Get involved! Tips for college freshman
Once the excitement of getting into college has worn off, getting ready to go can be daunting. So before you head off, here are some tips from New York City high school college counselors on how best to prepare yourself for the college adventure.
Financial aid and budgeting
The first piece of advice all college counselors give is to take care of all your financial aid paperwork. Josh Steckel, a guidance counselor at the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies, said it's important to review loans and make sure the amount of the loan is manageable.
Ritu Sen, Director of College Preparedness for the Urban Assembly Schools, said you'd be amazed at the different types of loan packages offered to students. While it's critical not to take a loan that will be impossible for you to repay, you also don't want to underestimate your costs, she said. "Have a realistic sense of what your books and transportation will cost, but, above all, make sure you can afford your loan."
The best way to be financially savvy is to live like a student, said Sharon Holden, the college counselor at James Baldwin High School. Live within your means. If you overspend on one thing, that means you have to cut back on something else.
Learn to ask for help
In high school, students often receive help or warnings when they start to fall behind, but in college, no one is watching out for you. "Recognize when you might be behind academically and be proactive about going to your professor," said Sen.
"Do not be afraid to ask staff on campus for help, that is what they are there for!," added Emilia Wiles of College Confident.
Craig Robinson, the Director of KIPP Through College, tells his students to "seek out a 'lifeline' on campus that you can turn to for support such as an upperclassmen, professor or administrator."
Steckel advises his students to get to know their academic advisor -- not just over email, but in person. Make an effort to see people in person.
It's equally important not to emotionally check out, said Sen. Seek help for emotional and social support in addition to academic support. Lots of colleges and universities offer free counseling.
Be open-minded about new ideas, people and relationships with peers who may seem very different from you. Build a network. Give things a chance.
And make real connections and become engaged in campus life. "Increasing your engagement level on campus in powerful ways where you can feel known is really important. Higher engagement leads to increased success," said Steckel. "Seek out support at the multicultural center, academic center, student support services on campus before you arrive and become known on campus before you even start college."
For Yabilies Guerrero, a graduate of the Urban Assembly Bronx School for Law, Government & Justice, and now a senior at Skidmore, she remembers how tough freshman year can be. "Give yourself time to adjust to a new environment," she said. "Don't come home too much and get involved in an organization where you can find some purpose."
Whatever you do, said Guerrero, don't let yourself be lonely. Just go to an event, she says. You never know who you may meet there.
Create a routine or schedule. "Students are more successful time managers if they are highly engaged in campus life and in positive commitments," said Steckel. Register for a manageable course load and seek out activities.
But it's important not to over schedule yourself. Find balance between work and play. "No one's going to tell you not to go party every night," said Holden. "So it's important to get your work done before you play."
1. Don’t room with people you already know.
2. Take some fun, random classes, like acting or public speaking. You may not get another chance.
3. Bring shower shoes.
4. Pace yourself in the all-you-can-eat dining halls.
5. Remember that even though everyone is different, you’re all in the same boat, so take risks.