The annual migration is about to begin. No, it’s not the wildebeests making their way through East Africa. It’s the annual return to school for America’s college students. The highways and byways will soon be clogged with overstuffed, underpowered cars and trucks as the nation’s youth make their way back to classes and classmates.
Here’s a helpful list of “DOs and DON’Ts to make the transition back as smooth as possible:
DO look forward to the return to school and the possibility it represents. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is your future. Embrace the return to school as one of many stepping stones along your path to success.
DON’T lament the passing of summer and dread the return of classes. Negative thinking derails productivity and achievement. Acknowledge that summer has come and gone . . . and then get on with your studies.
DO re-connect with old friends and make new ones. Attend a party (or two). With today’s technology, staying in touch over the summer and re-engaging when classes resume should be easier than ever.
DON’T make the first week or so of classes a socializing-only affair. While it’s OK to attend a party or two, don’t fall behind from the outset by having a little too much fun and blowing off the important early days of classes and relationship building with your professors.
DO bring some comfort items from home: your favorite sweater, robe, and slippers; a book (yes they still make those), DVDs, video games and consoles; pictures of your family and friends. You get the idea. Familiar items can often make the transition to new or unfamiliar surroundings a little easier.
DON’T try to re-create your entire home life at school. First of all, your dorm room/apartment and the small piece of it that is yours to occupy isn’t likely to afford the space you need (at least not without annoying your roommates). Secondly, college life is about the new and undiscovered, and about leaving your childhood behind.
DO explore campus clubs and activities, such as gaming and social clubs . . . and participate. It’s a great way to get to know others, share experiences, discuss classes and professors, and work through any homesick blues you may be feeling.
DON’T stay sequestered in your room 24×7, venturing out just for classes and feedings. It’s tempting these days when you can connect online for all things ranging from social interaction to gaming, but don’t lose sight of the need for people time.
DO get to know your teachers. In the vast majority of cases, they are your best allies and advocates. They want you to succeed. Find out from them what it takes to do well in their classes . . . and then do it.
DON’T be determined to do it your way in class. College instructors generally have very specific expectations concerning class participation, teamwork, homework, and test performance. No one likes being a conformist, and part of being young is wanting/needing to rebel, but part of college is learning to collaborate with others, follow directions, and meet the expectations of others—just as it will be when you get your first “real” job post-graduation.
DO study when you need to and get your homework done on time, every time. It’s hard to catch back up once you fall behind.
DON’T assume that your study and work habits from high school will carry you through college just fine. Most likely, you will need to study harder and longer for tests to do well, and you will have to put in long hours at your PC or in a lab outside of class to get your work done satisfactorily.
DO attend your classes, lectures, and labs. Grades for a great deal of most college classes factor in class attendance and participation.
DON’T think you can get your work done and pass tests without showing up for classes and still get good grades. College instructors know who’s there and who isn’t, but unlike K-12 teachers, they aren’t babysitters. You are responsible for your own attendance.
DO have fun, responsibly. College can be both an exciting and rewarding experience. For most, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be looked back fondly upon in later years. Friendships, romances, parties, new learning and new experiences—it’s all part of college and it relies on you making the most of it.
DON’T forget your personal safety net. As a young adult, away from home for the first time, you will need to make decisions for yourself about classes, relationships, and even things as mundane as what groceries to buy or meals to make or eat. You’ll have bills to pay, assignments to complete, grades to watch, social commitments to keep, and quite possibly a part-time job on the side. If it all gets a bit overwhelming, don’t forget Mom and Dad, Gram and Gramps, lifelong friends, and all the other people who’ve mentored you through life and have always been there for you. There still there. Don’t forget to reach out to them when you need to, but remember that, ultimately, the choices and decisions you make, and the results you get, are yours.
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