Top Back to School Advice from Around the Web for Students
Whether you’re a returning student or attending college for the first time, it’s important to head into the semester prepared. We’ve done our research and assembled the best advice from around the Web to make the transition easier, ensuring you dive right into your education and get the most out of the experience.
Back to School Advice for Incoming Freshmen
The majority of first-time college students head into their degree program directly from high school. While that means students have only taken a three-to-four month break between classes, the freedom and responsibility of college can be a surprisingly difficult transition. Most of the advice we found was concerned with acclimating yourself to your new environment and starting your first semester on the right foot.
“The first day of class is the most important session because it sets the tone for the semester. Rather than grabbing a syllabus, tuning out, and leaving, expect more from yourself that day. You have the power to stay in or drop the class, so intently gauge the course relevance, workload, and potential deliverables.”
“Extracurrics, campus leadership, community service, time with friends: Each is essential, and you need to embrace them all. If you let the quest for good grades dictate your life at college, you’ll miss out on the college experience. And by the way, grad school is not an extension of college, where you have tons of free time to play and explore.”
“Don’t posture— don’t pretend like you’re anything other than what you are. Be humble. Ask for help. Don’t act like you have all of the answers. It may seem like acting like you already fit in will help you adapt, but I’ve found the opposite is actually true: People in general, as well as upperclassmen specifically, are much more amenable to those who are upfront about their shortcomings or about needing help rather than those who overcompensate.”
Back to School Advice for Returning Students
After students have completed their first year, they’ve begun to understand how to balance schoolwork and college life. The best advice we found was focused on reminding yourself that you’re in college for a reason, and the importance of reaffirming your education goals by ensuring you’ve chosen the right major.
“If you have not done so already, confirm you major and career goals. There are simple things you can do to discover your passion. Complete a career inventory to identify the top occupations that coincide with your interests. Speak with or shadow professionals in the occupations you are considering. If you have any hesitancy about your goals, now is the time to seek assistance. Stop by your campus career center for additional information.”
“Now is a good time to look around and see if you can grab some of that cherished experience everyone is always talking about. Becoming an RA is a possibility. Jobs on campus want kids who will be around for a while so they don’t need to retrain people, and it can be some extra cash in your pocket. Lots of the top internships are for juniors and seniors, so keep an eye out for those next year — unpaid labor might be the worst, but at least you’ll work in the field you’re preparing for.”
“If you’re comfortable with your major and settled into college, consider taking the second semester abroad. Also, if you’re going to take a semester abroad in the junior year, you may need to plan on it now.”
Back to School Advice for Continuing Education Students
For adults who’ve taken time off and decided to finish their education or finally begin their degree program, we’ve found advice for attending college later in life. Most of this advice included helping students pay for school, reminding students of different degree options, and ensuring you’re motivated to finish your program before ever setting foot into a classroom.
“Continuous learning, no matter how old you are, has clear benefits, from finding and keeping the job of your dreams, to making you more marketable to your current employer, or helping you feel more active and engaged during your later years. Continuing education doesn’t just mean earning an MBA or a law degree. It can include GED programs, Bachelor’s or master’s programs, professional certification programs, and personal development opportunities”
“As with any undertaking, it is best to go back to school when there is strong motivation, but also when there is the time, energy and resources necessary to commit to the venture. For those who have been out of school for a while, it is best to get prepared to go back to school by ‘creating space’ and reducing other commitments for the period of time that one is enrolled in the program. Fortunately, the higher education marketplace is replete with choices that can make continuing education a possibility for professionals in a wide variety of circumstances.”
“Unless you’ve won the lottery, money is an issue for almost everyone going back to school. Remember that scholarships aren’t just for young students. Many are available for older students, working moms, non-traditional students of all kinds. Search online for scholarships, including FAFSA (Federal Student Aid), ask your school what kind of financial aid they offer, and while you’re there, ask about work on campus if you’ve got a few extra hours available.”
“One of the best ways to lower your college costs is to get credit for real-life skills. Thanks to your job or volunteer work, you may have computer, writing, foreign language or other skills that give you an edge over younger students. Take a CLEP (College Level Examination Program) test to show the school that you know the material. There are dozens of them in various subjects, including accounting, English composition, and information systems/computer applications. If you pass, you can skip that course and still get credit for it. The exam costs $70 to take, but compared with the cost of the class, it’s often worth it.”