3 Ways to Prepare for College

High school students who are getting ready to make the leap from being at home to being out on their own have some exciting but difficult challenges ahead. Apart from being in a new learning environment that will probably be far different from what they’ve grown accustomed to over the last four years of high school, there will also be a new-found independence which, on the surface sounds very appealing. However, there are a few things they can do before even setting foot on a college or university campus that will better prepare them for what’s in store. Here are a few words of advice:

1. Academics

The first part of the equation is getting prepared for the academic side. Taking Advanced Placement courses in high school or even looking for part-time internships that provide college credit are two good ways to get a jump on fulfilling required course work. It also looks good on college transcripts and, in the case of internships, can be the start of your work experience on your resume.

To make sure SAT scores are as pristine as they can be, plan to take the test more than once and use the highest of the scores when submitting college applications. Read 3 Ways to Increase Your SAT Score here.

Before making the big leap, consider taking a couple of summer school classes on the campus you’ll be attending in the fall. This not only gives you an extra jump on earning credits toward your core requirements; it lets you get to know the campus in the “off season” before everything turns crazy in the fall.

If your GPA or SAT scores are not stellar and you are having a difficult time getting accepted by the college or university of your choice, consider taking a semester or a year of courses at a community college and then transferring from there. Check with your favored college or university’s advisors to see what they recommend for increasing your odds of transferring.

2. Life Skills

As mentioned earlier, being on your own presents a whole new set of challenges. The number one problem that most college freshman need to deal with is learning about finances and managing money. Create a budget that will cover all of your expenses per semester and live by it. Will you get a part-time job while you’re in school to secure income? Will you have a checking account? Will you have a credit card? Will you be working on paying off your student loans while you’re still in college? If you need help devising a plan, have a conversation with your parents, then talk to someone at a local bank or credit union to get prepared.

Second, if you don’t already know how to do your own laundry, learn before you leave home. It may sound like a trivial thing, but it’s actually a very important part of functioning as an independent adult (unless you plan to pay someone to do it for you).

3. On Campus

Once you’ve got everything else down, you’ve been accepted to a school and you’re all settled in on campus, there are a few more things to keep in mind to help make the transition smoother.

For example, when choosing your classes for the semester, if you have no idea what you want to major in or even what field you’d like to go into after you graduate, start by taking core requirement classes first. These are the classes that are required by all disciplines. By getting those out of the way first, you may find a passion for a particular topic, or you may identify with a professor who can steer the rest of your academic career.

Another thing you should consider is getting involved with extracurricular activities like sports, professional associations like the American Marketing Society, or campus clubs like the college newspaper or the Anthropology Club. This is a fantastic way to meet like-minded people outside the classroom that you might not have an opportunity to meet otherwise.

Finally, if you’re having problems adjusting or you just need advice, talk with academic advisors, campus counseling and even your parents or older siblings. You’re not the first person to go off on your own, and you’re certainly not the only one who may have difficulties in adjusting to this new way of life. There’s no need to shoulder the burden on your own—reach out whenever you feel the need.

Next: Read tips on saving money for college.

Read tips on applying for college.

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