’ll have a lot of things to figure out. One of the most vital will be how you’re going to pay for college. To prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed, it’s best to break this up into smaller, more manageable tasks throughout the year. Making a to-do list will help you stay organized. Be sure to include things like: looking into financial aid, applying for scholarships and loans, making a budget, and determining how you’ll pay for things like housing and transportation. (You can learn more about the cost of college and how to pay for it by visiting here and here . To find out more about maximizing your college budget, check out this article .)
  7. Connect with other freshman. Making friends is one of the best ways to find balance and feel at home in college. While your main focus will be on your studies, knowing others who are going through the same things as you can make your challenges seem more manageable. Most colleges have social media accounts, so that’s an easy way to start getting to know other freshman or students in your field of study. You can also ask around your high school friends to see who will be attending your chosen college. Your job, extracurricular activities, and church affiliations are also avenues you can explore to find your place in your new school.
  8. Keep your mind active. The summer before you start college is a major transition point in your life. You’ll want to spend time with your friends, celebrate the accomplishment of graduating, and relax. However, you don’t want to slack off so much that jumping into your freshman year is a total shock to the system. Take the time to recover and celebrate, but make sure you’re including things that stimulate your mind and prepare you for the coming school year. This can include things like: reading books, researching the careers that most interest you, and keeping yourself on a reasonable schedule in the weeks prior to school starting. While that may seem like a waste of your precious summer months, you will thank yourself when college work starts in earnest, we promise.

You can learn more about what to expect during the transition to college here .

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