How to Get a Head Start on College

Congratulations! You have been thinking about your future in College. Applying to College, getting in and finally going off to College is a stressful but very rewarding experience. Most students though, make one very crucial mistake: they assume the hardest part of college life is getting accepted and being able to go. Being in College is amazing, but keeping up with it is not fun. Beat the odds by getting a bit of a headstart, before you actually step onto collegiate ground.


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    Get an idea of what college you're attending. At the moment, you could be starting the application process, waiting for the letters from your college to come in, or you could be holding an acceptance letter and grinning. At whichever stage you are, you must have a good idea of what kind of college you plan to/are attending. Your college could be a State, Tech, International, Ivy League or Community college, and each of these types have slightly different expectation of the student. Once you have decided what type of college you are/will be attending, narrow the list down to about five of your favorites.
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    Contact a current student. Whether you have one set choice, or five prospective college choices, it always helps to have a contact with a college or university.
    • Email the school's admissions office, tell them you are a prospective/incoming student and you'd like them to provide you with contact details of a current student at the college so that you can get an insider's view of what the college is about.
    • Use social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Orkut, Friendster etc. and look for students enrolled in the college(s) you are interested in, and send them a message. Some social networking sites do not allow you to view the profiles of other people unless they approve, but they will usually allow you to send them a message or have applications such as marketplaces, public forums etc. where you can post information that anyone can have access to. You can use these public applications to 'list' your need. For example: 'Prospective/Incoming *insert college name here* student looking to contact a current student'.
    • Get the word out. It's a small world and many great things have bordered on coincidence. Tell anyone and everyone you can about the college(s) you're thinking about, why you want to go there and what you want to do. Yes, you might come across as inappropriately chatty and slightly self-absorbed if you overdo it, but it has great benefits. Someone might know someone who might know someone attending the college(s) you are considering, and might offer to put you in touch with them.
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    Pick the brains of the student you contacted. This is really not the time to be shy. Consider it social skills practice for college. Make a list of anything and everything you wanted to ever ask about that college and send it off to the student. Be sure to ask nicely though, and tell them that they don't need to answer all of them, just any they feel they can. Ask them how social the dorms are, who the best professors are, how strict are the smoking policies, how many atoms in one mole of an element...whatever you like. Remember that the major questions will be answered on the school website or by the Student Services or Admissions department of the university, this is your chance to ask trivial and important questions. For example: how is the food on campus, how fast do classes fill up, what classes have the easiest/hardest workload, what did they find most challenging about the college etc.
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    Look up the classes offered during the semester you will join the university. Registration is the very hectic for incoming freshman. Classes get full very fast and all the best professors seem to always be taken. Majority of freshmen end up taking classes they don't really want to take during the first semester, because they had no choice. Get information about the subjects as early as possible so that once you can register, you do and end up with what you need and want.
    • Email a professor/faculty member/advisor and ask for a list of suggested courses for the first semester. This is sometimes also available on the school website. Also ask for an academic course guideline, something that tells you what classes are prerequisites for other classes. This information is usually readily available on request. Be sure to include your major in your request. Also, send the request early so that they have enough time to get back to you.
    • Check for alternating classes. Most often, classes vary every semester. You will find a set of classes that are only offered in the Fall semester or some that are only offered during the Spring. Find out what these classes are beforehand and make a note of them.
      • Ask a current student for class recommendations for the first semester. They can usually tell you what they feel is best for incoming freshers and their take is a bit more accurate than an official's as they've been through it themselves.
    • Use all this information to make a tentative class schedule for yourself. Once you know what you want, you can go for it without the usual wondering, asking around and wandering that freshmen tend to do. Also, making the schedule yourself will give you practice on the schedule that you will have to make once you are eligible for registration.
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    Make schedules and stick to them. Start making schedules for yourself, for anything you do. Even if you're on summer vacation, make a small schedule for when you will watch TV, when you will go out, when you will read...etc. You don't need to make one for everything, but for enough of your activities so that you can get into the habit of managing your time. Yes, I used the 'T-word'. Everyone talks about time management and how its so important, and they do it for a reason. If you are not used to making timetables and following them, you need to train yourself and become more disciplined. This is the single most important thing you can do to succeed in college. Make a small, non-hectic timetable for yourself, and stick to it. If you find yourself not doing that, keep at it until you can tell your body to do something and it obeys. Even a mini-schedule can help. For example, a week's timetable could be as follows:
    • 9:00 am - Wake up
    • 2:00 pm - Watch TV
    • 3:30 pm - Talk to friend
    • 6:00 pm - Edit an article on wikiHow
    • Even if that's all you have, as long as you stick to it and do what you said you'd do at exactly the time you alloted for it, you're on the right track.
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    Periodically revise what you learned in school. This is very easy to do. Once school's out, everyone is out having fun and it's all too simple to simply forget all you crammed to get through school. Every once in a while, go over your notes, flashcards and anything else that you used to prep during classes and make sure you haven't forgotten all of it. Don't spend too much time on it, your brain needs a break. But do set aside time to go over it when you feel you can't remember what you learned in final year chemistry. A good time to do this is before you go to sleep. When you're lying in bed at night, try to remember problems done during class or chapters you studied for. If you can't recall some of it, relax. If you are drawing a complete blank, let your eye glance at the concept before you go to bed. College assumes that you know all your high school work. If you've forgotten it, you'll have a much harder time coping.
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    Earn Credits. One good way to stay ahead of the pack is to not give up studies completely. Even if you're on vacation, see if you can take an extra class at a local college, or online for as little as an hour a week. Another good option is to take a CLEP test. Western Civilization 1 is a good option. Either one will give you a jumpstart on your studying, and with any luck, you might be able to transfer the credits to your college so you don't have to take that class and can take a higher level one.
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    Learn the icky domestic stuff. When at college you would probably have to do things you really never thought of doing while at home, such as: clean the toilet, wash the carpet, get dust and gum (and worse...depending on who had your room before you did) out of unimaginable places. Next time someone is cleaning around your house, pay attention. Volunteer to do it yourself, if you dare. You might want to do it at least once so that if/when it's your turn, you don't ignore it/stare at it for hours/wish it away/do it wrong (all of these actions usually end up in out of control domestic situations, such as blockage, infestations, breaking of something, which result in Maintenance and Housing getting called in and you having to foot the bill for repairs) and avoid a situation that will annoy you and stress you out.
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    Visit a/the college campus. Try to visit a college campus nearby so that you can get a feel for the environment. Even if it's not the college you will go to, it would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with it so that when you show up on campus you don't look completely awestruck. Also, if you've been at a college campus before, when you finally arrive at college, it wouldn't be your first time and some of the butterflies in your stomach will disappear and you'll be a bit more confident.
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    Expect a culture shock. You may have lived in the campus town all your life or you might have moved around so much you feel immune to culture shock. But it will happen, and in ways that you might not expect. College is a big deal no matter how good you are at dealing with it. Do not feel frustrated if you feel like matters are slipping out of your hands or if you're oscillating between highs and lows. Before you step into the collegiate realm, you have to admit to yourself that things can affect you and it's okay if they do. Once you accept that, if and when it happens you will be far more capable of dealing with it.

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Categories: College University and Postgraduate | End of School