One of the keys to having a successful first semester is anticipating some of the changes that you will be experiencing and making a plan for how you might want to handle them. As the old adage goes, those who fail to plan, plan to fail.
Preparing for College
Here are some things you should consider before you even start classes this fall:
While there is a lot you may not know about what college is going to be like, that does not mean you cannot know what you want to achieve. Set personal goals for the semester and the year. These should include goals for academic success (i.e., grades and class involvement), co-curricular experience (identifying potential honor societies and career related organizations), career exploration, social development (clubs, organizations, new friends), personal development (campus & community events).
Be sure to share your goals with your parents/family/friends. If others know what you are trying to achieve, they can figure out how they can best support you in your efforts and help you remain focused when things get hectic. Here is some more information about how to create “SMART” goals.
Being successful in college requires an investment of time. It is best to think about it as a full-time job and then some. The time commitment goes beyond just the hours you will spend in class and studying. The most successful students, and those who most enjoy their college experience, are those who invest time “connecting” with their school. This means getting to meet other students, getting involved in a club or organization, and attending events on campus (i.e. concerts, speakers, performances).
In order to do this, you need to spend time on campus. Be sure to talk with your parents/family before you leave for school this fall about your and their expectations for how often you will come home during the first semester. Making a plan or at least communicating expectations early ensures helps avoid disappointments and frustrations later.
One of the benefits of going to a residential college is that you pretty much know up front how much you will need for housing and meals and that cost is built right into your school costs. But we all know that there will be those additional costs associated with just being a college student—pizza, an occasional movie, pizza, a new Alma sweatshirt, pizza, etc. In addition, you will have costs for things like laundry, hair cuts, toiletries, pens/pencils/notebooks, and gas for your car if you will have one.
Avoid getting yourself in a bind and having the additional stress of wondering if you have enough money to make it through the semester. Establish a weekly or monthly budget before you get to school. Then stick to it. It is much easier to stick to a budget from the beginning than it is to try to create one later on. Your parents/family can be a great resource here; they have been doing this for a while.
Be realistic in terms of how much money you have available and how much you will want to spend. If your spending is more than you have, you will have to think about ways to cut back a little and maybe think about picking up a part-time job on campus to help make up the difference. But also remember, there is a lot to do on campus that does not cost you a thing (e.g., concerts, movies, sporting events, speakers, just hanging out with new friends). Here is a sample budget that you can use to help you start your budgeting process.