You made it! Your college search is behind you, and your next educational step is in front of you.
The years ahead will be challenging, but you'll grow intellectually, personally, and socially. The first year of college can be academically overwhelming, but it doesn't have to be. Here are some tips to help you can achieve academic success:
Don't worry about knowing your major right away.
You may feel pressure to know exactly what you want even on the first day of college, but you should realize that, in part, college is about exploring your interests and discovering new ones. You have plenty of time to focus on your major, so in your first year, take a class or two that piques your interest but is not necessarily something you would have signed up for in high school. You never know where it may lead you. And since Americans can on average make at least seven career changes in a lifetime, having a wide array of knowledge and interests beyond your major will serve you well in the future.
Once you have signed up for your courses read the introductions of the textbooks.
Definitely buy used text books (those dimes and pennies you save will add up) for those classes to help orient you to the subject matter. This will also offer you a preview of the class material and you will begin to get a sense of whether this is a course you want to take or whether you may want to change before the add/drop deadline. Of course, attend the first day of class. Many professors have a way of bringing otherwise dense or seemingly dull material to life in exciting, refreshing ways.
When start your courses, read the class syllabi thoroughly.
Some professors will review it in depth on the first day. Others will only refer to it and will expect you to read it on your own. Either way, review it carefully and make sure you take special note of the course deadlines, major assignments, projects, and exams, and grading guidelines. If you have questions, do not be afraid to ask your professor.
Attend your professors office hours, which will be noted on the syllabus.
Office hours are a time when professors are available for students to ask questions, discuss the material further, or just say hello. You should plan to visit your instructor's office hours at least twice during a semester. Interacting with your professors and helping them learn more about your academic and career interests will help you later when you seek recommendations for jobs, internships, or graduate school.
Most of all, enjoy yourself!
This is your time to explore your interests, imagine more fully what you want from life, and meet diverse people with wide-ranging perspectives that will inform and enrich your own understandings of the world and who you are. You will never have another experience like this.
Recommended books to learn more:
"Making the Most of College: Students Speak Their Minds" by Richard Light
"Why Do I Have to Take This Course: A Student Guide to Making Smart Education Choices" by Robert Shoenberg, published by the Association of American Colleges and Universities
About the author: Chad Anderson is a program associate at the Association of American Colleges and Universities(AAC&U), where he works on faculty and curricular development projects related to civic engagement, diversity, general education, global learning, the liberal arts, and interdisciplinary learning, among others. Chad completed his M.F.A. in Creative Writing at Indiana University, where he taught courses in creative writing, English composition, and literary editing and publishing as well as served as fiction editor for the Indiana Review. Anderson received B.A. from the University of Virginia, where he majored in English and in American Studies and graduated Phi Beta Kappa. He has published fiction in Salamander Review and is also a contributing blogger at AAC&U's liberal.education nation.