From High School to College: Tips for a Successful Transition

From High School to College: Tips for a Successful Transition

You will learn about:
  • How to choose your major
  • Developing healthy habits to achieve successfulness
  • Different ways to handle large classes and heavy workloads

37 min – Estimated reading time

From High School to College: Tips for a Successful Transition

From High School to College: Tips for a Successful Transition

No more class periods. No more bells. No more morning announcements urging you to sign up for extracurricular activities. High school is finally coming to a close, and while it can be hard saying goodbye to some of your closest friends, chances are you’re pretty excited. You’re about to enter one of the most exciting times of your young adult life. Heading off to college brings a new sense of freedom and independence. 

Nobody wants to admit it, but the transition from high school to college isn’t always smooth sailing. It can be a little scary settling into your new home, especially if you don’t know anyone yet. The distractions are endless (are toga parties still a thing?) and without a nagging teacher or parent reminding you about all your assignments or waking you up to get to class on time, it’s easy to get off track. Don’t worry – we’re here to help ease you into this next phase of your life. Continue reading the sections included in this guide for some helpful tips on how to make the most of your transition from high school to college.

Deciding What You Want to Study

Some students have known what profession they want to be since they were in elementary school, while others get a couple of years of college under their belts and still have no clue. While you don’t need to have your whole life mapped out at age 18, you are more likely to graduate in four years with a useful degree if you have some direction.

Choosing a Major

Typically, universities require you to declare a major by the end of your sophomore year. Freshman classes are heavy in general education classes so you have some flexibility. However, some majors have more specialized classes than others so you would need to make that decision earlier. As a rule of thumb, it is best to at least know which school you would like your major to be in (business school, engineering school, liberal arts school, school of sciences, etc.). That way, you can take one or two introductory courses early on and decide if you would like to pursue studies in that field. Here are some ways to narrow it down:

  • List 10 things you love – This includes your favorite subjects in high school but also your interests outside the classroom, like travelling, writing, finding out how things work and designing.
  • List 10 strengths – These are things you’re really good at. You may be great at math, really creative, a good communicator or very persuasive. Your strengths combined with your interests will lead you to what you want to do as a career, which will show you what to study. 
  • List 10 things you hate and/or are bad at – These will tell you what not to do. For example, if you hate sitting still all day then maybe being a computer programmer is not for you. If you are shy, then a career in sales is not going to be a good idea.
  • List any must-haves about your future career – If your goal is to make a certain amount of money, some professions will allow you to do that while others won’t. Maybe one of your career goals is to make the world a better place or to enable you to travel. These goals will inform your choices.

You can also use the College Board’s Roadmap to Careers at https://roadtripnation.com/edu/careerfinder to match your interests and strengths to a course of study.

Picking Classes

After you have done this exercise, it’s time to bring in the professionals by scheduling a meeting with your college advisor. Your advisor’s job is to help you choose your major and your classes so that you can successfully graduate with a degree. Share your lists with the advisor so that he or she can get to know you and can give you more accurate and helpful recommendations. Your advisor will also be able to help you set up taking any pre-requisite classes that you need for more advanced classes and can arrange for you to take placement tests like the PERT test as needed.

Before you sign up for classes, you might want to check out the professors. With some classes, you may be extremely limited because the class you need is only taught by one professor, but with others, you have a choice. Ask older students for their feedback on classes and professors to make the best choice. You can also go online to Rate My Professors at https://www.ratemyprofessors.com/ to see reviews from other students. 

If you start a class and find that you are not learning anything or are not able to handle the workload or material, you have the option to drop the class without penalty within a certain time after classes begin called the drop-add period. You can then replace it with another course. Contact your college advisor and do this. If you wait too long, you will be either stuck in the class or faced with getting “incomplete” as your grade, which doesn’t look great on your transcript.

Balancing Work and Play as a College Student

Not to sound like your mom, but college isn’t about the parties. Okay, that’s not entirely true – social life is vital to your mental health and wellbeing. But it’s important to find a healthy balance between nights spent at the library and nights spent at a not-so-clean frat house with not-so-sober fellow students. This balance is key to having a successful college experience. Despite what your friends or parents might tell you, getting good grades and playing video games until the early hours of the morning can coexist, as long as you understand how to prioritize. Organized students are successful students. Those who achieve a balance between work and play get the best of both worlds. For some helpful advice on how to find the perfect balance for your own college experience, continue reading the following sections. 

