I can tell you firsthand that the change between high school and college is a big adjustment that affects every student, regardless of how prepared you are, how mature you are and how open to change you are. Moving away, meeting new people and being more of an individual than ever before can be difficult. All of these changes require adaptation and adjustments in order to keep growing and maturing. In my experience, there are three main adjustments that most college students must adapt to in order to be successful in college.
1. STAYING ORGANIZED
The first adjustment you must make in order to be a successful college student is you have to stay organized. There will be a lot of different obligations that you have at college — classes, labs, advising sessions, club meetings, homework, project deadlines and other personal activities that you need to keep track of. All of these activities will take place at different times throughout the day and week, making it a challenge to stay on top of them. There also won’t be anyone to make you show up to any of them, either. You have to take it upon yourself to assume responsibility and choose to follow through on your commitments.
The majority of my friends use an agenda to write down everything in an organized way in their schedules to ensure they don’t miss anything. There are also tons of apps and virtual products to help send you reminders. At Clarkson, we use Gmail, so we also have access to Google Calendar. I like to put everything into my Google Calendar and then set up automatic notifications for 30 minutes prior to every activity. It reminds me automatically, and I see that I have something coming up soon. Things that reoccur are great to put in the calendar too, like weekly club meetings, classes, etc. I also check my calendar every night, for the following day, to get an idea of what my day is going to look like and make sure I haven’t skipped any assignments or missed studying for an exam. After the activity is completed it is crossed off and you are positive it wasn’t missed. Staying on top of everything in your schedule can be a challenge but through organization it can be done, and it becomes one less thing to stress about.
2. MANAGING YOUR TIME
The second adjustment correlates with the first, and that is time management. When you go to college and live on your own, there are no parents or teachers watching over you making sure that you’re doing the work you need to on time. This creates problems when students are spending time doing the wrong things. Through an organized schedule, such as the one described above, students can learn to spend the right amount of time on each class/activity. This includes spending more time on a class that is more challenging than others, limiting time spent socializing on weekdays and knowing how much time to devote to classes on weekends. The ability to manage your time leads to a more successful and enjoyable college experience. This skill is essential and can’t be looked over.
Trust me, it’s so easy to want to choose sleeping in over going to that group meeting or to binge watch Stranger Things, or whatever show is trending, instead of doing homework. But it’s up to you to keep your focus and learn how to balance work with fun. It is possible to do!
3. ADMITTING YOU MAY NEED HELP — AND THEN ASKING FOR IT
The third adjustment that you’ll face is the need to seek help from the professors who are instructing your class and the teaching assistants (TAs) who assist the class.
The first part is sometimes harder than the second. In high school, most of us were academic rock stars. Some of us didn’t have to study too hard, and projects, papers and homework came easy. But, for the majority, college is different, and recognizing that you may need some extra help is important. If you feel that your grades are slipping, your study habits are ineffective or you aren’t understanding the material, make sure you take time to evaluate your situation.
Asking for help is the norm at Clarkson. Most of my friends are involved in some sort of tutoring. And our Student Success Center exists to help students. They have a variety of options — from small-group studying and one-on-one tutoring to exam prep and more. The staff there wants to make you as successful as you want to be. Use them.
In high school, your teachers have their own classrooms where they can be found throughout the day. This is not the case in college where professors use different classrooms throughout the day. Each professor has an office, but it may be located in a different building than your class. The same goes for teaching assistants, who are students going to their own classes as well.
At some point during the semester, you will most likely need to ask your professors for help outside of class. Emailing a professor and/or using the syllabus for that class in order to set up a meeting is the easiest way to do this. Professors aren’t scary; they’re there to help you, especially at Clarkson. They really care about your success and, therefore, are very willing to meet with you to help make that possible.
Overall, college is a huge change from high school, but making the transition doesn’t need to be difficult. However, it is important to remember that you will need to change and to learn how to handle school in a slightly different way in order to succeed. The three changes I’ve discussed are only a few of many, but they do provide a good start to learning how to adapt and promote the needed change.
Whatever college you choose, I wish you all the best in transitioning from your high school to your new college/university. It’s definitely worth it, and I hope you find that your college years are your best yet!