A lot of you have graduated or will be graduating high school in the next few months. Congratulations! This is a major accomplishment, whether you realize it or not. In the US, about 1.2 million students drop out every year. That means roughly 25% of freshman won’t graduate on time.
So take your bow, because you deserve it.
But finishing high school intact is just the first part of the battle. For most of you (hopefully) you’re now looking at college in the fall. And that is its own battle.
But fear not. The key to a successful college career is far simpler than you realize.
For this entry, we’ll be focusing on the sort of things you can be doing this summer to prepare for that big move in the fall. Presumably, at this point, you’ve been accepted to your school of choice, and you’re just spinning your wheels until fall (don’t worry, there’s going to be an entry at a later point about choosing and applying to colleges).
So what should you be doing at this point to get ready for your first grown-up adventure?
Lesson 1: If you don’t have a part-time job already, look for one.
This is important for a few reasons. First, obviously, is money. Even if you have family who are going to be helping you, it is important to know the value of your own work. If you haven’t had a job before now, it will be a great chance to earn your own money, which can be used for dorm furnishings, or textbooks, or just for fun.
Another reason is that this experience can be great motive when you’re trudging through schoolwork. Why should you work on that essay? Because you want to qualify for jobs other than flipping burgers or working retail. Does a college education guarantee you won’t have to do that anyway? Well, no, but it certainly helps.
Lesson 2: Thinking about a major
This is something we’ll discuss in more detail later, but here’s what you should be thinking about for now. What’s something you can enjoy, and make a living at?
Don’t limit your thinking to what you can achieve with a bachelor’s degree. For example, my B.A. is in English. But I wanted my career to be in libraries or records management. So I’m getting my Masters in Library and Information Science. Because if you want anything other than an entry level position in a library, you have to have your Masters.
The important thing is to find a compromise between what you love and what you can live at. Now, if you can make a living doing what you love, fantastic! Follow your dream. But part of being an adult is being realistic. I love to craft and knit, but I do not have the skill level to do it professionally. I hope to one day own my own bookstore—but to do that, I need start-up capitol. To put myself in the best possible position for my dream to come true, I need to work and earn money. But that doesn’t mean I can’t do something I enjoy in the meantime.
If you’re an artist, go to an arts school and learn a specialty that you can turn into a career. Love to write? Find a good program and be prepared to be ripped apart while you learn how to do it proper.
Maybe you love languages and want to be an interpreter. Studying language is great, but consider pairing it with a double in Business or Communications.
Keep in mind that for your first year or so, you’ll mostly be in general ed classes. You can change your major a couple of times without it damaging your time. Likely you’ve chosen your college in part based on the program of your interest, but keep in mind that you can usually change without much trouble.
Lesson #3: Preparing for the big move
If your school is somewhere you can visit ahead of time, see if you can get a look at the sort of dorm you’re going to be in. This is a great chance to take measurements and get a good physical idea of the space. If you can’t visit, inquire with your school contact about room measurements and any details.
You’re always going to overpack your first couple of semesters. But you can try to minimize this with some foresight. Spend the next couple of months trying to determine what you can and can’t live without. If you want to take your DVDs, a sleeve style book will save a lot of space. Unless you know that you’ll be living alone, take into consideration the fact that you’ll be sharing a room.
Lesson #4: Have fun!
Enjoy this time with your friends and family. You’re about to enter into a transition period where you’re not going to be seeing your family as often. For some of you, that will be a good thing. For others, it will be harder.
Got any specific questions about preparing for college? Send me a message!