Stick to a Schedule

It may sound silly to schedule your playtime as a young adult, but doing so will help you stay focused. Most college students take four to five classes each semester, and each one has a variety of due dates for assignments plus tests. It’s easy to mix things up and forget about deadlines for multiple classes, especially when you’re focused on that girl in biology or the boy from the student center. 

College is an abrupt transition between having parents and teachers who remind you about stuff and being an adult who is expected to be responsible on your own. Many professors will literally not accept an assignment if it is one minute late. Create a schedule for yourself that includes specific time dedicated to studying and to socializing. For example, if your longest day of classes is on a Wednesday, maybe it isn’t such a good idea to go to a party the night before. Don’t set yourself up for failure – set aside your social time when it makes the most sense for your schedule. It can be tempting to go out every single night, but it’ll only lead to more stress when you realize you forgot to study for your midterm. Create a schedule and stick to it. Your future self will thank you. 

Learn How to Say No

One of the biggest learning experiences for college students is learning how to say “no.” Peer pressure is a real thing, people! When your roommate mentions a frat party last-minute, don’t be afraid to say no. Your studies come first (again, sorry for sounding like your mom) and if you think that partying the night before a big exam is a bad idea, it probably is. 

If you’re just there to party, there are much less expensive ways to do that. Remember, college costs thousands and thousands of dollars which are paid for by your loving family or by you over many years via student loan payments. Even if you are on a scholarship, there are grade requirements to keep that good deal going, so it pays to be responsible. 

This goes for other situations, too. You’re allowed to stay in and read a book. You’re allowed to end friendships with toxic people. Although it may be difficult at first, learning how to say no to people will prepare you for adulthood. Your college years are designed to shape you into the adult you’re meant to be. Don’t let other people’s judgments keep you from doing what you need to do to succeed in the real world. 

Turn Your Friend Group Into a Study Group

Most people arrive on campus without knowing a single soul, especially if they are far from home. Making friends during your freshman year of college can be a little scary, but it’s important to find a solid support group. The friends you make in the first few weeks at college won’t always be the same ones with whom you graduate. Nevertheless, your friend group has a big influence on both your social life and your study habits. 

If your friends are constantly pressuring you to skip class or cut your study time short, perhaps you’re better off without them. True friends are there for both the fun and the serious stuff. Don’t just hang out with them in a social setting; make plans to hit the books together, do homework together or even engage in a study group. This is easier if you make friends with people in your classes. You’ll feel closer to them by involving them in all aspects of your college career.

Consider Other Social Outlets

Parties aren’t the only social outlet available at college. Most campuses have a wide variety of clubs that are ideal for making friends and taking a break from studying. See “Building a Positive Social Life in College” on this guide for more information on college clubs. You can hang out with friends at the Student Union, a local coffee shop or just outside on campus or attend campus events like concerts, guest speakers, exhibits and sporting events. Universities are cultural meccas, where there are numerous things to keep you entertained and stimulated.

Juggling a Job with School

If you come from a well-off family, you may have the luxury to just take classes and have fun. But many students also need to earn money for tuition, food and pocket money. If you have a scholarship, you may be required to work for the university for free as a condition of your scholarship. If you have to work, scheduling will be even more important. Here are some tips: 

  • When interviewing for jobs, let the employers know that you are a college student. They will be more likely to give you some additional flexibility when you need to study for finals, for example.
  • Make friends with your co-workers. If you need someone to cover your shift, you have a better chance of a friend saying yes than someone who doesn’t know you well.
  • Give your boss a copy of your class schedule so she can schedule your hours when you can be available.
  • Don’t take on too many hours; you still need time to study and do homework plus a little downtime to recharge.
  • Make sure to eat nutritious food regularly to keep your energy up. When you’re on the go, bring nutritious snacks with you.

Internships

Once you have gotten into a rhythm with your college life and have chosen a major, you may want to consider pursuing an internship. An internship is an unpaid or low-paid job in your chosen field that enables you to apply your skills in a real world environment, get job experience for your resume and network with professionals in your industry. Plus, a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that students who interned during college earned an average of $14,949 more in their first job after graduating than students who did not have an internship. Graduates who interned were also more likely to get a job offer; 72% of them got a job offer out of college compared to 36% of graduates who had not interned.

