If you’re headed off to college soon, you probably feel as though there are a million things you need to do and remember. The good news is that everyone else is in the exact same situation that you are. It’s not as though you’re going to arrive and find yourself surrounded by a bunch of freshmen who are completely prepared in a way that you’re not. It’s going to be all new for nearly everyone, so you can relax about standing out as the one person who doesn’t know what they’re doing. At the same time, there are several things you can do to help you get ready.
Go to Orientation
Go to the orientation that your school provides and read over all the material that they give you, even if it seems tedious or you’d rather do something else, or your friends are skipping it. You’ll get a good sense of the basics, such as where things are and what you need to know. You’ll probably also meet some people. In addition, this is a good opportunity to ask any questions that you have.
Know Your Financial Situation
People decades older than you panic when they must think about their finances, so don’t worry if this part is causing you stress. If you don’t know where to begin, call the financial aid office of the college you’ll be attending. If you’re still in high school, the counselor may also be able to provide some information. Essentially, you need to have an idea of what your expenses will be besides tuition and how you’ll get the money for it all. Your college may be able to provide some ballpark figures for living expenses based on such variables as whether you live and eat on campus.
If for some reason they can’t or you just want some additional data, talk to some current students. Once you have this figure in mind, you’ll know how much you need to put together, which you may be able to do through a mix of scholarships, federal loans, grants, and private loans. For student loans, you can go to Marketplace by Navient and look at rate from top providers. This ability to comparison shop in one place will help you make the best decision about the lender to work with.
Some arrive at college completely certain of what they want to study, whether that’s business or psychology, music, a foreign language, engineering, medicine, or something else. It’s wonderful to be that focused and you may very well end up in that career field, but don’t give yourself tunnel vision on day one, or before you’ve even arrived on campus. You usually don’t have to declare a major for a year or two.
While it’s helpful to know exactly what you want to get your degree in so that you can make sure you get all the required coursework from the first couple of years in, you should be open to changing your mind. Stories abound of people who headed off to college and took one class that altered the course of their life. Plan on taking a variety of different courses in the first year or two, and if you end up in the very major that you planned on all along, the fact that you explored other options can give you the confidence that it’s genuinely the right choice.
Have the Right Prerequisites
What an engineering school expects on your high school transcript is very different from what will be expected if you’re planning on majoring in English. Of course, you shouldn’t necessarily lock yourself into a particular path too early, but at the same time, you should be aware of what colleges will expect you to have under your belt by the time you arrive on campus. If you’re hoping to pursue something in STEM, you’ll need to take as much math and science as you can while if you want an international career, it’s helpful to already have some foreign language experience. You can also pursue a broad-based schedule of classes in your junior and senior year of high school if you aren’t sure what you want to study, with a good mix of math, science and humanities courses that give you a solid base for many different majors.