10 Ways I Could Have Prepared for College More

1. Learn how to read properly

Reading in high school mostly entails retaining generic information about literature, articles, and other sources of information. It is essentially a matter of memorizing and retaining information, and the analysis and interpretation is done in class. In college, this process is entirely different. Not only are readings much longer in length, but they are also more dense in their content. This change requires a couple of adjustments for students transitioning to college. First, learn how to read and comprehend material at a fast pace so you don’t spend hours on that journal article you have for homework. Second, learn how to form your own thoughts and analysis of any reading you are given before a class or lecture, as the discussion will not lay it all out on the table for you; you have to do the legwork on your own.

2. Learn how to manage your time

I remember coming into college thinking I would have hours of free time given that I wasn’t sitting in classrooms from 8am to 3pm Monday through Friday. Unfortunately, I was wrong. It is true that students only spend 3-5 hours of their days in the classroom, but everything going on outside of the classroom really adds up. First and foremost, the work you put in outside of class takes much more time than it did in high school. Second, extracurriculars come up at all times of the day, all days of the week. Third, walking around campus, having meals, meeting with professors and friends, and other activities will all take up more of your time than you might expect. So, don’t expect to have hours every day to lounge around and hang out with friends; college is a busy time!

3. Learn how to talk to strangers

Especially in the beginning, the most important part of school is meeting people and making friends, connections, study mates, etc. This process entails being comfortable approaching people you’ve never met, mastering small talk, and knowing how to maintain a dialogue with people to whom you are not yet close. Luckily, everyone is in this boat at the beginning of school, so everyone will be willing to have that initial conversation. But regardless, you have to learn how to be comfortable and good and striking up a random conversation all day, every day.

4. Learn how to be a good speaker and presenter

While the amount of public speaking one might do may depend upon what they are studying, college largely requires being better and more comfortable at speaking in front of larger groups. Whether it be for a presentation, engaging in class discussion, or even doing group work, you have to learn how to be comfortable and good at articulating yourself if you want to be successful in the eyes of your professors and peers. 

5. Learn how to manage your money

College can be an expensive place! College is the first time for a lot of people to be out in the world, on their own, making their own spending decisions, and managing their own money. It is not sustainable to be going out all of the time with your friends; funds are limited! Learn how to budget where you will go out, when you will go out, and figure out how to build your social life around those plans accordingly. 

6. Have an idea of what you might get involved in before you arrive on campus

That first activities fair during the first week of school in your freshman year can be extremely overwhelming. Hundreds of organizations are looking for new members, and it is often hard to decide where you would like to be involved. Looking into organizations that reflect some of your personal interests may help narrow down what tables you should be visiting come time for the activities fair. 

7. Figure out where to get academic support

Adjusting to college-level courses can be a tough transition for many students, so it is important to know what resources are available to you to make this transition as easy as possible. Seeking out tutoring services, teaching assistants, office hours with professors, and other helpful tools can really change your outlook and performance in class.

8. Improve your writing skills

What is expected of you in high school when you write essays and papers is extremely different from what is expected in college. In high school, a fairly surface level analysis is all that is required to do decently well on an assignment. At the college level, this surface level analysis will earn you a passing grade at best. You have to learn to how to gesture outward, considering the context of your paper or essay’s discussion within a broader scope as well as delve deeper into the meaning of the details of a book or data set. Only then will your professors see you genuinely thinking critically about a topic and view your work as appropriate for an institution of higher education.

9. Figure out the best high school classes to take

Planning your high school schedule is not simply a matter of building a good looking transcript for your college applications, but it is just as much about setting yourself up to explore as many college courses as possible. While this process largely depends on AP classes (which you should research how many schools accept credit for those classes before you take them), it also depends on what random electives you might enroll in to discover some coursework you might find interesting in college as well. Exposing yourself to a broad set of academic topics in high school will broaden your scope of potentially interesting classes once in college; there are hundreds of courses, and you might not know which ones to take!

10. Learn how to balance work and play

Often the biggest struggle that students have is managing a balance between work and play, as college gives you more time out of class but also more work to handle. As a result, it is beneficial to keep a calendar and/or have a planner to map out your plans, activities, and work schedule. It is also important to recognize that college is equally a social and academic experience. Some students may be going to school just to get a degree, while others may be going to meet new people and have new experiences. Regardless of where you see yourself on that spectrum, college is a place to explore both the academic and social realms of your life, and so planning accordingly will help you maximize your potential to enjoy both of these areas as much as possible during your time in college.