Although most students start looking for an internship as a junior or senior, experts advise that it is best to start earlier so that you can get an idea if you are in the right field. To get a college internship, first, visit your college’s career center. In addition to having listings of available internships, they organize job fairs where you can identify opportunities. You can also tap your personal network of friends and family, alumni groups and campus industry-based clubs.

Developing Healthy Habits to Be a Successful Student

Transitioning from high school to college means more than just differences in academic life. For most college freshmen, this is the first time they’ve been away from home for a duration of time. Leaving the nest can be freeing, but it can also bring feelings of loneliness and homesickness (but you’ll never admit it to mom, right?). It’s completely normal to have mixed feelings about your first year of college. Most of us haven’t had to do our own laundry, cook our own meals or make sure we’re getting enough sleep. Independence is great, but there’s a lot of extra energy that comes with it. To be successful, you need to make sure that you’re practicing healthy habits. Here are a few suggestions on how to stay healthy and happy during your first year of college. 

Hit the Gym

Nearly all colleges and universities have at least one gym on campus completely free to use for students and staff. Going to the gym is a great stress reliever for many people. Whether you prefer walking, running or stair climbing, you’ll feel energized and ready to take on the rest of your day. You don’t have to lift weights or bodybuild to stay healthy, although you’re more than welcome to. If sports are more your thing, there are often basketball, volleyball and tennis courts on campus. Busy college schedules can leave little time for exercise, but try to fit it into your routine whenever you have some down time. It’s a healthy alternative to playing video games in your dorm or taking a nap.

Watch What You Eat

One of the hardest things to do as a college freshman is monitoring your diet. Many schools have buffet-style dining halls, which means you can grab plate after plate of any kind of food you’d like. Sure, the cheeseburgers and taco bar look enticing, but ideally, you wouldn’t eat these every day. Your mom and dad aren’t there to shove vegetables down your throat, so it’s up to you to take the initiative to maintain a healthy diet. Of course, a slice of pizza or an order of fries every now and then isn’t going to kill you. Just remember that there are healthy options out there – it’s simply a matter of finding them. You’ll find that when you have nutritious food in your body, you have more energy for studying, working and having fun and you will get sick less often.

Get Enough Sleep

This is probably one of the most important suggestions on this list. You can’t expect to pull all-nighters every week and succeed in your classes. Sometimes, late nights are unavoidable; maybe you need to finish a lengthy assignment, crap for a test or forget about a due date. However, on most other nights, you have the option of getting a full eight hours of sleep. Netflix marathons might be tempting, but is it really worth being exhausted in class the next day? Getting enough sleep is just as important to your academic success as it is to your health. Your immune system weakens without enough sleep and your body grows weary. With all the germs floating around campus, you need to protect yourself as much as possible. On the weekdays, make it a habit to be in bed by at least 11 p.m. Aim for a full eight hours.  

Wash Your Hands – and Carry Hand Sanitizer

Speaking of protecting yourself from germs, it’s crucial to your health and the health of those around you to wash your hands every chance you get. Not to gross you out, but most college kids aren’t exactly the most health-conscious individuals out there. Do yourself a favor and carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer around with you at all times. You may even be able to find tiny bottles that attach to your keys, backpack or lanyard. Don’t let sickness get in the way of a successful first year. 

Try Meditation

It’s no secret that college is stressful. Having more classes means more homework, which means less time for yourself. Don’t let the stress dictate your life. Meditation is a great way to clear your mind and take much-needed time for yourself. You don’t have to sit cross-legged in a candlelit room to meditate. Simply take a few minutes out of your study time to close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. This is especially helpful when you’ve been staring at a computer screen for a long time. Do some deep breathing exercises and clear your head of all the stressors that are getting to you. You’ll return to your work with a sharper mind and a readiness to complete your tasks. 

What to Do if You Get Sick

If you get the sniffles, you probably know what to do (or if you don’t, call home and ask). But if you get something more serious like strep throat, a concussion or a broken bone, you can go to the university’s clinic. This is typically free or very low cost for students and they provide services similar to those at your local urgent care clinic, including prescription medication, x-rays, bandaging, stitches and diagnosing illnesses. If they can’t handle your issue, they are likely to refer you to a local hospital.

