Ready for College! Are you ready?

By: Rochelle Perper, Ph.D. | May 5, 2016

You’ve put so much intensity, energy, and focus into preparing for college by studying for the SAT’s, taking AP classes and visiting schools. Now comes the most important part of the preparation process…making the transition between high school and college. Taking time to create a plan for the Four Core Components of College Readiness will set you up for success in the years to come and will help you get the most out of your college experience.

Going from high school to college is a big change that is both exciting and stressful. Knowing how to prepare for the college experience can be overwhelming and scary. To help you get started, use the following categories as a guide. Parents and teens can work together to create a plan to cover all Four Core Components of college readiness. Feel free to use the suggestions listed here or create your own unique plan that is specifically tailored for you.

College Readiness Component #1: Academics

Although college is a time to learn about relationships and develop independence and autonomy, it is also a time to hone in on career pursuits and intellectual interests. As such, academics need to be a priority for students attending college – beginning their very first year. Create a plan for yourself of how you will maintain focus on your studies using some of the examples below:

  • Introduce yourself to your professors by attending office hours the first week of classes
  • Find a quiet place to study
  • Exchange contact information with at least one person in each class that you can exchange notes with or ask questions about assignments
  • Know where the academic student support center is and consider signing up for a tutor if necessary
  • Use a calendar to keep track of assignments, tests and due dates

College Readiness Component #2: Social

Being social is a very important part of the college experience. This is a time when you will begin to define more clearly who you are, and what is important to you. Most colleges have a diverse student body and you will be exposed to new people and different ideas. Pay attention to your values during this time and give yourself permission to “stick to your guns” when necessary. Below are some tips to make the most of your social time in college:

  • Get to know your roommate prior to moving to college
  • Check out the clubs on campus and don’t be afraid to try something new
  • Take part in special events and activities on campus
  • Consider volunteering or joining a community organization
  • Smile! Studies show that by smiling (even if you don’t especially feel like it) you will be more liked by others

College Readiness Component #3: Physical Health

For many students, college is the first time when you are away from parental influence. It will be tempting to sleep in, eat what you want and spend time relaxing with friends. Paying attention to your physical health you will not only help you be more successful with friends and in your classes, but you will also help you feel better and have a better time overall. Don’t know where to start? Keep it simple by focusing on the basics: eating, sleeping and exercise. Some other suggestions to get you started are as follows:

  • Drink in moderation or not at all! Set a limit to how much you want to drink before going out and stick to it
  • Schedule events in the morning that encourage you to wake up at a decent time
  • Take a tour of the recreation center and learn what fitness classes and facilities are available
  • Make time in your schedule to exercise and put it on your calendar so you don’t forget
  • Join a club sport
  • Explore your eating options, both on and off campus. Find the healthiest places to go and go there often
  • Create a shopping list of foods that are healthy and easy to prepare

College Readiness Component #4: Emotional Health

Making the transition between college and high school is a challenging, rewarding and exiting process. You will most likely be feeling a myriad of emotions during this time. Feeling doubt, ambivalence, sadness, loneliness and confusion are to be expected. The following suggestions are ways that you can learn to cope with these emotions and find resources to help you manage the stressors that you will face. If you experience intense emotions such as anxiety or depression that keep you from doing the things that you love to do, or if you have thoughts of suicide, please seek professional help. Meeting with a counselor isn’t as scary as it seems and many students find therapy to be helpful.

  • Find your school’s counseling center and schedule an appointment with a therapist for two weeks into school for a mental “check-up”
  • Keep in touch with your family
  • Pay attention to your feelings and write about them
  • Talk to a good friend or your resident advisor (RA)
  • If necessary, adjust your expectations to make them more realistic
  • Create down time for yourself for quiet reflection or meditation

College represents independence, exploration and growth. For some, college can be tough. This is an important milestone along the path from adolescence to adulthood. Mistakes will be made, so be gentle with yourself along the way. During trying times, reflect on the skills and talents that you have and the resources available to you. Remember the tough times that you have had to overcome to get to college and the hard work that got you to where you are today. Enjoy the experience – you will surely learn a great deal!

Image: Pasco County Schools on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

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