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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Tips to Tackle Your First Year in College


Saradadevi Thanikachalam
NSHSS Student Council/Office of Naval Research Scholar Awardee
University of Arizona


You have already submitted your college applications. You had spent hours trying to perfect every aspect and every detail and now, you just have to wait. Once you receive your offers, then what?

For many students, attending college is a major shift in their lives. Students are exposed to many opportunities, in terms of course work, extracurricular activities, and networking with professionals. At first, every aspect of college life seems overwhelming: meeting roommates, making new friends, and dealing with homesickness. However, it is always important to be focused on your goals. With proper planning and advising, students can overcome many problems and be prepared for the future years.

In terms of choosing an area of study, some students know exactly which field they are interested in even before they attend college. Others make their decisions after taking few courses and talking to counselors and advisors. Regardless, it is very important to be open-minded. Personally, I knew I wanted to major in Biomedical Engineering after being exposed to college-level physics, chemistry, and biology courses through Advanced Placement classes in high school: it just seemed like the right choice for me. However, after taking one business course in my first semester, I became more interested in this field as well. I never thought I would be interested in Business for I had never given it a thought. In fact, I have met many students who change their majors at least once or twice. In general, students learn and decide what they are passionate about especially in their first semester.

Once you receive your acceptance offers, start doing some research on classes the universities offer and actively ask current college students that already attend those universities about their experiences. I also recommend visiting the universities (especially ones that you are highly considering). Most universities offer programs for prospective students to give them a glimpse of a typical college day: you might be staying with a student host or you could be participating in workshops they offer for students interested in specific majors. 

Once you make your final decision, take some time to reflect upon your experiences. Mentally prepare yourself and picture yourself as a college student. The next step is to plan: planning is the key to success in college. High school seniors might feel that they have many years to decide which classes to take. However, it is never too early to plan! Start making a four-year plan for your intended major. Look up classes that you might be interested in taking. Usually, college counselors have already prepared four-year advising plans. Students also finalize classes at freshman orientation. Then, look up classes through a course catalog and decide which classes are offered in each semester. You can avoid the mistake of intending to take a class in the fall but later finding out that it is only offered in the spring. If you are a pre-health or pre-law student, make sure to start taking the necessary prerequisite courses.

This might all seem overwhelming now but breaking the tasks into pieces can help and will enable you to tackle each component at a time. Remember, though college might seem stressful, it is also important to enjoy every aspect of this new opportunity and learn as you advance to the next step.