Dorm Room Essentials for the College Freshman

Moving into your first dorm room can be pretty surreal. It signifies your growth from a teenager to a young adult, giving you the freedom to make your room your own personal hub. Your dorm room is a reflection of who you are. From the décor to the layout, your space should make you feel comfortable while offering you a serene atmosphere for your studies. There are a few essential items that all dorm rooms should have. Some of the items on this list help you succeed academically while others help you maximize space. Without further ado, here are the most important dorm room items for college freshmen. 

For Your Studies

Although your dorm room is an aesthetic space, it should also accommodate your study habits. After all, the whole reason you’re even attending college is for the advancement of your education. As such, your room must be equipped with tools and gear that will help you succeed in your classes. First and foremost, you’re going to need a reliable laptop computer. Nearly all college classes nowadays rely on online methods of submitting assignments and communicating with students. Be sure your computer can connect to the internet, print documents and stay fully charged for a reasonable amount of time. Don’t forget to bring your laptop charger as well. 

To help keep you on top of your assignments, bring a wall or desk calendar. You can write down important dates and use it to check off assignments as you complete them. You might find yourself pulling some late-night study sessions, so a desk lamp is essential. Other important study-related items include book organizers, a cork board, push pins, sticky notes, a whiteboard and index cards.

For Extra Space

Your dorm room will be tiny. And I mean really tiny. Your home closet might even be bigger than your room at school. Not to mention, you’re likely sharing this room with one or more students. You should bring a few items that will help you maximize the space. The wall outlets might not be in the ideal location, so be sure to bring extension cords and surge protectors. Most dorms have restrictions on the types of cords you can use, so talk with your resident assistant (RA) beforehand. 

Storage is likely limited in your dorm room, so you’ll need to be smart about where you put your stuff. Stackable bins are great to go in the bottom of your closet or under your bed. If your bed is too close to the ground, bring some bed risers to lift it a few feet from the floor. Also, your room may be big enough for a foldable chair or futon. These are great additions to have in case you enjoy having friends in your room, but don’t want them sitting on your bed.

For Comfort and Hygiene

Your dorm room should be comfortable and remind you of your room at home. The college or university supplies the bed frame and the mattress, but you’ll need to bring your own bed sheets, linens, comforters and pillows. Most dorm mattresses are extra-long twin, so be sure to bring the right size linens. The mattress might not be ideal, but a memory foam topper can help it feel more comfortable. Also, don’t forget to bring bathroom towels and toiletries, like shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush and a hairbrush, along with a shower caddy to transport them to the bathroom. You probably don’t want to walk around the shared bathroom with your bare feet, so bring a pair of flip flops for the shower. Stock up on some essential medicines, like ibuprofen and cold medicine. Consider bringing cleaning supplies, like disinfectant spray, glass cleaner and paper towels.

For Entertainment

You’re going to spend a lot of time in your dorm room, so bringing some entertaining items is a must. You can bring a television, video game consoles and a DVD player to help pass time. Also, music speakers are ideal for hanging out with friends or having a solo jam session. There are countless options, from Bluetooth speakers to waterproof radios. You’ll also want to capture some of the memories you make at school, so consider bringing a camera. 

For Decoration

To feel homey, your dorm room should be decorated to your liking. Fill the bare walls with posters, pictures, frames and tapestries – anything that suits your fancy. Many students like bringing pictures of their friends and family from back home to remind them of their hometown. If you live in a colder climate, consider buying a throw rug to put around your bed to avoid stepping onto a cold floor in the morning. Don’t forget other decorative items, like indoor lights, throw blankets, fake plants, LED candles and air fresheners. 

For Company

There are two dorm layouts: individual rooms and suites. If you have an individual room, you will be sharing your room with a roommate who will be assigned to you. If you’re in a suite, you may have a room to yourself but will be sharing a common living room/kitchen area with usually three other people. For many college students, their roommates are the first friends they make at school. 

Having a roommate may be a new situation for you, especially if you’re not used to sharing a room with a sibling at home. You will have to learn how to live together and be courteous to each other by being quiet while the other person is studying, trying not to make a mess and respecting the other person’s things and space. If you are trying your best, but your roommate’s habits are unbearable, you can talk to your RA about getting assigned to a different room.

