What to Expect in College: How to Prepare for Your First Year
Congratulations, high school graduates! It’s been a long time since you’ve started something brand new. Say goodbye to years of generalized education, and hello to a program designed with you in mind.
As an incoming freshman, it’s hard to know what to expect in college. No matter how you imagine it, life as a college student will be different from what you anticipate. Even though you can’t predict your freshman year of college, whether at Grace College or elsewhere, you can take steps to prepare yourself for this new experience. This guide will help you know what to expect in the first year in college as you go forward into your new journey.
Look Forward to Freedom
As you walk into your first semester at college, you will be given the freedom to make choices that were not yours to make in high school. While there will be academic assistance, professors, and student leaders to help you on your way, these choices are ultimately yours to make. Here are a few things that will be in your hands:
- Your major
- Your schedule
- Your finances
- Who to be friends with
- Getting involved on campus
- Choosing a church in the community
- Getting a job
So you might be wondering how to prepare for college and this new freedom that comes with it. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Use your resources. You’re not in this alone. From your RA to your planner, your resources are there to help you thrive. But for these to be helpful, you’ll need to start now. If you use your time and resources wisely in high school, it will be much easier to know what to expect in college. You can start now by downloading a study app, talking to your admissions counselor, and getting any lingering questions answered.
Practice healthy habits. Once you move into your new dorm room, your daily choices will define your lifestyle. Before your freshman year of college begins, practice the healthy habits that you value. Get up at a decent time for your classes, keep track of your personal and academic goals, and start on your exercise and nutrition plans now, rather than halfway through the year.
Set a routine. One thing you can expect in college without a doubt is late-night events and pop-up opportunities. This is just part of the experience. Whether it’s an intramural volleyball game that starts at 10:45 pm or an SAB event that you didn’t know about, you might miss out on something if your schedule is too rigid. But having somewhat of a routine can make all the difference in college! Consider setting up a time to do homework every night, making a habit of writing down new assignments so you can work toward them gradually, and placing some parameters on how much sleep you get each night. A little bit of structure can go a long way. Because you don’t know what to expect in the first year of college, the routine will help you feel more balanced as you carve out the kind of college experience you want to have.
Count on Some Challenging Changes
Although you never know exactly what to expect in college, one thing is inevitable; your life is going to feel different. And forthcoming change can often be stressful. But there are plenty of ways to manage your anxiety and use the pressure of change to motivate you rather than frazzle you. As you approach move-in day, here are some things to keep in mind:
Community matters. As you walk onto campus this fall, you may be surprised by the genuine atmosphere that you find. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others! Many freshman dorms have an optional open-door policy where you are free to leave your door open and walk in and out of other open rooms to make friends and build community. Start a conversation on the walk to chapel; eat lunch with a stranger; sign up for campus-wide competitions and events — community matters and it starts with you.
It’s okay to be homesick. And it’s okay not to be. You don’t have to control your transition. First-year excitement and homesickness can coexist. While you’ll never really know how to prepare for college homesickness, it’s important that you remember that other freshmen are in the same boat. They don’t know what to expect in college either. And it’s also comforting to keep in mind that upperclassmen were also once in your shoes — they might be a great source of perspective when you’re having a hard time.
Be Comforted by Community
Speaking of comfort…Grace College has many systems in place to assist first-year students in their adjustment to college life. We provides a comprehensive orientation program that offers a nurturing environment where students are supported as they discover and pursue their academic and personal goals. The main components of the Freshman Experience include Welcome Weekend, the First-Year Foundations course, the Grace Core, and Growth Groups.
Throughout your first year of college, you can expect to meet in a breakout group of 15 to 20 students led by a Faculty Mentor and upperclassmen Student Mentors. These groups are are an excellent place to share your concerns, fears, joys, victories, and everything in between throughout your first semester.
Until you arrive on campus and become immersed in our first-year experience, we invite you to connect with your admissions counselors to address any lingering questions about how to prepare for college. We look forward to welcoming you as a new student!