This article was originally written for FirstGenerationStudent.com, now a part of ImFirst.org.
The looming summer months can seem like one big “happy time” for you as a high school student or recent graduate: no school, no books, no cares, no worries! Yet, the upcoming transition to college can be rocky, especially for those who will be first-generation college students. So, here are five things every college freshman should know going in and, more importantly, how you can make the most of your summer preparing for your transition to college life.
1. Research Your College
If you’re starting college this fall and know where you’re going, do all you can to find out even more about it.
If you don’t know where you’re going, my suggestion is to research an institution that is close to home. Staying close might make your transition easier, especially if you are unsure of what you want to study or if you long for home-cooked meals. I am a big advocate for community colleges. Often, they provide smaller classes and more individualized attention. If community colleges are not in your vision, then make sure that you research an institution that caters to your specific interest. Having instructors and fellow students who share your passion (music, science, technology, etc.) might just be what you need to make learning away from home easier for you and your family.
2. Find a Mentor
Always look for someone—older, wiser or, maybe, just more seasoned—who can be your mentor. Once you define your passion, search for someone who can encourage you to develop it and continue you to guide you toward a field of study and/or future occupation.
Sometimes, a mentor is a friend; more often than not, though, it is a teacher or counselor who will take the time to find out who you really are, what you do well and how you can translate your talents and skills into a professional career.
3. Make a Pro and Con List
Organizing your life is the first step toward success. Cannot decide what college to attend? What major to select? What career to pursue? Make an old fashioned pro and con list.
Brainstorming your thoughts and concerns, both positive and negative, will help you sort all the information that is piling up in your mind. Then, sharing your list with a concerned friend and/or mentor will help you figure out what is best for you.
4. Get Involved
Want to land that dream job? Get involved! Join local clubs, volunteer for special interest groups and meet people who share your passions: all are parts of the important quest to make connections with the people and places that matter most to you. You never know who you might meet, or what role those people might play in your future career …
5. Continue the Connection
Always be mindful that you are more than a student. You are a person who desires to make a difference in the world. Approach each situation with an open mind and heart.
Simply, be true to yourself. Stay connected to your passions—your interests, your friends and your college—by realizing that your college experience is another big adventure that you will conquer one step at a time. Continue to remind yourself that you are on the learning curve of life; each new lesson will continue to make you a well-rounded student.
This list is merely a guide. Every student is different and, naturally, will navigate his or her own successful path. Our job, as student advisors and college professionals, is to encourage, support and provide our entering freshmen class members, especially first-generation college students, with many helpful and productive opportunities to succeed.