How to Handle Large Classes and Heavy Workloads

Most high school class sizes do not exceed 25 or 30 students, even in large schools. At many universities, however, large lecture halls packed full with students are common. You might take a course with 200 other students that resemble more of a theater production than a classroom. Large lectures can be difficult to master, especially for those students who are used to being in classes with an average of 20 other kids. Large classes must be handled differently, as there is less one-on-one time with the professor and more independent work required of the student. Likewise, the workload you’ll receive in college will undoubtedly exceed the workload you were used to in high school. It can feel as though each class is piling on essays, projects and assignments without an end in sight. It’s important to quickly get a handle on your studying habits in order to succeed in large classes with heavy workloads. Here are a few tips on how to nail your hardest semester. 

Sit Near the Front of the Class

When you’re enrolled in a large lecture of more than 100 students, it can feel as though you’re just a number on the attendance sheet. Don’t get lost in the crowd; sit near the front so your professor can clearly see your face. You’ll be able to see the board more clearly and will have an easier time hearing what the professor is saying. Also, if you have a question, your raised hand will be one of the first that the professor sees. It can be tempting to slink near the rear and zone out. Sitting near the front forces you to pay attention and dissuades you from becoming distracted. 

Don’t Skip

This one is pretty straightforward but is important nonetheless. Sometimes, students think they can get away with skipping class in a large lecture because the professor can’t see each student that arrives. While this may be true, you’re only hurting yourself. You’ll miss out on important information that may be included in the midterm or the final exam. Don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by falling behind. Show up to every class and be prepared to take notes. Once you skip class once, you’ll find it more and more tempting to skip again. 

Keep in Touch With Other Students

The professor might not have time to cater to each student, so your classmates will be your lifeline when it comes to asking questions or getting clarification about important topics. Introduce yourself to those who sit next to you and offer them your contact information. When the subject becomes difficult, schedule a study group session with others in the class. You may even learn better from your classmates than from the professor. Also, if you’re sick during class one day, being able to reach out to your peers for missed notes is invaluable. 

Utilize Office Hours

Most universities make it mandatory for professors to offer a certain number of office hours outside of class. Take advantage of this one-on-one study time. You may only get the chance to attend office hours once in a while, so make it count. Bring a list of questions you’ve encountered so far and prepare to run through them. Your professor is there to help you, not to scare you away. You can also use this time to get to know your professor, which can be useful down the road when you are looking for a mentor or a recommendation. 

Some freshmen are surprised to discover that their lecture or discussion class is not taught by a professor at all, but rather by a teaching assistant or TA. A TA is a graduate student who assists the professor with teaching and other academic duties like research and grading. If you have a TA, he or she will typically also have office hours and may have more time to meet with students than the professor. TAs are often more patient at explaining difficult concepts because they are students themselves.

Study Habits and Test Taking Tips

Since your objectives in going to college (hopefully) are to learn, do well in your classes and earn a degree, having good study habits and doing well on exams are key. Use these tips to help you excel.

Take Good Notes

Many high school students have gotten by fine to this point without really taking good notes. Ironically, this is especially true for students who have gotten good grades in high school. However, in college, you will have a lot more work and really need to be organized. This is where taking good notes comes in handy. 

First, make sure that you have separate notebooks for each subject and only take notes for that class in it. This will make it easy to have all of your notes for each class in one place. If you have small binder notebooks with loose leaf paper and pockets, you can reorganize your notes as needed and incorporate any handouts given out by the professors.

Taking good notes does not mean that you write down everything the professor says. In fact, this is counterproductive because it means that studying will be much more time-consuming. Try to zero in on concepts and feel free to abbreviate so you can pay attention at the same time. Drawings like Venn diagrams, circling important info and drawing arrows to show causation can also help with brevity while getting the point across when you are studying later.

Review Your Notes

Taking notes is important, but it’s a waste of your time if you don’t review them after class. When you get back to your dorm, go over the day’s lesson to really drive the notes into your head. It’s easy to forget what you’ve learned when you step out of the classroom, especially when you have to move on to the next subject. Do a quick once-over at the end of each class so you are better able to remember all the notes you’ve taken. Then, when it’s time to study for a test, you will already have a good grasp of the material.

Schedule Study Time for Each Class

Creating a schedule for your study time can help lessen the stress of a heavy workload. The rule of thumb is that you need to study two hours a week per hour of class. Most 3-credit classes meet three hours a week, so if you are taking five classes, you will need a total of 30 hours a week outside of class to study. Your study time should include time to work on homework, projects and other assignments, do assigned reading, review your notes and study for any upcoming exams. 

