So you’re getting ready to go to college—and you’re scared. About more things than you can even wrap your head around. The good news is that’s perfectly normal. The even better news is that you can start feeling better now. Margot Myers, program manager of TRiO Student Support Services at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford, offers some tips to lighten your college-prep stress load:
1. I have no idea what to major in
It’s OK not to know yet; a lot of universities allow you to apply undeclared. Besides, no one ever said your major would be set in stone as soon as you declared it. You can change you major five or six times, transfer to a new school after your freshman year and still graduate with a double major and two minors in four years while holding down a part-time job.
2. I know exactly what I want to study, but everyone keeps saying I’ll change my mind
It’s perfectly fine to know exactly what you want and go for it. Any naysayers either don’t realize just how passionate you are, or they care deeply about your happiness and success and want to be extra sure that you’re on the right path. As long as you know what’s right for you, shake off the negativity and move forward—just don’t ignore the forks in the road, they might lead you someplace amazing after all.
3. So many new people! Where will I find friends?
Start with your roommate(s), because it’s important to have a good relationship with the people you live with. You might not end up best friends, but it’s worth a try. Join three groups or organizations when you first get to campus: an academic club related to your field of study, a fun organization focused on something that interests you (consider Greek life, a service organization or a special interest group) and one group you never thought you’d join (if you’ve never even touched a Play Station controller, consider a video gaming club). You can always quit if you don’t like it—the important thing is you’ve met new people, learned something and tried something new.
4. How can I handle college-level courses?
Every campus offers tutoring, a writing center or some kind of place to get help. It’s all free, so take advantage of it. Your professor will appreciate the extra effort. Find a mentor—an upperclassman in your department, your academic advisor or a professor whose class you love. Make sure your professor gets a good first impression: be on time for class, sit in the front and go to office hours (even if you don’t have a question—make one up for an excuse to stop by).
5. Who’s going to pay for all this?
Ask your high school guidance counselor, do a Google search and create a profile on fastweb.com. The wider a net you cast, the more scholarship opportunities you’ll snag. Assembling applications can be daunting, but a lot of requirements overlap and the work will (literally) pay off. Apply even if you don’t think you’ll get the scholarship, it’s always worth a try. If you qualify for work study, start looking for a job on campus before you get there because positions are limited and fill up fast.