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College Survival Tips

Making the Transition

The jump to college can be stressful. You're leaving behind your school, friends, family, and home and going off to explore a new place, make new friends, learn new things, and set your own priorities.

Many students overlook the stress involved in making so many big changes in such a brief period of time. The more prepared you are for college when you get there, the more ready you'll be to confront any new pressures. Here are some realities to consider, and a few common-sense ways to help you handle them:

The Work Is Harder

Courses are at a higher level than high-school classes and the material is presented at a faster pace. Plus, professors are likely to assign more reading, writing, and problem sets than you may be used to.

Your Strategy

All first-year college students contend with this bend in the learning curve, so don't think having to struggle to keep up is somehow a failing on your part. Give yourself an opportunity to adjust gradually to the new academic demands. Choose a course load that includes some challenging classes and others that will be less intense.

You Make the Schedule

You are responsible for managing your time in college. If you cut classes and don't do assignments, no one will nag you. You may wish they had if it comes time for the final and you don't know the material.

Your Strategy

Buy a calendar and make sure you write down when and where your classes meet, when assignments are due, and when tests will take place. Give yourself ample time to study rather than waiting until the last minute and pulling an all-nighter.

More Independence -- and Responsibility

You may not have the same day-to-day support system as you do now. For example, how will you manage your money and debt, especially when credit card companies are bombarding you with offers? Who is around to make sure you're not getting sick or run down? Factors like stress, late-night parties, and generally pushing yourself too hard can take a toll.

Your Strategy

Don't always do what's easiest at the time. Make smart decisions. For example, when it comes to your money, stick to a budget and use credit cards wisely. When it comes to your health, get enough sleep, eat well, and pay attention to what your body tells you. You'll need energy to enjoy all that college has to offer.

A New Social Scene

New social opportunities (and pressures) abound. Suddenly, you can recreate yourself in any way you want.

Your Strategy

While forming new friendships can be exhilarating, true friendships are formed slowly, and the beginning of college can consequently be a lonely time. If you're unsure about participating in certain social scenes or activities, don't hesitate to seek guidance about the best ways to resist these pressures. Talk to parents, trusted friends from high school, and college counselors.

College is full of resources -- professors, tutors, counselors, and often resident advisers. In college it is up to you to initiate getting help. The good news is that once you do adjust to college life, it opens new doors to all sorts of learning -- and living.


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