Set aside study time for each class and don’t stray from the schedule. If you have one hour to study for biology, don’t use it to study for English. Most college classes have a lot of reading and in some classes, the professor will not go over the material that is covered by the reading. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that means that it won’t be on the tests. Keep up with your reading as it is assigned. 

Learn how to prioritize your study time based on your class schedule. For example, if you have your hardest class on a Wednesday, schedule study time for it the night before. Don’t feel that you always have to study at night; since your classes may be spread out during the day, you often have down time between classes when you can study, leaving you more time in the evening to relax.

Claim Your Ideal Study Space

You’ll quickly learn that studying in your room is quite difficult with all the distractions that beg for your attention. For people who crave quiet while concentrating, the library is the perfect place to get your studying done. Plus, you’ll see hundreds of other students in the exact same position as you, which can motivate you to stay focused. The library will become your second home, especially during midterms and finals. Become familiar with it as early as possible to claim your spot. 

Or, if you are the type of person who prefers to study in a place with background noise and you can stay focused in that kind of environment, you can plunk yourself down in the Student Union, outside in the quad or in a common area of your dorm.

Test Taking Tips

Depending on the professor, your entire grade in a class may depend solely on your test grades, so it is important to do well on tests. Follow these tips for success:

  • Start studying three days before the test – By spreading your test prep over this time period, the material will be fresh and easily recalled. It is a mistake to cram all night before an exam because your tired mind won’t retain the information and the day of the test you will be too exhausted to focus.
  • Get plenty of sleep the night before – When you are well rested, you will be able to remember more material and you will be better at the kind of analysis and synthesis that professors evaluate you on.
  • Arrive a little early – This gives you the opportunity to get organized, do a quick review of key points and feel calm and collected.
  • Read the instructions and each question very carefully – Many students get points taken off because they didn’t do exactly what was asked or didn’t answer the entire question. 
  • Scan the whole test first – You will have a limited time to complete the test, so scanning what is involved will help you budget your time.
  • For online tests – Some tests may be administered online. If this is the case, you should check ahead of time to make sure that your software and your Internet connection are working well. Some professors require a special browser lockdown software to prevent cheating, so make sure you are abiding by all of the rules or your test will be invalidated.

Building a Positive Social Life in College

Succeeding academically is important, but you will get burned out if you don’t feel satisfied with your social life. Building a positive social life is crucial to your happiness and well-being. If you feel isolated or alone, your grades and study habits will take a turn for the worse. It’s important to find a balance between your studies and your social life to be a well-rounded college student. There are countless opportunities to socialize on campus, from Greek life and clubs to intramural sports and outing groups. Get involved in your college experience. You’ll make lasting friendships and memories by putting yourself out there. Here are a few tips on how to establish a positive social life during your college years. 

Join an On-Campus Club

It isn’t “lame” to join an on-campus club. In fact, students who join clubs have an easier time making friends and socializing. If you have a hobby or interest, there’s a good chance that your school has a club for it. There are sports clubs, student government and political organizations causes like environmental conservation, student newspapers, religious and spiritual organizations, academic clubs and honor societies. 

Joining a club with like-minded individuals can do well for your social life, but becoming a part of a group out of your comfort zone can be even better. At the beginning of the school year, most colleges and universities have club fairs, so be sure to walk through each booth and sign up for any that speak to you. 

If you can’t find a club that interests you, why not start your own? Most colleges and universities have thousands of students, and at least one of them is bound to share some of your passions. Plus, if one of the clubs you join is related to your future career, these friendships just might lead to networking connections down the road. 

Run for Student Government

Become a voice on campus by running for student government. There are several positions available for each graduating class, from class president to senator-at-large. If you want to make a difference on your campus, there’s no better way than to run for student government. You’ll have a say in some of the most important decisions for your class, such as class trips, senior outings and graduation. 

It can help polish valuable skills like persuasion, public speaking and building coalitions. Being part of student government shows graduate schools and future employers that you are a leader and looks great on your resume.

Rush a Sorority or Fraternity

Many colleges and universities have Greek life on campus, which refers to fraternities and sororities which are named with a series of three Greek letters. Social fraternities and sororities, as the name implies, are focused on social activities and having fun. Some of them have a designated house were upperclassmen who are members can choose to live. They require the payment of dues, which sometimes run into thousands of dollars a semester, so be clear on the dues amount upfront. In addition to social fraternities and sororities, there are specialized fraternities and sororities for students in particular fields of study such as business majors. These groups have a social component, but also focus on networking and additional industry-related education and activities.

