15 tips to help you survive and thrive in college

By Jess Gersh, Director of College Persistence

Going back to school can be exciting…and daunting, especially when you’re headed into an entirely new environment. When you’re making the jump from high school to college, you’re in for major changes, and fast! Since many of our graduating seniors from 2015 are now starting college, we wanted to pass along the advice our KIPP Through College counselors gave them. Our alumni persistence team, made up of Julian Forde, Lucie Coates, Shae McPherson and me, put together a list of 15 tips we think our students, and anyone else starting college, could use.

  1. The ‘Freshman 15’ weight gain is a real thing!
  2. “Microwave popcorn and Ramen Noodles are midnight diet essentials.” said Forde … Clearly I agreed, until I came home in December, fifteen pounds heavier!
  3. While it’s great to make new friends, keep in touch with your KTC counselor! We are here to help you but we can’t help unless we know what is going on – keep us in the loop.
  4. It also helps to have a network of support on campus. Talk to your professors and visit their office hours. Some students feel intimidated but your professor’s job is to help you – take advantage. It’s also good to build relationships with other people on campus like your RA, an EOF counselor, an advisor, a teacher’s assistant someone from Residential Life, the Financial Aid office, etc.
  5. Check your email! It’s the 21st century and people convey a lot of important information via email. Check your email at least twice a day and respond to emails within 48 hours. You don’t want to miss out on important information from your school, professors or KTC counselor, of course.
  6. “The optional reading is not really optional,” Lucie Coates warns her students. There is always something from the optional readings that pops up on tests, in lectures or in conversation. Make sure that at the very least, you skim the “optional” readings. Of course you shouldn’t miss ANY of the required readings and should read those in more depth.
  7. “What worked in high school will not work in college!” – Keep in mind that as you leave high school and go into a completely new setting, the tricks and strategies that worked in high school might need to change in college. It’s just different.
  8. “Be open minded, adapt to circumstance, advocate for yourself and step outside your comfort zone,” said Shae McPherson when asked what advice he wish he gave his freshman self. For kids coming from a small high school like ours, college can take some getting used to. You have to speak up when you need something. It’s also a perfect opportunity to try new things that take you out of your current comfort zone!
  9. Ms. Coates wishes she knew how to structure 20-page papers and the whole team agreed that would’ve helped them too! Take advantage of the writing center. It’s free help; why wouldn’t you?
  10. Take advantage of your Add/Drop Period! This is the only time in the semester that you can drop a class without it showing up on your transcript and you can also add other classes. You can think of the Add/Drop period like a store’s return window – if you return something within the given time frame, you can get a full refund but after that time period, you get penalized. Some things to consider during Add/Drop:
    • Can I handle the coursework for my classes (look at your syllabi)?
    • Does my schedule work? Can I make it to all my classes on time?
    • Does my professor compliment my working style?
    • Am I on track to earn enough credits for my major?
  11. Get to all of your classes, ALL the time. One of the biggest reasons students fail classes is because they miss even just a few classes and their grade drops. Or, they miss important material that is hard to grasp just from reading a friend’s notes. If you really can’t make it, reach out to your professor, make arrangements to get notes from a friend and make sure you are familiar with the attendance policy.
  12. Don’t wait for an end of semester surprise grade! Download the “Grades 3” app, plug in your syllabi information and start tracking your grades at the beginning of the year. Not only won’t you have any surprise grades, you can make sure to catch a mistake if your professor makes one – we’re all humans after all.  
  13. Get Involved. Participate in an extracurricular activity like a club, sports team (even intramural), a fraternity/sorority or the student council. These activities will keep you active and social. Bonus –they look great on your resume, too!
  14. Be prepared to feel overwhelmed. You’ve got a lot going on right now and there will be times when you feel like it’s all way too much to take on. At those points reach out to your support system. We got you.
  15. Work hard. Be nice. Have fun.

Did we miss something you think would be helpful to college freshmen? Let us know in the comments below!

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This is a guest post on the KIPP New Jersey Blog. More information about the author can be found in the title line or in the brief bio at the end of their guest post.
  • Roman Ricketts

    I will definitely keep all this in mind thanks for the tips.