Hindsight is a powerful thing; looking back on our teenage years, we wish we would have known more about going to college. Seeing those who came before us make the transition made us feel (overly) confident and prepared. We went through the motions—applying to universities and competing for scholarships—thinking we had it under control; but we were missing some important details. Here’s five things we wish our 17 year-old-selves knew about the high school to college transition:
- Explore your options
We were told to go to college (shocker), but that was about it. The information we got from sources such as counselors was only very basic: what we already knew via example. If you didn’t know about the system, you were left to your own devices. There was no encouragement to explore our options such as the various colleges we should consider (one of the three everyone goes to? Sounds good to me). While perhaps a class geared towards college advice would have been beneficial, even the option to go on college visits with our classmates would have helped. At the very least, planting the seed for collegiate curiosity could have gotten us more involved in the exploration process.
We were also advised to apply for scholarships (hello free money!); but, again, that was about it for financial advice. Where can I find these scholarships? Do I qualify? Is it possible to apply for too many? (No.) We wish we would have had a better understanding of where to find scholarships that applied to us and that it’s OKAY to apply to as many as you can (don’t let your competitive peers make you feel greedy). If you qualify, or even think you might qualify, go for it. Don’t forget to continue to look for scholarships when you’re in college. Many departments will offer program-specific scholarships into your junior or even senior year.
We were always told, “it’s okay to go in undecided.” And it is; you’ll survive and eventually figure it out. But planning your college career can make your time there more efficient. Take classes you like and find out what you want to do as early as you can. Always ask for help from advisors and peers. Staying on track can help you graduate on time (the coveted four year in-and-out).
- Class Level
Prepare yourself for the class levels. Start at the basics (ENG 101) and work your way up (COM 561? No problem). Make sure to take a reasonable amount of credits; an overload can be overwhelming, but too few may make your stay in college extended. Not sure what’s right for you? Talk with an advisor. Set up an appointment. They’re here to listen and help you personalize your experience. Understanding how college classes work will prepare you and give you confidence for that first day.
- Establish Relationships
Unlike high school, you don’t see your teachers every day. Professors have larger classes, making it easy to become just a face and a grade. Try to establish a relationship. Go to their office hours and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Having a relationship with your professor may be beneficial for you in the long run. You never know what that network can afford you in the future.
So there’s the five things we wish we knew about college before experiencing it for ourselves. Do we regret our choices and where we ended up? Absolutely not. Could we have been more prepared and gotten more out of the experience? Yes, definitely. High school should prepare you for college, but looking back, we were not as prepared as we should have been. But that’s just us. What about you?