Starting College: 3 Key Things to Get You Off to a Great Start
It’s taken a lot of hard work to get to college, so you want to ensure that it works out well for you. Unlike Primary and Secondary school, not everyone who starts college finishes. Each year, about 1 in 6 students drop-out during 1st year, even though most received their first or second course choice on CAO.
The biggest challenge is the freedom that comes with college. It may be what you longed for - no strict school schedule; no specific meal times; no regular class tests; nobody telling you what to do. However, thetransition to independence may not be as easy as it appears.
Here are 3 key tips to help set you up for success.
1. Be Organised
Your study in college requires as much attention as it did in secondary school. It is often the case that for every hour of class, you are expected to do a further 3 – 4 hours of independent study. Participating in extra-curricular college activities and social life is as important as your study, so balancing everything is a skill in itself. How you use your time will have a significant effect on your wellbeing, happiness and success in college. Planning and having a routine will make life mush easier.
Plan ahead. Set up a weekly planner on your wall, identifying classes, tutorials, assignments, events, sport or other activities and nights out. When and where will you eat? Sunday evening is a good time to plan for the coming week.
Set up a routine for yourself. In so far as is possible, get up at the same time every day. Plan nights out in a way that won’t interfere with your class attendance or your ability to concentrate.
Monitor how you use your time, cutting down on distractions such as your phone. Decide how much time you are willing to give it and stick with your decision. If you are commuting, try to use this time to read notes or listen to related podcasts. Allocate time for yourself each day. This could be taking a walk or a cycle or just sitting quietly on your own for 20 minutes. It is important to have quiet time in a busy world.
2. Get to Know New People
College will have highs and lows but what tends to get people through challenging times is friendships. When people look back on their college days, it’s the friendships, often lifelong, that mattered most.
Groups begin to form over the first few months. If you have close friends starting college with you, be mindful that you may find it difficult to make new friends. Who is brave enough to try to break into an already established group? It’s a wasted opportunity not to go out of your way to make new friends.
Getting to know new people is your most important task during the first few months of college. Take every opportunity offered, within reason. Go with the flow. If you tend to be shy and reserved, it is even more important that you move out of your comfort zone at this crucial time. It opens you up to unexpected things happening and you learn what you’re really made of. Go to movie nights. Go to the pub even if you don’t drink, even if you have to travel to get home. Sign up to as many clubs and societies as you can. Some won’t get started if numbers are small.
Be approachable. Don’t sit at the back of the class playing with your phone. Chat to people, even if it’s only something like Hi, or I’m Jack. Don’t forget to smile. This is your opportunity to be yourself. Its an opportunity to break out of the mould that may have characterised your group of friends from secondary school. You are not abandoning your old friends, just gaining new ones.
3. Ask for Help
Many students find their early college experience to be very different to what they expected. This is not surprising. It is a big change and for many, this brings feelings of anxiety. The course content may be very different to what you expected and perhaps the workload may be higher that you had anticipated. One of the greatest life skills you can develop is asking for help. If you have even the slightest sense that you are beginning to fall behind – act quickly. The most obvious place to seek help is from someone in your class who appears to understand the particular concept that you find challenging. People love helping – it’s how we are. It does wonders for our sense of self, so don’t hesitate. If this approach doesn’t work, you might have a chat with your tutors or someone from the Student Union. 2nd or 3rd year students might be available for low-cost grinds.
These measures are very effective in getting you off to a great start. If you are looking for tailored help and advice, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how I can support you on your journey.