Most parents give lots of advice to their children before they go away to college for the first time. They discuss study skills and choosing majors and (hopefully) how to do laundry. Here is a list for both parents and students of some of the things that they might not think of.
1) Surprisingly to many people, most college professors DO take attendance at each class and most schools have a clear policy about the number of absences you are allowed. There seems to be a myth being perpetuated that in college, teachers do not care whether or not you show up as long as you know the material. I know that this was told to me many times when I was in high school and after attending college myself and discussing it with friends at other universities we all found this to be a false statement. You might find the occasional large, lecture classroom where the teacher simply sends around a sign-in sheet instead of actually taking roll, but in most cases you should really plan to attend all your classes. One would think this goes without saying, but it doesn’t hurt to actually say it. It is college after all… some people think studying is only the second reason to enroll.
2) Credit cards are more than just a free t-shirt. There has been an ever-increasing trend of credit card companies targeting college students. They give cards with low limits even if you have no verifiable income as long as you are a student. The thought process behind this is that most freshmen will have no problem at all charging up $500 or more, and if they suddenly realize that they can’t make the payments most likely their parents will bail them out so that they don’t have to start their “real-world” lives with credit problems. This makes it a good risk for the creditors, but NOT for the students (or their parents)! Keep in mind that a $20/month minimum payment doesn’t sound like much at all until it’s November and you have run through the money that was supposed to last you the semester and you are scrounging for quarters to do your laundry. That $20 payment goes up very quickly after it is missed only once and 29.9% interest, late fees and over-limit fees can turn $500 into $1000 in a hurry. That’s a very expensive “free” t-shirt.
3) Don’t be fooled by tv shows portraying fake college campuses. Dorm rooms are small. You cannot bring a big screen tv, furniture and every item of clothing you own. Expect a small desk, small chest of drawers and small wardrobe. Emphasis is on small. Plan carefully for what you will bring with you. If the school gives you contact info for your new roommate, get in touch with them and discuss who will bring big items like tv, stereo, fridge… You probably won’t have room for extras of things like that and it’s easier to plan ahead then try to figure out how to get something back home when you are moving in to a school halfway across the country. Bring fall and winter clothes and rotate them during your breaks. You don’t want to be climbing over your summer clothes every time you try to get into bed.
4) Don’t be surprised if your first semester or two of classes seem remarkably similar to your high school classes. This is especially true if you were taking advanced level classes in high school. Most of the first year of college is survey classes to weed out people who really are not prepared for college and to catch up people whose high schools may not have had as advanced of a curriculum. Be patient and take advantage of the refresher in some classes to give you time to finish the work in the classes that you didn’t take in high school. For example, if you were someone who took AP Biology in high school you probably won’t have that much trouble with your intro level science, but you might be overwhelmed by the 10 books you have to read and write papers on for your English survey. This also works in the reverse. Remember, most schools want you to be well-rounded so they will require that you take at least one introductory class in every subject. This can be lots of fun though so enjoy it. After all, you never know when you might take that required class and discover a new passion for Art History or Anthropology.
5) Yes, you can get kicked out of your dorm for being too noisy, or having candles in your room, or getting caught with drugs or alcohol, or any of the other rules that your specific building may have. The rules are there for reasons and although some of them may seem silly to you, the bottom line is that there were almost certainly at least 50 people who were rejected from housing because there wasn’t enough room for them who would be more than happy to follow the rules and take your spot. The school knows this and they are on the lookout for troublemakers from the beginning. Trying to find housing near your school mid-semester on a college freshman’s budget is very tricky. Don’t risk it.
These are just a few of the things that are important for every new college student to know. There are lots of other things that you probably won’t find out until you get to school either. Just remember that you can never be completely prepared and part of college is learning to adapt to new situations. There are people at the school who can help you out and that is an important thing to remember too. Make friends with your Resident Advisor, try to develop relationships with your professors and join study groups and campus organizations. The support network that you build for yourself is the thing that will get you through the tough times and help you graduate with, not only a diploma, but a sense of confidence that will serve you well in your future endeavors.