If you’ve committed to starting college this year, you’re about to embark on a journey unlike any experienced by previous classes. While colleges’ fall reopening plans vary, one thing you’ll have in common with your fellow freshmen is you’ll be planning for one heck of a unique semester.
Even if you have to remain somewhat socially distant, you can still transition from high school to college successfully, creating lasting memories with your classmates and professors along the way.
From purchasing school supplies to exploring extracurriculars, here are some tips for how to prepare for your first year of college during the coronavirus pandemic.
Remember how quickly schools and businesses shifted to remote learning and working in the spring? The fact that COVID-19 spreads so quickly means even the best laid plans for school reopenings could change before you even set foot on campus.
To avoid missing out on important updates regarding back-to-school planning, pay attention to the messages your school releases regarding reopening efforts.
- If you’ve already been given a university email address, either make it a priority to check it frequently, or forward the messages to an email you regularly log in to.
- Visit your school’s website often to look for notices indicating any changes, like move-in schedules, updated registration deadlines, remote course policies, or even dining options.
- If your school offers it, consider signing up for text message alerts to get notifications in real time.
- Bookmark or keep a list of the contact information of relevant campus services, such as the financial aid office, health center, and campus safety.
While you might feel nervous about starting school during a pandemic, having easy access to the information you’ll need to stay safe and healthy can help.
Get Your School Supplies in Order
Depending on where you live, you might be taking some (or all!) of your classes online your first semester of college. To avoid any hiccups your first week of classes, consider taking some time to get all of your tech gear and school supplies in order before school starts.
- Set your computer up and test out your wifi to confirm everything is connected and running as quickly as you need it to. If you’ll be living with family and there’s a chance you’ll need to be using your devices at the same time, practice what that experience is like so you can prepare to make adjustments as needed.
- If you already know which classes you’ll be taking, order and/or download your textbooks in advance so you can be sure they’ll be there for you in time for your first assignment.
- Take a little bit of time to get to know your professors, whether by researching them online, reading an article they’ve published, or sending a quick email to say hello. Especially if you’ll be taking classes remotely, it might take some extra effort to stand out and build a relationship.
- Invest in a pair of noise-cancelling headphones if you feel you’ll need them, and set up a workspace that feels comfortable, whether that’s a spot in your dorm room or a nook in the kitchen at your parents’. Funny sticky notes and cute journals can help you get organized while showing off your personality.
No matter where you’ll be studying physically, being a college student involves balancing classes with other activities like clubs and possibly even a part-time job. In addition to making sure you have all of the technical resources you need to get started, you might also consider downloading some apps to help you practice your time management skills.
Start Exploring Clubs and Majors that Interest You
If you’re not sure what career path you want to take after graduation, or which major you’d like to declare, don’t be afraid to use the time leading up to your first year to do a little exploring!
- Connect with your college advisers who can work with you to discover which classes will give you the chance to learn more about topics that interest you while also helping you progress toward graduation. By getting in touch with your advisers early on in your college career, you might avoid having to cram in a ton of credits your junior and senior years to graduate on time.
- Research the different clubs and organizations offered at your future school, and even consider reaching out to current members to hear about their unique experiences. Whether you like history, are curious about Greek life, or have a passion for crafting, see which clubs pique your interest… or look into starting your own! Even if you aren’t able to get together in person this semester, being able to meet up virtually with people you share interests with is a great way to make new friends in college.
- If your school has a social media presence with class-specific groups, you might want to join them in order to introduce yourself to other members of your graduating class. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to connect with those who are also transitioning from high school to college, even if it’s just to know you’re not alone.
It’s always nice to make friends, and having familiar faces to help you adjust to college life is well worth spending some time making an effort.
Making the Most of Uncertain Times
The expected impact of schools reopening post-COVID will depend on many factors including social distancing, contact tracing, mask wearing, testing, and isolation. Each school and state may develop its own set of guidelines to follow, and all very likely need to be adaptable to changing circumstances.
While this can make the already-difficult transition from high school to college a bit scarier, it doesn’t mean you can’t have an amazing first year experience at school! By preparing in advance and bringing a few comforts of home along with you, you can still make new friends, learn exciting things and, above all else, create lifelong memories.