In junior high and high school, you had an idea of what to expect when you returned to class in the fall: a similar schedule, same buildings, many of the same classmates and even some of the same teachers.
Starting college or trade school classes is a totally different story.
Scheduling is very different. The work load is greatly increased. You're in totally new surroundings, and you've likely never seen any of these people before.
To help you avoid some of the rookie mistakes (because no one likes feeling like a freshman all over again) and get you started on the right foot, here’s some unique tips for going back to school, post-high school:
Tip #1: Get a head start on re-setting your internal sleep clock
Whether you’ve spent your summer in leisure or working a job, chances are your body clock is not currently in sync with your upcoming class schedule. You can slowly adjust your wake-up time and avoid grogginess by setting an alarm slightly earlier every few mornings before the start of term. While you may never quite feel ready to bounce out of bed for an 8 a.m. lecture, at least you can avoid falling asleep and drooling on your notes.
Also: While everyone knows how we should be getting at least eight hours of sleep a night, remember that your sleep needs will vary based on stress level (which will be elevated now that you’re being introduced to post-secondary education), the strength of your immune system (more on sickness later), and how much of a light or heavy sleeper you are. Eight hours in bed doesn’t always equal eight hours of quality sleep, so shoot for more whenever possible.
Tip #2: Wait to do your supplies shopping until you figure out what you really need
Back-to-school shopping can be exciting, especially when many states offer tax breaks. But to avoid getting carried away and over-spending on extra stuff you don't need, try going to class for the first week or so, before you do your shopping. Take a few essentials leftover from last year (notebook, pencil), and take the time to get the syllabus from the teacher, figure what you really need, and how you'll need to organize for that class. An exception to this rule, of course, is if you've been told to come to class on the first week with certain supplies at the ready. Then, of course, buy those A.S.A.P.
Tip #3: Take Yourself on a Tour/”Reconnaissance Mission”
Guided campus tours are great, but they’re more about orienting large groups of new students to the campus overall, rather than showing you the quickest ways to get from Point A to Point B. Once you know your schedule, take the time to figure out where your classrooms are (classroom buildings can be trickier to navigate than you might think) and get an idea of your personal best routes from class to class. Also remember: when and where will you take a break to study? Eat lunch?
If you’re commuting to campus, take the time to scope out your driving route and parking options – nothing is more frustrating that running late for class on the first day because you got stuck in traffic and couldn’t find a place to park. You also don’t want to get towed from a parking lot you didn’t realize was restricted because you were in too much of a rush to see the sign.
Tip #4: Dig Up Your Shot Records
Many schools require new students to submit to vaccinations, the most common being the meningitis vaccine. Young people, especially those who live in close quarters and may eat and drink together (read: in college dorms, cafeterias and classrooms) are especially at risk for this disease. Meningitis initially masquerades as the common cold before raising your body temperature to dangerous levels, for which there is no cure, so getting the vaccine now – as well as any boosters you may be due for – is in your best interest. And (if you’re like most people) you’ve probably lost track of when /if you had a Hepatitis A or B series, which is something the health professional administering your vaccines may want to know.
Plan ahead, watch your budget and stay healthy, and you’ll be laying the foundation for a great year of career training. Whatever you choose to study, choose to do it well and give it everything you’ve got. Your future deserves nothing less.