College and career planning: Advice on adjusting to college from a freshman
College is nothing more than speeded up experience.At least that was my father’s perspective on college when he informed me that I was going to college many moons ago. At the time, I regarded this as one more of his tired clichs. I would wager that most college students today might dismiss this the way I did. It’s funny, though, how much smarter my father has become the older I’ve gotten.College does, indeed, represent an accelerated learning curve. However, the knowledge one acquires extends far beyond the educational and pre-professional benefits of higher education.I’ve learned that one of the best ways to impart what college is all about is to solicit the advice of experts. The real authorities on college life are, in fact, the students themselves, so I recently caught-up with a Sierra Lutheran High School graduate who just completed her first semesters in college to get the current scoop on college life to help those who will soon be headed in that direction.Becky Grabow, SLHS Class of 2012, is a special education major who attends the University of Pacific in Stockton, Calif., on a cross country and track scholarship. Here’s what she had to say about academics and campus life, housing and roommates, living away from home for the first time, her overall assessment of her first semester, and her advice for aspiring college students. Q: Besides the natural differences of having classes on different days and at different times of the day, describe the major differences between academic life in high school and college.Becky: In college, there is more responsibility to do your homework and to get tasks accomplished than in high school. There is no mom or dad to tell you that you need to study or do your homework. You are responsible for the education you receive because you have to dig in to the subjects and be willing to learn them yourself.Q: What, if any, adjustments have you made in your study habits to respond to the rigors of academic life in college? And what has worked best for you?Becky: I had to adjust my homework time around when I have classes. Not everyone is on the same schedule in college so you have to change your habits around class. I realized that even if you have an awkward time period in between your next class, it is important to fill your time with tasks you need to get done for school first so that you don’t have to wait last minute to do them.Q: What have you noticed about the opportunities to get involved in campus life, such as joining student groups, attending events, etc.?Becky: College is really all what you make it. Getting together with other students and attending athletic events or school functions is a great time to meet people and enjoy the time you have. Q: Have you explored any opportunities for campus involvement?Becky: I have participated in different athletic functions and have watched volleyball and basketball games. It’s always exciting to see everyone in school spirit to support our school.Q: What’s it like having a roommate?Becky: Having a roommate is pretty fun! I get along great with my roommate and it’s comforting to have someone to help you through different obstacles away from home. Roommates don’t always see eye to eye, however being open in these situations and learning to cope with differences is key in rooming with them for the year.Q: What kind of meal plan are you on, and is the food what you expected?Becky: I am on the standard meal plan. I think the food is great! It is not buffet style like most colleges but you order your meals “a la carte.” For the most part, I like the food. However, it’s always nice to come home to your mom’s delicious cooking!Q: What is it like living away from home for the first time?Becky: All colleges are different. For the most part I felt pretty prepared moving to Stockton. It was met with a few surprises and differences. I missed my family environment a lot but it taught me to grow on my own and to trust in the Lord. College is the time when you realize you can’t live off of what your parents believe; you have to believe it for yourself.Q: Is there anything that has surprised you about living away from home?Becky: There weren’t many surprises about college except I have learned a lot, which was expected. There are definitely many differences between lifestyles at college, and learning to love people despite their life choices is vital. I have made many friends who don’t hold to certain beliefs I do however, we are still called to love them.Q: In a nutshell, how would you describe your first semester in college?Becky: My first semester went by fast! I had school Monday through Friday and raced on the weekends so before I knew it, it was already Monday again. I have learned a lot and have had a blast.Q: If you could give an incoming freshman one piece of advice before he or she starts college, what would it be?Becky: College is not easy. It’s different. Many people go into college thinking that it will be a breeze compared to high school. In some aspects this is true. For the most part many freshmen struggle with finding the correct work ethic it takes to pass classes. My advice would be to get the assignments done as soon as possible because having papers lurking around is not fun. Work hard and you will do just fine! I hope this helps get you up to speed for the experience of a lifetime. Merry Christmas.• Brian Underwood is the executive director of Sierra Lutheran High School. He can be reached at email@example.com.