Be College Smart-10 Tips for the Student

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to college. Anticipating the next phase of your education can be exciting, but there is much more to consider beyond academics.

To aid in college preparation, ask your parents to “take a backseat” during your senior year of high school so you can start actively managing your own life, suggests counselor Cindy Watkins from Utah’s Herriman High School.

Here are 10 ideas to consider before school starts.

1.       Manage your money. Open checking and savings accounts at a bank or credit union with branches in your hometown and near campus, so you and your parents can have access. Practice creating a budget and sticking to it.

2.       Manage your time. College takes more effort than high school did, and you’re going to be on your own. Set a schedule to figure out how to balance classes, studying, work, athletics, extracurricular activities, and sleep.

3.       Practice communication and self-advocacy skills. “Learn how to use office hours [to meet with professors]. It’s easy to ask questions when your class has 15, 20, 30 people, but if it has 150 students, you have to be able to advocate for yourself,” said Joel Karpowitz, English department chair at Ravenscroft School in Raleigh, North Carolina.


4.       Practice problem-solving skills. “Too many times, college freshmen have no idea how to handle problems with roommates, balancing jobs and classes, and other situations,” Watkins said, so it is important to begin early to develop competent problem-solving skills.

5.       Improve active listening skills. In high school, students expect teachers to catch them up if they aren’t paying attention, but you can’t expect the same courtesy in college.

6.       Consult with an academic advisor before you register for classes to map out a game plan. “The biggest surprise for freshmen is how little time they spend in the classroom versus how much time they spend on independent work. The ratio [they’re used to] is opposite,” said Brittanie Weatherbie Greco, composition instructor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. “They’re trying out so many new things freshman year—trying to balance the social, emotional, and the scholastic—it can get overwhelming.”

7.       If you do feel overwhelmed at school and need to talk to someone, know that free counseling is usually available for academic concerns and mental health issues.

8.       Spend time on campus more than once before you start school “to make sure it’s the best fit for you,” said Cyndi Lemke, English adjunct faculty at Lone Star College in Kingwood, Texas.

9.       Don’t buy all the books listed on the syllabus before your first class—go to class first to determine which books you’ll need. You can also rent books, buy used books at the campus bookstore or online, or check them out from course reserves at the library, said attorney Felicity Murphy, head of reference at Brigham Young University’s Howard W. Hunter Law Library.

10.   Rethink taking your car. Cars can be costly to maintain and expensive to park. Consider taking public transit or campus shuttles, biking, or walking.