How to Prepare for Your First Year of College

Student Life

Recently, I became a student leader at the Hollins University admission office. One of my major tasks is to give prospective students and guests a tour of the campus. I have encountered high school seniors asking about academics and campus life, and it is my responsibility to share that information, as well as give them some tips on becoming a freshman at a college or university.

In this article, I will be sharing 5 tips on how to prepare yourself for the first year of college, including planning your work, knowing your work, attending professors' office hours, trying out a variety of activities, and being kind to yourself.

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Here is some information about me. I am an international student from Hong Kong, and I am currently a senior at Hollins University. When I was a freshman, one of my main goals was to find out the best studying strategy for myself. Everyone attends to, processes, and interprets information in different ways, but it does not necessarily mean that our way to success should be completely different. There are strategies worthy of sharing and practicing, and it is up to you to decide if any of them works for you. What I will be sharing in this article is based on my experience as an international student at a women's liberal arts college, and I hope that my tips will orient you towards a good start to your college life.

Before talking about the strategies, I want to acknowledge that it is valid if you feel stressed, especially as a first-year college student, or a student envisioning their college life. However, if you are reading this, that means you have taken a big step towards a new chapter in your life.

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#1 Plan your work

I recommend using a planner or a calendar that maps out your whole semester. It is going to be helpful for you to plan what to do each day for a class or a project.

If you strive for high quality in your work, which you should, always plan on spending at least a few days working on it before reaching the final product. By spreading out the work, you allow yourself to gain new insight as you learn, rather than jamming everything just to pass the deadline.

A good product, also known as your schoolwork, comes with time and patience, and you need time to process, formulate, and revise your work. So, do allow yourself to have enough time to craft your masterpiece.

#2 Know your work

The word “work” may sound too serious, but what you can do is treat it as more than just work. See your work as a friend of yours with whom you want to create a bond. It can be hard working on something that you are not interested in, and that is why it is important to choose a topic for a project that you feel motivated to learn more about.

Besides motivation, you also need to know where you are at in the process. Ask yourself: Did I gain enough information about this? What else do I need? Will the additional research help with what I have currently? Imagine you are befriending your work and creating that relational tie.

#3 Attend your professor's office hours

This is one of my favorite “routines”. Coming from a liberal arts college background, I understand that the accessibility to faculty differs among schools.

However, when your professors notify you their office hours, whether it is through verbal communication or syllabus, take it seriously. Your professors are offering you an opportunity to ask them questions or discuss your progress outside the classroom. It is up to the students to show initiative in reaching out to the professors. Just remember, they want to help you, and they want you to succeed.

#4 Try out a variety of activities

This is a way to diversify your college experience because you will get to know people of different interests, backgrounds, and personalities. Human beings are naturally social. One of the main reasons that our ancestors survived is human collaboration, and without socialization, collaboration could not be formed.

Nowadays, we have moved beyond the need for survival, but we still need socialization in our daily lives. By trying out different activities on campus, you get to practice your communication, collaboration, and negotiation skills as you encounter different people -- which are essential to prepare you for the real world.

At the same time, participating in activities allows you to discover your passion and potentials. The earlier you find out, the earlier you can start paving the way for your future. However, things may change as you grow up. But it never hurts to gain experience and find out if certain things work for you. It is better to know than not to know.

#5 Be kind to yourself

Life at college is a transition from being a teenager to an adult. At this stage, we are still developing mentally and physically, and we are constantly practicing self-discovery.

One of the most important things for everyone to keep in mind and practice is to be kind to yourself. We advocate for active listening when we are around other people, but we often forget to listen actively to ourselves. Your mind and your body need to be heard as well for you to function.

So, give yourself a genuine smile as you look into the mirror, say “I need to take a break” when you realize you can't focus for the moment, give credits to yourself after a tiring day of work (I personally like listing whatever work I have done for the day, so I feel accomplished), and treat yourself with something nice to lighten up your mood. Treat yourself kindly.

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To recap, always plan your work and allow enough time for your masterpiece. Secondly, know your work by treating it as a friend and asking yourself if you know it well enough. Thirdly, show initiative in attending your professor's office hours. Moreover, open yourself up by trying out different activities. Last but not least, listen and be kind to yourself.

I hope you find this article helpful, and please don't hesitate to share with us what works for you, whether or not they are mentioned above.

Chin Wai (Rosie) Wong

Chin Wai (Rosie) Wong is a senior at Hollins University who is earning a Bachelor's degree in both Communication Studies and Theatre. She is passionate about pop culture and enjoys art making. She is excited to join The Teen Magazine team this year.