By Jennifer Igbonoba
With most universities getting ready to open their doors to the incoming class of 2027, it is understandable to be freaking out about anything and everything in college if you chose to pursue postsecondary education.
However, if you’re freaking out, don’t worry! Here are some ways to prepare for college and have a successful freshman year.
“I think the best way students can start preparing for college is as early as elementary and middle school and taking and choosing courses that they might be interested in so that they can find maybe a future possible major or not,” Robin Riley, lead counselor for Garland High School, said. “Because students in high school, they don’t sometimes know what trail they’re gonna follow in life, so it’s good to try different things so that they can eliminate or maybe find that hidden gem that they didn’t know that they would be interested in and they find out that they are.”
Take more rigorous courses
“You don’t have to take AP, or honors, or IB courses, or dual credit courses to get into college,” Riley said. “But those courses will help better prepare you because they’re more rigorous, they focus on time management, study skills, critical thinking, thinking outside the box, so you’re prepared for those types of things when you enter college.
Participate in some extracurriculars
“A lot of times when we think about extracurricular activities, we think about the different types of sports we can be involved in,” Riley said. “But we also encourage you to do different clubs and organizations on our campus, fine arts classes, and service oriented programs like AVID, or Key Club, National Honor Society.
“People who have been to college can help support you…through the application process, through all the questions, your English teachers can help you write essays. You might be majoring in engineering and so you might want a letter of recommendation from your math or science teacher or your CTE teacher that you had an engineering class with or something like that,” Riley said.
Work on life skills
“Just those little basic life needs that you might not think about because your mom or your dad or your grandma or grandpa or whoever’s always taking care of it for you, but when you go off the college, you gotta know how to do those things.”
Start preparing for the SAT/ACT
Riley said Garland ISD provides free PSATs and one free SAT for Juniors, and students are encouraged to use resources like Khan Academy to prepare for those exams.
Stay on top of things even before the school year starts
“My number one advice would be not to procrastinate and to follow the college’s timelines,” Riley said. “When they get to college and they register for their classes, immediately pull up your syllabi, use a planner, or a calendar so that they know when everything’s due so that they can plan out their timeline of when everything’s due so they don’t get behind in their studies.”
Talk to your academic advisor and take advantage of the resources on campus
“I think an academic advisor can help them make sure that they’re following the degree plan that they need to be following,” Riley said. She also recommended students go to their college’s student services center and find tutors, and make friends in classes to have group study.
Embrace the change
“It’s an adventure. It’s a new phase of your life and we learn through life experiences, and so you have to live the experience. Don’t be afraid of it, embrace it.”
Seek proper help
“Last school year, a lot of students were using vapes as a way of coping with stress or just with life,” Litza Bodden, former crisis therapist for Garland ISD, said. Bodden also said relying on friends instead of seeking out professional help is not a recommended coping mechanism as it can overwhelm their peers and they might not always give the most accurate advice.
Be familiar with the mental health resources on campus
“Especially here in Texas, most of the major colleges have a counseling center that is free for students, and they’re able to go to it and get those services and support,” Bodden said.
Prioritize your overall health, even during exams
“They’re going to need to learn time management and how to manage their stress as well,” Bodden said. “Learning relaxation techniques, like deep breathing and mindfulness to reduce some of those stress levels.”
Recognize the signs of an unhealthy relationship
Be sure to ask yourself these questions when you or a loved one may not be in a healthy relationship.
“If this person is controlling or trying to isolate you,” Bodden said. “Trying to keep you from your goals and the things that you want to do for yourself? If this person wants all their time and is not understanding is not validating their emotions, all those things play a big part in it.”
Be careful who you share your location with
“Why am I sharing my location with this person each minute?,” Bodden said. “Why do they need to know where I’m at? Is it because of safety or is it because they’re trying to control me?”
Make a plan if you choose to go out
“If I do decide to drink alcohol, do I have the Uber or the lift app downloaded already on my phone,” Bodden said. “Do I have a way to get home? Are we going to use a buddy system, right? Are we going to have a person that is sober in the group? Things of that nature. Do I need to every time I go out to drink or to take drugs? Because that’s part of the reality, even though they might not be of age to drink or might not be of age to consume certain things, they still are still doing it, so just taking those precautions before even going out.”
Jennifer Igbonoba is a sophomore at George Washington University where she is studying economics and journalism. She was a 2021 Fellow in the Scripps Howard Program at the University of North Texas and this is her second internship with I Messenger Media.