Preparing for the Transition
So, you're going to college: Is everything cool?
Finally, you've graduated! You did better than anyone (including yourself!) expected. You chose your college and have even signed up for your first semester courses. Time to heave a sigh of relief and settle in for some serious summer fun. But wait, there are some unsettling thoughts in the back of your mind: "Do I really want to go off to school?" "Can I really do college level work?" "Did I choose the right school?" "Maybe I'm pushing my luck and shouldn't even attempt this."
It may surprise you to be thinking these thoughts but this is a natural part of an unsettling time. Remember that commencement means beginning and beginnings tend to be a bit scary.
So, let's put things into perspective.
Think logically; college academics involve reading, writing, and discussing. So, during the summer months, read the front page of the paper each day. If a story sparks your interest, follow through to the back sections with it. If nothing seems interesting, flip to the sports or entertainment section and read whatever you enjoy. Along the same lines, pick out a novel of interest and read it. (You will be doing lots of reading in college, but this may be the last time until Christmas you can read something you choose.) By reading daily, your brain won't go into screen saver mode and then have to gear back up in August. You can be enjoying yourself, taking a break, but still working an important aspect of college into your summer routine.
Practicing writing is easy--you have a million thank you notes for graduation gifts. Word process them, shoot for a minimum of one page, include clip art, and be effusive. Your relatives will love it and know just what you are doing. Another idea: A common assignment is to keep a journal. Begin yours now and record your aspirations, your strengths, any positive reflections about yourself, your lasting impressions of high school and your friends and your teachers. This will be interesting stuff when you read it through in years to come and, again, you will be keeping your skills sharp and your brain moving on.
Discussing will come naturally since you are reading and thinking. Also, you should be discussing with your parents what is acceptable when you move to a college campus. What grades are they expecting? What questions will they be asking you when you call them? How often will they visit? Just how much do they want to be involved in your decisions? You may find out that they want you to make decisions and then tell them your reasons behind these decisions. Social issues like drinking, partying, and new friends can be explored. It is guaranteed that you'll think differently about these things since you are from different generations so be sure you both know where you stand before you head off.
If you anticipate a difficult transition to college and are really worried, look for a summer postsecondary experience where you take a course and maybe even live on campus for a while. Some schools offer pre programs for academic credit; others focus on the social side of the transition. These experiences will make you feel more comfortable when you begin your first semester.
Here are comments from students spending only two weeks in a mini college experience on our campus:
"I thought coming here during the summer would be a pain, but
I found it to be a useful tool."
A comment from a junior who didn't participate in a transition program prior to college:
"Spending two weeks on campus would have helped me a lot. At first, I was even afraid to go into the dining hall because I had to sit by myself. My roommate and I didn't immediately get along and I didn't know anyone else. I spent the first month sitting in the library studying, eating granola bars, and wondering what was wrong with me. Although my first semester grades were wonderful, I am now much happier. I think I could have adjusted more quickly if I had gone to a summer program."
A comment from a parent:
"We've been watching with excitement as Suzy has embraced the people and atmosphere of college. We have been keeping track of her progress by email and see she is continuing to build her self-esteem based on the feedback she seems to be receiving with your staff.
Moving on to college is a huge transition and after all the decisions have been made, students may feel unsettled and apprehensive. Some thoughtful preparation can increase students' confidence and lead to a successful experience.
Summer School is Only for Those Students Who Have Flunked or Can't "Get It." Right?
Hmm... Maybe not on the College Level. It may be wise to revise thoughts about summer school as you enter college. Consider these points:
How taking summer school in college can benefit you:
Jen Navicky, Jen Navicky was the previous Director of the Center for Advancement of Learning at Muskingum College, which, in addition to providing full support services for disable students, hosts a mini college experience each summer called First Step.