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Preparing for the College Transition

by Brendon Cadmen '13 with Laurie Schreiner, Ph.D.

Transitioning from high school to college can be an experience that is both exciting and daunting. Perhaps you're moving far from family and friends, or feeling overwhelmed by the task of establishing yourself in a new environment.

The good news—it doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks to many people who have gone before you, a wealth of information and resources exist to help new students enter into the college experience. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for this important transition:

Learn how to handle freedom: Congratulations! You're now in college, which means you can make your own decisions for many areas of life. Have you wondered what it would be like to switch to nocturnal sleeping habits? Is it your heart’s desire to live on a diet of Doritos and marshmallow fluff? No one is going to stop you, but that doesn’t mean you should do it. Start developing a plan for managing finances, diet, sleep patterns, work/class schedule, etc., as soon as you can. Save yourself unnecessary pain by planning in advance for how to manage your newfound freedom.

Having roommates is hard: At APU, we place a high value on diversity. However, along with a diverse student body comes a diverse range of values, habits, and expectations that may clash at times. Nowhere is this more evident than in roommate relationships. Take a little extra time in the beginning of the semester to set some ground rules with your roommates, and we’re willing to bet that your roommate experience will be smoother as a result.

Your education is your responsibility: It is your responsibility to show up to class. Moreover, it is your responsibility to engage in the class material. That means that you should plan on raising your hand in class, often. It means you should look at the professor instead of the clock or the text message that just buzzed in on your phone. And yes, it means that you should plan to spend time outside the classroom preparing for your time inside the classroom.

Your faith will probably be challenged: If your beliefs have never been put under the microscope before, get ready. Students typically emerge stronger and more sure of themselves and their faith if they are exposed to healthy challenges throughout their college experience. This process may seem uncomfortable and even overwhelming at times, but look at it as an opportunity to have healthy discussions with peers and faculty, and as a time to better understand what you believe.

Attending an institution of higher learning is an incredibly important life decision. It will require a significant amount of energy, responsibility, and effort. It won’t always be easy or fun, but these four years can be a rewarding and positively life-changing experience. Embrace the opportunities and challenges of this transition, and take advantage of the resources and people around you to support you on your journey.

Note: Laurie Schreiner, Ph.D., contributed to the tips in this article. Schreiner chairs the doctoral programs in the Department of Higher Education at Azusa Pacific University, and brings more than 30 years of experience in higher education. She also works closely with the annual Thriving Conference, which seeks to increase levels of retention and opportunities for students to develop and thrive academically, interpersonally, and intrapersonally.