Across Canada, college and university students are preparing to begin or return to school. At least, faculty and staff sincerely hope students are preparing for the experience ahead.
With about two weeks to go before classes begin at Medicine Hat College, I asked a few people on campus to offer their thoughts on must-do activities for students. Here’s the top ten.
1 — Know when tuition is due. One colleague — a thoughtful and organized person — became the first in her family to attend university. She navigated the unfamiliar system and successfully moved across two provinces to begin classes. Despite her planning, she was caught off guard when she learned that tuition was to be paid in January as well as September.
2 — What about the car? If you’re looking to reduce stress in the first few days of school, find out about parking. “I thought I had it all handled,” said one co-worker, “until I saw the line for parking permits.”
3 — There will be change. Lots of it. The transition to college life brings many changes: financial, emotional, and social. “Prepare to be imperfect, and be okay with that,” are wise words from someone who talks to a lot of students.
4 — Attend orientation. It could be that a new student will face the choice between one more shift at the summer job, or attending orientation. While it may be tempting to put a little more cash in the bank, the smart money is on orientation in terms of future payout.
5 — What comes with the room? This one has a personal touch as I once helped my daughter move into residence for a summer program. We had put rather a lot of stock into a line in an acceptance letter that said, “Just bring your pillow and move right in.” Hmmm. We turned that stark room into something homey with the addition of about 45 other items.
6 — Read the fine print. You got the letter and celebrated your admission. But don’t stuff that letter into a drawer after scanning the first paragraph! Please read it, look for tasks and deadlines. If you’re not sure, ask!
7 — Have you registered? I was surprised, but the hardworking folks at one of our service desks report that it more common that you might think to encounter ‘students’ who have neglected that fact that there are more steps to becoming a student than just applying.
8 — There is a lot you can do in advance. Take some time in the next two weeks to do everything possible. Get that parking pass, pose for your ID photo, and learn the campus layout. Time spent now will help later.
9 — Don’t do too much in advance. It may be tempting to buy all the books you see on class outlines, but it is often best to attend the first class before investing. Your instructor will often be able to guide decisions between ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ books.
10 — Plan to have fun. This advice comes with a second part: avoid the extremes. In other words, healthy social activity will make college life better, but avoid the risks of excess whether that is working or partying.
If you have any questions about the transition to college, we’re here to help.
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