Students have a lot to consider when preparing for, applying to, and enrolling in college. These tips for aspiring college students are based on my personal experience as well as what has been effective for WorldWise Tutoring’s students over the past decade.
Tip #1: Learn about finances before you start college
Unfortunately, many high school students leave home with little to no knowledge about basic personal finance. This results in poor spending habits and the accumulation of debt. I advise that financial lessons be incorporated into everyday topics at home and in school, ranging from sales tax to loan repayment. Even if schools and families feel unequipped to teach these topics, there are a multitude of free resources available, such as the Stockmarket Game and Econ Ed with St Louis Fed. Before starting college, students should especially learn about repaying loans, starting salaries in their field, what a credit card APR is, etc. WorldWise Tutoring offers personal finance enrichment classes throughout the year.
Tip #2: Don’t only focus on well-known colleges
I often see aspiring college students set their sights on the large, well-known universities simply for the name. What I try to encourage my students to do instead is find a college or trade school that fits with their personal needs. CollegeData.com is a great place to start the college search. Families should not rule out the smaller schools, for they provide a level of intimacy that is impossible on large campuses. I personally graduated from a mid-sized university, where the friends I made my first year are now considered my family and where I got to know my professors so well that they were instrumental in guiding me to find and pursue my unique passions. The personal and professional connections I made in college have made me the successful woman I am today. Would you like help with the college planning, research, and application process? Contact us!
Tip #3: Get involved
Your resume has one line for your college name, degree earned, and GPA. The rest is dedicated to your experiences and achievements. Whatever school you decide to attend or major you decide to pursue, work at your highest ability to achieve high marks. But do not stop there. Join organizations related to your interests, ask the professors of the classes you enjoy most if you can work with them directly, apply for internships, study abroad, volunteer. Most learning takes place beyond the classroom walls, and employers recognize that. I cannot tell you how many job interviews, and consequently job offers, I got purely because my resume was “so interesting.” Take an active role in your learning and the path will reveal itself to you.
Tip #4: Study abroad
Possessing knowledge and skills related to one’s field of study are crucial. But the vital skills of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, empathy, and critical observation are best learned by engaging in new situations outside of one’s comfort zone. Beyond that, studying abroad allows students to explore their passions in real-world settings, so that they can make more informed decisions about their career path. Most progressive societies encourage their youth to travel, sometimes even as a Gap Year not tied to any university. However, in America, leaving college to study abroad is often discouraged out of fear of the unknown. This mindset needs to change as there is much to be gained from studying abroad.
Tip #5: Make connections
The professional connections you make in college are incredibly important for your future. This is one of those times when being a teacher’s pet makes a huge difference. You never know what doors could open for you by forging a relationship with your professors. So actively participate in class, attend Office Hours, offer to help. Make sure you stand out from the crowd.
Overall, aspiring college students should remember that attending college is more than just having something to add to a resume. Get the most out of the college experience by taking advantage of every opportunity. Seek out new learning experiences and constantly self-reflect. Most of the real learning takes place beyond the classroom walls.