Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Getting ready for the changes of college: 5 ways to ease the transition

I know college is a long way off for those who will be graduating from high school this year, but now is the time you need to start thinking about who you are as a person and how you are going to carry that person on into the next stage of your life. 

The following is a list of 5 things you should commit to implementing in your life this summer so that by the fall you will already have tools for success in place. These are based on things I wish I had known before entering college and things I watch other struggle with as a teacher. 

1) Don’t drop everything about your old life
This is absolutely positively the most important piece of advice I can give someone getting ready to enter college. Yes, there will be new opportunities. Yes, there will be new friends and new jobs and new things to do and see and experience. However, don’t drop everything that you were and run. This will leave you feeling like you have no idea who you are which can lead to depression and anxiety and just generally terrible feelings.

Make a commitment to retain the things that are most important to you. This can include committing to keeping up with friends who are at different schools or intentionally maintaining close contact with your family. It might mean continuing parts of your routine like sports or exercise or other activities. Or this might mean identifying the values that are most important to you and then developing strategies for maintaining these values.

Take 30 minutes today to brain storm the parts of your life that you feel make you most like "you". Then decide how you will commit yourself to retaining those parts of yourself for the summer and then into the fall. 

2) Have a stress relief system in place

Yes, high school was stressful. And college will also be stressful. But, without a productive and consistent way to relieve stress in your life you will end up overwhelmed, miserable, and possibly with horrible grades before Christmas break. 

The most important aspect of this is that you should developed a system, which means a set of strategies you draw on when stressful situations may arise. The point o this pool of strategies is that you have enough experience with all of the tools that you can intentionally choose a tool that will be helpful in just about any situation. 

Take 30 minutes tomorrow to read through my suggestions for stress management tools as well as to do a quick search for other lists that might apply to you. Choose one strategy to put into place this week, one for next week and one for the week after. That way in three weeks time you can have three solid strategies you have practiced and you can keep adding to your list of tools.

3) Pick organization tools 

I know that high school students were busy, but the inconsistent nature of college class schedules mixed the the accompanying inconsistent job schedule can cause a lot of unneeded stress. 

After you have analyzed the parts of your life you plan to keep and brainstormed some stress management tools, take 30 minutes to read through my list of different types of organizational tools. Choose one (or a few) that you feel will really help you and commit  to using one of the systems all summer long. If it doesn't work, adjust. If it does work, stick with in when school starts.

4) Seriously, utilize Facebook

I know this sounds like a no-brainier. I know you have probably had a Facebook for years. But I also know you are going to miss the people you are used to spending every day with in class.

There is also a lot of bad press out there about the negative effects of social media. However, they thing they forget to mention is that pretty much every new "thing" in history every has gotten bad press in the beginning. I want you to take some time this summer to make sure you are ready to actually "utilize", as in make it work for you, Facebook rather than just haphazardly "using" Facebook.

Read more about how to really utilize Facebook.

I'm not going to give you an assignment for this one because it should really be a life-long commitment to making sure you are ready for both the professional and social role that Facebook and other social media does play in our world. Take it upon yourself to make these tools work FOR you instead of simply letting them keep you from doing homework. 

5) Commit to proactively prevent stress
This goes back to number 2. But, I believe that this is so important that I put it on the list twice. In #2 you can find strategies so what I want you to do for number 5 is RIGHT NOW, before you start college and the avalanche of life changes and homework buries you, figure out what works. Over the summer try out different strategies and see what makes YOU feel better.

Commit yourself to taking steps this summer to make yourself a more productive, organized, and relaxed person so that when college (and the subsequent caffeine) try and take their tole you will be ready.

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