Advice for a freshman preparing for college life on campus

Stephanie Kinkaid Assistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center Monmouth College

Congratulations on graduating from high school! Amidst the flurry of excitement and activity during the months before you leave for college, you must prepare for the next four years. Do you know what you need to do? Are you ready for the academic, social, and extracurricular activities that await you for your freshman year? It is not enough to just apply to college, get an acceptance letter, and move to campus in August or September. Preparation is the key! Follow this advice so you can be as ready as you can for this new phase of life.


Do

Do manage your social media

Social media plays a huge part in a young person’s life. However, your reputation can be damaged by photos and posts. Ask yourself if your image on Facebook, Twitter, or Snapchat is something representative of the person you want to be when attending college. Are there photos tagged that might hurt your image? Would you want your professors and new friends to see all your drama playing out on social media? If not, clean it up! There are sites available to help you get rid of unwanted posts. Also, Google yourself to find out how you appear to potential roommates and friends. It might just save you a lot of grief later on. College is a place where you can reinvent yourself, so start with cleaning up your social media.

Do learn about the campus and you professors

Do some research and learn about your classes, the layout of the campus, and your professors. If one of your professors is a published author, reading materials written might help you learn a professor’s style and interest, which can only help you in the long run. See if you can map out your daily routine. Are your classes close together? How far is your residence hall from the academic buildings? When does your advisor have office hours? Where is the student center? Is there a dining hall in your building or do you need walk to another location? Are there cars allowed on campus? These are all great questions to research before you even pack your first bag.

Do make sure your financial aid is confirmed and ready

While some fees and deposits are required of every student before moving in and starting classes, the majority of tuition and other payments aren’t usually due until a little later in the quarter or semester. Before you are neck deep in classes, homework, and student life, make sure your financial aid package—including federal loans, private loans, scholarships, grants, and personal college money—is confirmed, applied to your account, or set aside and ready to be paid to the school when it's due. Even better: make sure that all of it is confirmed for the next four years, or at least as far in advance as you can control or plan to be at that school.

Do research potential majors

You don’t have to pick a major yet, but having an idea about your options is very helpful. Ask your high school guidance counselor for ideas, use your parents as a resource, and start developing a professional network. When you do arrive on campus, visit the career center for personality assessments and information regarding majors and occupations. The more knowledge you have, the better informed you will be to make a decision when the time comes to do so.

Do meet your roommate

If you live close to your roommate, meet him/her. If you cannot physically meet, at least talk on the phone. Find out likes and dislikes. Decide who is bringing what to campus. Ask some questions. What are your roommate’s favorite shows and favorite foods? What do you have in common? Remember that you do not have to be best friends with your roommate, but a little compromise goes a long way in making your transition to college life smoother.


Don't

Do not forget to have your resume ready

Having a beginner resume is a great icebreaker when starting college. It can help you get a job, get involved in an organization, or make it easier when speaking with your advisor the first time. A resume is basically a handy list of what you have done so far, so keep it updated and accurate. One of the main points of attending college is to build upon your resume, so get an early start.

Do not skip orientation

Attending orientation is a first step in learning all about your next four years. You will register for classes, meet professors and staff, find your residence hall, see where your classes are held, and maybe meet your new best friend! Plus, your orientation leaders are generally upper class students who can fill you in on all the information you need about late night pizza runs and where all the students hang out. Orientation is vital to future success.

Do not ignore the mailings and emails sent from your college

Included in all of this material will be information about your roommate, financial aid, your residence hall, your meal plan, car registration, athletic involvement, move-in dates and what to bring when you finally move. It may seem like you are being buried in paperwork, but it’s so important. Read all of it! Missing just one letter may be the difference between an easy transition, and chaos.

Do not miss information about college resources

Of course you need to know where you will be living, but you should also know where to find the business office, financial aid office, residence life and the career center. It’s also very helpful to know all about your financial aid package, how to drop a class, what to do when you are ill, and who can help you when you are struggling. You need to know about the resources before deadlines approach. Marking important dates on your calendar might also help.

Do not wait until the last minute to pack

You should obtain a list from the college regarding what you should/can bring. It’s helpful to know that microwaves are not allowed before you lug it up four flights of stairs. Make sure you have everything you need from bedding to batteries, laundry soap to quarters. Making lists and checking items against the list saves you from purchasing necessities at a high price in the student center. Toiletries and bedding can be purchased early, which makes preparation painless. Your clothing can be packed last after all other items are included in your boxes.


Summary
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You’ve made it through high school. Your future is full of excitement! If you want to be a success in college, you need to prepare. So do your research, read your emails, attend orientation and pack your bags. Succeeding in the future depends heavily on your success during the next four years of college. University resources, professional networks, and information are the keys to preparation.


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Stephanie KinkaidAssistant Director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Center

Stephanie graduated from Illinois State University and has been employed with Monmouth College since 2007. She has a background as a mental health professional and has worked with thousands of college students as they prepare for the future. Her...

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