They’ve turned their red, white, and blue high school tassels, but now what?
Most Oberlin High School graduates are headed to college, a whole new world of social situations, responsibilities, and expectations.
We reached out to admissions officers and counselors at some Ohio schools to learn what advice they have for freshmen:
Lorain County Community College
“One of the things I often tell students is push yourself out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new thoughts, new ideas, and new people — people who you might not usually be used to interacting with,” said Krista O’Neill, coordinator of counseling and advising services.
Research shows that students who are more engaged in clubs, sports, and other activities feel feel they are more a part of campus life, and that healthy mindset translates into doing better in classes, she said.
O’Neill said summer is a great time to hone study and time management skills. Freshmen should consider getting textbooks before classes begin and read the first chapter before you ever show up to class.
“Often the first week is a bit overwhelming and getting that edge helps you feel more confident in the classroom,” she said.
Sometimes freshmen overload their first semester schedules, said Thomas Abeyta, senior associate director of admissions.
It’s common for new students, who were at the head of their high school class, to show up at college and try to take on too much. That’s a disservice to themselves, he said.
“Especially for the science majors, do you really want to take a huge science load that first semester?” he asked. Consider not taking both biology and chemistry at the same time — a lighter load can help first-year students build valuable confidence.
Over-ambition can lead to dropped classes mid-semester, and no new student wants that, Abeyta said.
A surprising number of freshmen have never thought about college’s biggest question: Why do you want to be there?
“When we look at why students flounder so much, they’re not sure why they’re here. They’ve never done any soul searching about what they want to get out of this,” said W.C. Vance, director of admissions.
He tells new students to arrive with a plan. Know when you’re going to study, set a GPA goal, think about the clubs and activities you want to join, and think about churches and other groups you want to be involved with.
“If you were a balanced person before — mind, body, spirit — stay a balanced person in college. It’s once one of those three get whacked out that (students) really start to flounder,” Vance said.
He also tells students that it’s impossible to lead two lives simultaneously. Sure, it’s important to keep in contact with home and high school friends and you don’t want to abandon your roots.
But college provides an opportunity to start fresh and learn from new people, said Vance. Don’t miss the chance to fully live with them because you’re too hooked to the past.
Bowling Green State University
“In June, July, and August, join social media accounts at the college you are going to attend,” said Brandi Barhite, director of enrollment communications.
A lot of students have Instagram and Snapchat accounts. Many colleges provide Facebook pages specifically for incoming freshman to get to know their classmates, “to get a vibe for who you’ll be seeing every single day,” she said.
Social media is a great way for first-year students to scope out clubs and intramural sports teams, to get the date for the college’s first football game of the season, and to know when choir auditions will be.
Barhite also recommends reaching out to your roommate long before you arrive on campus — if possible, meet for lunch and talk about what you’re going to take to the dorm room. Discuss who will take a mini-fridge, television, or microwave because your room doesn’t need two of each. Plus you can get a feel for your roomie’s personality.
“Your roommate might not be your best friend and that’s OK. You need to start to plan now and learn to live together comfortably,” Barhite said.
Ohio State University
“For many students, this is going to mark a transition in their life that goes beyond just a new venue for where they’re getting an education,” said Dave Isaacs, communications manager. “Many students have had their own room at home, many student have had their own bathroom at home, and all of a sudden they’re going to have a whole new residential situation.”
Getting to know your roommate in advance and preparing mentally to live together is key, he said.
OSU asks students to draft a “roommate agreement,” a vehicle to talk about expectations: When you study, do you like music in the room? Do you like quiet? What’s bedtime? Do you mind having a light on while you’re trying to sleep?
“These are very mundane aspects of living, but for many students it’s a whole new way,” Isaacs said.
Once you’re settled in on campus, don’t go home every weekend. Stick around for about six weeks and get involved, he said: “The way to not get homesick is to connect here.”
Kent State University
Incoming freshmen should make sure to attend orientation programs, said Nancy Dellavecchia, director of admissions.
“These programs help students explore opportunities, set goals, get advising and registration for classes, learn about important deadlines and events, and meet new friends,” she said. “When they arrive on campus they will be greeted by many student leaders and staff members. They receive information including a schedule of activities for the welcome events… They need to understand that they will be experiencing a new independence and responsibility. They will have more freedom and choices to make on their own.”
Be open to new experiences and opportunities, she said.
Be sure to attend scheduled events prior to the start of classes, go to class, be on time, and learn about tools and resources on campus to help you be successful, said Dellavecchia. Seek out the resources and use them to help with academic support, tutoring, supplemental instruction, and academic advising.
“Have a dedicated time and place where you can study each day. Don’t wait until the last minute. If you need help, seek out assistance immediately,” she said. “Talk with faculty and peers, get involved in your living and learning community or activities affiliated with your academic major.”
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.