Guest Post By Karen Smith Summer has peaked, Labor Day is nigh, and the start of the school year approaches. With so much going on during your first few week of college -- moving, orientation, roommates, activities, parties, etc. etc. -- it’s important to remember the “real” reason you’re there: classes. I Know: downer, right? But I promise, some of your classes will be as fun as anything else you do on campus. Others...you’ll just survive. Here are my top pearls of academic wisdom for incoming freshmen:
1. Try some of everything. You may already know exactly what you want to do. But at most schools you won’t have to declare a major right away, sometimes not until the end of your sophomore year. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it some thought, of course. But be well-rounded. Try something bizarre that sounds like it might be fun. Do some science, some humanities, some social science...something hands-on and something philosophical. Think of it as your first plate at an all-you-can-eat buffet, where you want to try a little of everything so you can go back for more of what you liked best.
2. Know your limits. More then fifteen hours of class your first semester is probably a crazy idea. There are other aspects to this college thing, and they are important too. You want to have a social life. Also, know when you’re most effective and be realistic about what time of day you sign up for. I went back and looked at my college transcript after I graduated, and realized something extraordinary: every class I took in the afternoon, I got an A or an A-, and every class I took before lunch, I got an A- or a B-, across the board. Some of us just aren’t morning people. If you have this same tendency to want to stay up late and sleep in, you can either work with it or against it.
3. Stay aware of add/drop deadlines. Most colleges will give you a chance to try things out and switch them around, within reason. Know exactly how long that window is, and don’t lose sight of the deadlines. Don’t be ashamed to use these processes strategically, to bail you out of classes where it looks like you won’t perform well. It can take a couple weeks to see whether you and a professor will have the right sort of connection to advance your learning. Don’t get stuck in a class you’ll regret come December. That's all I've got for now, though there are other factors that will go into your enrollment such as required courses, core curricula, and whether you’ve tested out of classes via Advanced Placement high school courses. I just wanted to give a shot across the bow to all you freshmen getting settled in: college isn’t summer camp forever, and the academic side does take over. Don’t forget to enjoy your freshman year...but don’t enjoy it so much that your GPA tanks! Karen Smith, a former newspaper reporter, now freelances for websites including onlinebusinessdegree.org. She hopes to bring her readers the latest in business student news, as well as up-to-date, informed advice on everything from careers to parenting to health and more. Karen welcomes your comments below!