 Social sororities and fraternities have been around for years and you may have an “in” if your parent was in a particular sorority or fraternity. For some students, entering into Greek life provides them with lifelong connections that may even come in handy while looking for a job. 

Fraternities and sororities usually have a rush week in which they recruit new members. If you are interested in possibly joining one, ask around, talk to members and attend rush parties to get an idea if the group is a good fit for your personality and needs.

Sign up for Intramural Sports

If you enjoyed playing sports in high school but aren’t on your university’s team, there are still ways to play. Intramural sports are popular among sports fans in colleges across the country. Nearly every sport has an intramural league, like basketball, soccer, flag football and even frisbee golf. You don’t need to try out for the team to play. 

Simply register with your Student Union, head out to the athletic field and join the fun. Some schools even have competitive intramural leagues with tournaments and championships. If you’re even more motivated, consider joining your school’s club team. Club teams typically hold tryouts and battle other schools in the area during official games. 

Attend Campus Events

College is what you make it. If you’d rather sit in your dorm all day by yourself, that’s up to you. But there are hundreds of fun and exciting campus events happening every day. Sports games, festivals, lectures, carnivals, book fairs and food tastings are just some of the common events that are free for students. There may also be bus trips and local outings that you can be a part of. Universities want their students to enjoy their time on campus. Take advantage of every campus event that you can. You’ll meet new people and make new memories. And hey, you might even get some free food out of it. As a broke college kid, you definitely don’t want to pass up on that offer. 

Campus Safety

Since you are living on your own, probably for the first time, you will need to pay attention to things you may not have had to do when you lived at home. One of these critical areas is safety. Like anywhere, college campuses and off-campus apartment communities have health and safety issues. This includes theft, assault including sexual assault, health concerns including mental health and alcohol and drug abuse. Here’s how to keep yourself safe. 

Theft

When you live in a dorm, there may be a lot of people coming in and out that you do not know. That is why many college students discover that they are missing cash, credit cards, electronics and other items they left in their room. To prevent theft, keep your dorm room’s door and windows locked at all times and ask your roommate to do the same. For expensive electronics such as mobile phones and laptops, engrave them with your student number and register them with the campus police. If they get stolen, having your student number on the items will make it clear that they belong to you. You can also use security devices in your dorm room such as security cameras and combination safes. Valuables should be hidden or locked up to reduce opportunity and temptation. 

Assault

College campuses all have security offices and campus police. Learn about the safety programs they offer. For example, many campuses have blue light emergency phone stations scattered throughout the campus to report suspicious activity and campus escort services to walk with you if you are alone. There are often safety apps you can load on your phone that enable you to quickly call the campus police.

When you are walking on campus, especially after dark, use the buddy system so you are not alone and be aware of your surroundings. If you have a car, park in a well-lit area. You may also want to carry pepper spray and/or a handheld alarm just in case. 

Many assaults including sexual assaults happen when people overindulge in alcohol or drugs, which clouds their judgment. Avoid drug use and limit or avoid alcohol to keep your wits about you. If you are in a bar or at a party and you see someone getting agitated, it is time to leave. When it comes to sexual activity, consent is crucial; no means no. Make your decision clear to the other person and leave the situation.

Health

Your health is important and there are steps you can take to keep yourself healthy. Eat nutritious food every day and stay active. Nearly all college campuses have a gym and other places that students can use to get some exercise such as tennis courts, swimming pools and soccer fields. Wearing a mask and washing your hands can help you avoid respiratory illnesses such as COVID and the flu.

If you are feeling depressed, anxious or overwhelmed, campuses have mental health resources that you can access. It can also help to utilize your support network of family, friends and professors.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse

Without their parents’ watchful eyes, some college students start to use and abuse alcohol and drugs. These are harmful to the body by themselves, but also can cause other kinds of danger. If you are drinking alcohol or using drugs away from your dorm or apartment, have a designated driver or arrange to stay the night nearby. Since commonly available drugs like marijuana or MDMA can be laced with dangerous compounds like fentanyl, it is best to avoid them altogether.

If you feel that your alcohol or drug use is out of your control, you can get help on campus at the college’s mental health services (all of their services are confidential) and they can refer you to an appropriate program in the area. 

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