What are some important things a high school senior should know before going to college?
College isn’t like high school. There is no hand holding. At all. You can’t expect a professor to even know your name, let alone care about you. That isn’t their job. Some may take an interest in you, but that isn’t the norm, nor is it the expectation.I recommend that you spend your first year in the dorms if you're going directly into a university. Many universities make this a requirement, sometimes allowing you to go into private housing (usually apartments) after your first semester. My advice? Don’t. You’ll make friends in college. Many of those will be your dorm mates. Your roommate may become your best friend. More importantly, your dorm will have some kind of resident adviser (RA) who can help you out. When I served as an RA at UC Davis, my job was to check on my residents, provide social programming, advise on class scheduling, etc. Be nice to your RA. Their job isn’t easy.You need to hit the ground running with both feet under you. Read everything you get. This includes how to get your classes, how to get housing, how to get your books, etc. They will give you packets. Read and understand everything, especially your requirements for graduation.Your course syllabuses aren’t what you’d expect based upon your high school experience. Your syllabus will tell you not only how the course is run, it will also tell you when everything happens. The moment you get access to your syllabus, program every date into your phone or whatever you use as a calendar. You can never claim that you “didn’t know” if it was on the syllabus. Review your syllabuses regularly to make sure you don’t forget something.When you’re in college, don’t expect the instructor to take attendance. You have a free hand. You can often skip classes. No one will say anything. This is a trap. Do not skip courses. Ever. Not if you’re tired. Not if you’re sick. Not to catch up on another class. Not if you’re sick. Just don’t do it. Ever. The day you skip a class is the day something important will happen.When you are assigned to read something, just glossing over it doesn’t count. You have to actually read. Carefully. You have to understand. My suggestion? Get a couple of people in the class and talk to them about the readings. Stay ahead of the game. Don’t read the night before. Take notes. Mark up your book, use sticky notes, etc. Summarize things. Do whatever you think you need to do. Hopefully your high school teachers prepared you for that.Get involved in some things. Don’t overdo it, but college is more than just classes. There will be some great opportunities to network. You’ll make friends, meet future colleagues, and learn about a lot of things. Open yourself up to that. Have some fun! Just remember that learning comes first.College is a great way of divorcing yourself from the crap you don’t need in your life. Fill your time with good stuff. Cut off television. Stop playing video games. Just go on a diet from “crap” for a while. You’d be surprised how much that will help you. The time you’ll save will be a great benefit.This also includes being noticed in classes. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be the annoying guy who is constantly answering. No one really likes him, including your professors. On the other hand, not being noticed is a waste. Consider this… you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars on this experience. Let’s say that you get straight As in all of your classes. You work your butt off. You graduate. You get your diploma. Now what? Get a job? From whom? On the other hand, if you stand out just enough, your professors will know who you are and might just help you out with that next phase of your life.Do some long term planning. Not a really hard, detailed plan. Maybe a better way of describing it is “don’t let doors close if you can help it.” As an example, don’t plan to stop at a BA. When I finished my BA, I figured I was done, at least for a while. It wasn’t until years later that I realized that I wanted my MA. Then I had to figure out how to afford it. If I’d just continued from my BA, I’d have had my funding covered. Once I got a job, all of that dried up.