Advice for Incoming College Freshmen
Planning for college during your senior year of high school can result in feeling stressed about deadlines, expectations, and the future. Just in case you’re thinking otherwise, getting ready for college is difficult, but it’s doable, especially if you’re aware of what to expect and the resources available to help with the transition from high school to college.
Knowing what I do now as a junior at Southeastern and hoping to encourage you, here is some advice for incoming freshman.
(I also encourage you to check out The Modern Guide to College by our very own Dr. Kent Ingle, which gives you even more helpful college preparation information, plus guidance on how to navigate college and life after graduation!)
Don’t Let Senioritis Prevent You from Finishing Strong
With a growing list of responsibilities, it can be tempting to completely forget the first half of the principle “Work hard, play hard.” Have fun, but make time to finish getting community service hours. Complete assignments on time. Fill out those scholarship applications. Prep for standardized tests.
When it comes to the SAT and ACT, study the subject areas being tested and how to take the test. If you can, take each test at least twice. Not only may you perform better with one format than the other, but you will likely score higher the second time the test is taken. (Some colleges may superscore results, combining the highest score earned in each subject area.) Keep a record of your scores for your own reference, even if you have already sent your scores to potential colleges. They may be useful for scholarships and other opportunities.
Picking a School
It’s important to find a school that works best for you. (Not the school where you’re expected to go or the school where your boyfriend, girlfriend, or friends plan to go.) College fairs are great resources to learn general information about several schools in one place, directly from a school’s representative.
To find a school that best fits you, first think about what conditions enable you to thrive and then things you would like to experience in college. The colleges you apply to may not meet all of these standards but they should, at least, have the ones most vital to your success. Consider the following questions: Does the school have your intended major? If you’re unsure of what you want to study (which, contrary to popular belief, is allowed!), does the university have programs you’re interested in? What security, transportation, tutoring, mental health services, and accommodations does the college provide? What’s the community and weather like around the university? What programs are in place to help widen your perspective?
Visit the colleges you’re thinking of attending. Touring a school in person will likely be very different from just viewing the university online. For SEU, prospective students can participate in Visit Events to experience staying in a dorm room, athletic and other campus events, and attending classes and chapel services, and lots more.
The Application Process
Colleges and universities typically provide online applications, though physical forms may also be available. Know which application your schools of interest accept (Coalition, Common App, an application specific to the university, etc.) along with their requirements and deadlines. Colleges also request prospective students submit supplemental materials such as high school/home school and college transcripts and official SAT or ACT scores. Schools may ask for letters of recommendation, a resume, and a portfolio of your work as well. Here are some things to keep in mind when filling out applications:
College applications tend to have similar prompts. It may not be necessary to write an entirely new essay for each school. Instead, revise pieces of your work so that it is catered to each school’s prompt.
Ask for recommendation letters at least two weeks before you need them. It’s a good idea to provide the writer(s) with a list of your accomplishments, hobbies, community service, etc. This allows the writer a sufficient amount of time and information to create a personalized letter.
Make sure to send any AP and CLEP test scores to your admission counselor so they have an accurate picture of the credit hours you have already earned.
Deadlines for first-time applicants range from November to January to even later, depending on the school. For example, at SEU, our priority deadline for admission is February 1 and the standard admission deadline is May 1 (which is commonly recognized as National Decision Day.*)
Paying for College
Regardless of the school you decide to attend, creating a plan for such an investment is paramount to your success. This plan should always include completing the FAFSA (which opens annually on October 1) and filling out scholarships. Colleges and universities provide various scholarship, grant, and loan options which are based on financial need, merit, major or program, athletic ability, and heritage. Numerous organizations and other third parties offer scholarships based on everything from having a unique characteristic to merit to your plans to better the world. Below are some financial factors to keep in mind.
Public, out-of-state schools are generally more expensive to attend. However, tuition at private, out-of-state universities is often the same for in- and out-of-state students (as is the case with SEU).
Think about traveling costs and plans for schools that are far away, and the cost of living on and off campus. (For example, SEU is located centrally between two major airports, making it quick and easy for our students to catch flights home as needed.)
Look for the best deals on textbooks. Depending on the text, college bookstores can be the most affordable option if they, like SEU, price match and offer book rentals. Also check out sources like Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Chegg which sell books in various conditions and prices.
Take into account expenses for electronics, dorm supplies, personal items, your school’s student activity fee, and vehicle maintenance (if applicable).
Other Things to Consider
Be sure that you’re up-to-date on medical visits and make copies of important records (health documents, insurance, etc.).
Read. It will increase and improve your vocabulary, creativity, and perspective (and give you a nice break from your to-do list).
Ask for help. Yes, college is a time to be more independent, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help when you need it, whether it be from your school guidance counselor, college admission counselor, family, or mentor.
Lastly, if you allow them to, old issues will follow you into college. Take charge of your mental health and address matters that will hinder your personal and spiritual growth, whether that be through immediate conflict resolution or creating a plan to deal with these issues during college.
I know this is a lot of information, but don’t be overwhelmed. You can do this — and there are several more passionate, confused, growing, sleep-deprived college students to help you along the way.
* Please note that SEU’s priority & standard deadlines allow for students to finalize their admission and housing sooner, and give them the best chance at finding the most financial aid possible. However, students can be accepted after these dates.
This article is full of advice from a current college student, but how about taking this all a step further and getting in-depth advice directly from a college president? The Modern Guide to College, by our very own Dr. Kent Ingle, will give you all this plus advice on how to navigate college once you’re here, how to find a job after graduation, and much more.
By Jordan Fleming, Student Writer