5 Things to Know Before Going Off to College

It's Back to School season and with just a few more weeks to go, here is a column on getting ready to fly out of the old nest.

Congratulations Spring-Ford grads! You're off to college in a few weeks! So, you finally did it. High school is over and you've been spending the summer getting every last ounce of time in with your friends before you leap on out to undergraduate studies. Whether you are near or far, there are still going to be some major adjustments in your life and lifestyle.

Being a recent college graduate, myself (any Penn Staters out there?), I've decided to compile a short list of things to think about as you make this unfamiliar transition. Think of this as your quick guide to the big dance.

1. Making Friends on Day 1 - The first day is most hectic. If you're paired with a random roommate, you have to coordinate with him and his family on how you're going to move stuff in. The best thing you can do is be organized. Triple check if you have all of your stuff and make sure the car ride is comfortable if it's a long one. You don't want to be in a sour mood when you say goodbye to your parents.

Once your parents are gone, it's time to get out and meet some people. Really, the best thing to do is pop your door open in the dorms, hang out and be inviting to passerbys. On the other side of things, make sure you are proactive, too, and get out, shoot some hoops in the quad and get to know some people.

2. Class Time Approaching - Obviously you're not there just to make friends, you are there to get a degree and be wealthy. So, make sure you are fully prepared for your classes. Have a copy of your class schedule hanging up in your room and a spare in your backpack. I was always one to forget the room number of the class I was in, so having that schedule in the backpack was clutch.

I also recommend having your books preordered from the book store, so you don't have to deal with the angry mob of nervous freshmen on the Sunday before classes start. You can also head on over to Amazon or eBay and try to get your books there for less money. However, in my experience, some professors listed certain text books in their class lists and never ended up using them, so just be cautious, do some research online about your professors and see what other people have had to say.

3. Well-Roundedness - Again, we go to college for academics and a degree, but a lot of employers want to see what else you can do. Therefore, I suggest you be open-minded and wise when it comes to selecting your extracurricular activities.

Club sports are always a plus, as it provides an outlet for all sorts of athletes who could not play intercollegiately.

You may also want to consider Greek life. While the stereotypes often drive away good people, there are plenty of advantages, such as leadership positions within the fraternity/sorority, community service opportunities and leadership training through the national organization.

Also, make sure you're checking out clubs and organizations that pertain to your major, if you have one. School paper, student radio, engingeering club, business societies and debate club are all available on most campuses.

4. Down the Line - I had four internships throughout college and it really helped me get to this point in my life. I understand that four internships sounds wack, but I wouldn't change a thing. Keep your options open, your GPA up and meet with your career advisor at school if there's one offered by your sophomore year. Constant communication is key.

5. There's No Place Like Home - I understand full-heartedly that college can be overwhelming with all of the above in mind. However, mom and dad helped you get to this point in your life - give them a call once in a while. They want to hear your voice and make sure you're doing okay. And guess what? You might miss them, too.

Good luck Spring-Ford alum!


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