It doesn’t matter what college you get accepted into, but rather the fact you got accepted. Using myself as an example, I had a 2.2 GPA graduating high school. Fast forward to my impending senior year, I have an associates degree I obtained with a 3.43 GPA, and a Cum Laude distinction; thankfully, scholarships and grants that keep me out of debt, and a 3.4 GPA entering my senior year (GPA doesn’t carry over from school to school).
Many questions more than likely arise trying to decipher how this happened, and I have answers. Initially, my mindset was university or bust pertaining to where I’d enroll after high school graduation, but I also knew cost effectiveness was a major key (They don’t want you to avoid going into debt. The they I’m talking about is Fafsa). And remember, I had a 2.2, so I had to humble myself. State school it was.
Just so you know, there are 14 state schools, and none of them are Temple University, or Penn State University. You can check out the full list here.
So, I researched the cheapest state schools in Pennsylvania, avoiding out of state costs. Prices varied mainly because of room and board. I zoned in on the following: California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University, and Lock Haven University. Slippery Rock, where I’m at now, didn’t come into play until the summer of 2016 when they offered more money than front runner Clarion.
However, everyone’s experience is subjective, but after research I found 15 tips, according to Livecareer, that generally apply to everyone. A few resonating tips from the list were: start early, know yourself, reduce your list of colleges and universities, get organized, apply early (don’t just start early), and write killer application essays (Indeed, I did. I credited that as the sole reason my 2.2 GPA got accepted into all three universities here).
Okay, you’re in. For me, I was in, but I didn’t want to be in debt after college graduation, so I enrolled into community college, specifically Montgomery County Community College. So, many of the pitfalls I’m about to warn you about I escaped by default, as I was going to class Tuesday-Thursday from 11am-10pm my freshman year. And, 1:30pm-9pm Monday-Thursday my sophomore year. For the weekend, I was working 25-30 hours a week saving up for when I transferred.
Obviously, there are academic pitfalls you need to avoid, but, I’m also going to expose you to the social aspect of college you’re about to indulge in.
Starting with the academics, your freshman year should be devoted to establishing a strong GPA, as it’s harder to bring it up as the semesters fly by. Establishing a strong GPA is key when it comes to you applying to university scholarships later on. Oh, that’s another thing, you can apply for scholarships you weren’t eligible for as an incoming freshman the following year, so it’s important you have the GPA to back up your scholarship inquiries.
In addition, don’t do too much your freshman year. There’s no need to declare a minor, as you pick that up in your junior or senior year when you’ve completed classes unknowingly toward your desired minor. For example, I’m a communication major, but had nine of those credits count towards an English minor, so needing only three more courses I declared English as my minor. But, make sure the minor makes sense for your major as well as mine did.
As a freshman, focus on liberal studies courses, sprinkling in a few major related courses. Again, find balance. You don’t want to be a junior in Introduction to Psychology, but you don’t want your senior year to be solely major related courses. That’s my advice, and here’s what Collegeboard suggested. They discussed extra circulars. Indeed, you need to join them for networking purposes, and you need to create a LinkedIn account as well (Go to career services).
But, I’m putting more emphasis on establishing a strong GPA, but it’s subjective. So, if you think you can handle your first full time college roster and extra circulars at the same time then do it. Personally, I’d wait until around midterms first semester to join extra circulars. At that point, you know what to expect inside the classroom, and can find the balance. I’d rather miss out on a half semester of participating in extra circulars than join right away, and be put out due to grades.
Before I get to the social aspect of college, you should also know to select your class times wisely. I don’t believe 8am classes should exist, and you should avoid them if you can, as you’ll be up late at night completing assignments.
Pertaining to the social aspect of college, freshmen are typically mandated to live on campus their first year. If so, this is a blessing in disguise. Living off campus is glamorous, as you can essentially do what you want, but coming out of high school that’s not what’s best for you, and your parents’ money. Please, don’t indulge in alcohol or drugs during the weekend, if you must use them. Also, don’t stash them for a friend in your dorm, as if you get caught you’re going down.
To round things out, put yourself out there. As previously stated, I transferred into my university as a junior, and didn’t have the luxury of living in the dorms with my entire class my first year of college, but you more than likely will.
So, take advantage of this, and introduce yourself to essentially every one you meet. (A bit weird, but what’s worse: being nicely weird or being a loner your upperclassmen years of college?) Freshman dorm doors are almost always open, so walk in to introduce yourself (knock first). I don’t have all the answers, but I can tell you what worked for me, and what pitfalls I fell into. Coincidentally, a friend of mine has a YouTube channel where she offered her advice as well.