Transitioning from high school to college does not have to be as intimidating as it sounds. Many schools offer a variety of valuable resources to help students take the step from high school into college. Here's a firsthand look at how I was able to make my journey a smooth one.
Prepare for College Ahead of Time
Transitioning from high school into college was a pretty big deal for me. I had attended a private school my entire educational life and was scared to leave my safe, secure high school comfort zone and step into the unknown environment of college. Thankfully, with the help of my high school and future college, I was able to muster up enough courage to take that next step, and it was much easier than I thought. Here's what I learned along the way.
College Reps Are Your Friend
First, I took advantage of college representatives visiting my high school. I'm sure you've encountered a few reps at school career day events or during lunch in the school cafeteria. Typically still in their first or second year of college, these reps are pumped to tell you all about their college and why you should attend. They are also there to answer any of your questions. They've been through the high school to college transition recently and know what it's like. I realized that this was a prime opportunity to pick their brains and ask a bunch of questions without having to set up an appointment. Here are a few examples of what we talked about:
- I asked about their experience of applying to various colleges. For instance, when did they start applying? How many schools did they apply to? How did they choose the college they attend?
- I asked about their college's programs. I needed to know what the school had to offer compared to other schools in the area.
- We talked about finances, scholarship availability, and loan possibilities.
- Afterwards, I wrote down the rep's name and asked for contact information in case I had more questions. I also asked if I could look them up if I visited their college.
Don't Wait Until the Last Minute
Second, I realized you shouldn't wait until the very last minute to apply. I actually did wait and I almost didn't get in. I was so scared of rejection that I was afraid to apply at first. After I did apply, I was scared to read the letter of acceptance and make the commitment to attend. Thankfully, the school was very understanding and I was allowed to apply and then enroll past the deadline. This will not happen often though, so don't wait.
I also learned that even if you're unsure about what you want to study or major in, you should start filling out college applications anyway. It doesn't hurt to apply to multiple colleges and universities - being accepted doesn't mean you have to attend. Apply to as many colleges as possible during your junior year and the early part of your senior year so you'll have an idea ahead of time on which schools you can choose from. Here's what I wish I had done to make the process smoother:
- Gather a list of colleges you are interested in and start requesting application packets.
- Get a head start by writing your application essay ahead of time and gathering letters of recommendation.
- Whether you choose to attend or not, contact the college's finance department and ask about financial aid.
Work with College Admissions
Third, I learned that each college and university has an admissions department specifically designed to work with future students and current applicants. Once I decided what college I wanted to attend, I contacted the admissions office and asked for help.
- We talked about the programs I was interested in studying and discussed whether or not the college offered what I was looking for. Even though I didn't apply until after the deadline, at least I knew ahead of time that the college had the programs I wanted.
- I also asked about campus life and extracurricular activities. I asked if there was a safety office on campus. I also wanted to know what weekend activities were available for those living on campus and off campus.
- One of the most important things I learned from the admissions office was how the college helped graduates find jobs in their career field. I discovered the college had a career center designed to help students transition from college into the business world.
Attend Freshmen Orientation
After applying at the very last minute and being accepted, I did my best to do everything else in a timely manner. From talking with the admission department to attending freshmen orientation, I wasn't going to let another moment pass me by. And boy did I find out just how important it is to attend those freshmen orientation events!
- Freshmen orientation is a key to making the college transition easier. Attending orientations and welcome weekends gives you the advantage and a head start in knowing what to expect once classes begin.
- Inside information and tips are often shared at orientation events to help students settle into college life. For instance, I learned helpful parking tips, discovered some of the best routes for walking from one building to the next, and even got a few insights as to which professors to request when signing up for freshmen courses.
College Advisors Are Key
Finally, I learned to take advantage of my college assigned advisor. The first meeting was mandatory and I wasn't too thrilled about it. I had no idea what to expect. Turns out, speaking with an advisor was one of the best things I did. Most advisors are professors in your chosen field of study. They not only know the department inside and out, but they also know exactly what courses are required and which ones will get you to that bachelor's degree the quickest! My advisor played a huge role in helping me transition into college, navigate my way through earning my degree, and start the transition process out of college!
Don't be afraid to leave the comfort zone of high school and step into the world of college. With the resources available to high school juniors and seniors, the transition can be a lot easier than what you realize. Take advantage of the programs available and prepare ahead of time. When the first day of classes rolls around you'll be all set!