Three students preparing for exams in college dorm

The Back to School Groove

by Esther Ng

It is, unfortunately, nearing the end of the 2017 summer stint. And unless you’ve been nose-in-books all these months, chances are you are most likely coming off a break that has seen some vacation time in another state or country, some quality time with friends and family that you haven’t seen in a long time(you know, because, school), or maybe you’ve been working at an internship or part-time job without the worries of assignments at the back of your mind. Either way, it’s been some kind of break from college, if you have been doing anything other than summer school.

Students often think that going back to classes is like picking up an old pair of shoes or outfit and expecting them to fit like a glove as it once did. And while that isn’t impossible, the truth remains that trying to get back into the rhythm of things can be challenging for some and perhaps easier for others. However, the majority never consider their status in college as a factor when it comes to evaluating their college prep. Because let’s face it, the going gets harder the closer you get to obtaining that degree!

 

Freshman

You may be a real college freshie, coming into school with bright eyes of awe in your first semester, or returning for a second semester. Either way, the saying that freshmen have it the easiest is, in fact, a myth. Freshman year can sometimes be the toughest, notably because of the General Education requirements that students strive to fulfil in their early semesters. Here are a few tips for college freshmen to help them prepare for the coming school year:

  • Focus on your grades and GPA
    The common mistake that freshmen make is that their beginning year is a “free” year. Here’s the bad news: your grades never take a break. Even if you manage to scrap passes in your courses, your GPA might struggle to recover as you move on to more advanced classes. A strong base for your GPA will give you some room to breathe as you advance into your sophomore year.
  • Make time for study
    100-level classes may be “easy,” but the catch is that most of them also have double the assignments and double the work. Beginner classes that act as prerequisites often cover a very wide range of topics to prepare students for the advanced classes. Do not assume that these classes will be a breeze– you will need time to study and finish assignments.
  • Explore the courses
    Even if you have declared a major, it would still be beneficial for you to explore a topic or course outside of your field or major. With a majority of college freshmen taking GenEd courses in their first year, this is really a time for you to learn something a little new. Students have switched majors after discovering another passion, and others have gained insight and knowledge about culture, tradition, or practices from across the world. Not all may necessarily relate to your degree, but they will open your eyes to something a little bigger.

 

Sophomore

Now you have arrived at the middle ground. In my opinion, sophomores usually have it a little easier than the other college standings. However, sophomores should keep these in mind:

  • Check in with your advisor
    Not every university or college makes advising a mandatory aspect for every student. Advising, however, is a resource that students often fail to take advantage of. Advisors are there not just to help you plan your degree path, but also to steer you towards life after college. What would you like to do? What would you want to be? What can you do, then, to achieve that goal? How can your degree help you?
  • Finish your initial prerequisites
    It is advised that students complete the majority of their initial prerequisites by the end of their sophomore year, mostly because they would need to focus on their declared major starting junior year. With time being money, students are often in a tight squeeze and under pressure to graduate on time. Failure to fulfil prerequisites may lead to a delay in graduation, because upper division classes will not be open to you in time.

 

Junior

Third year students will begin to feel the pressure, but there is still room to wiggle around in! Juniors need not necessarily be pressed for time and overwhelmed by stress if they follow these tips:

  • Declare your major
    If you have not declared a major, then the time is now. Juniors have had ample time to decide on a major, and should choose one by this time if they wish to graduate on time. The reason for this is that the third year is usually when students begin to take advanced upper-division courses that are reserved for certain majors only– it would be unwise to take several classes from different fields. Junior year is when you start going in heavy! 
  • Focus on graduation requirements
    In relation to declaring your major, you should also start checking off the requirements needed to fulfil your degree. It is not recommended for you to squeeze all upper division classes into your senior year, when you will have enough on your plate. Get as many off it as possible, because senior year will be even more difficult.
  • Get involved outside of school
    This is to prepare students for their career path outside of college. While most students have been active in the community since high school, it would be better to start focusing your community involvement into something that would give you valuable experience in the working field of your choice. For instance, if you plan into applying for medical school, be active in the pre-med club, or volunteer at hospitals. If you are into journalism, look for internships at local publications or news broadcasters. These experiences will aid you tremendously after graduation.

 

Senior

This is it! You are almost there! Forget the looming, gloomy looks and thoughts of “senior-itis” and get down to work. It’s your last year, or semester, so make it count.

  • Intern or work
    Most students usually have begun their focused internships or volunteering in their junior year, or some in their sophomore year, but senior year is when you pull out the big guns. Shoot for an internship or job that would really boost your credibility and allow you to learn new skills, instead of just having an extra sentence to add to your resume. Even better, some organizations might be willing to hire you, and make a job offer once you have graduated.
  • File for graduation
    Check with your university as to when the deadline is for filing for graduation. This varies by universities; some require a year’s filing in advance, others a semester in advance. The variation is what you should always keep in mind– students have not been able to obtain their degree, or officially graduate till a semester later or during the summer, because they were too late in filing for graduation. Filing is important, so check and double check with your professors and advisors.
  • Final graduation requirements
    Never, ever leave these out! There is always a small chance that you forgot to fulfil a class or a requirement for graduation, and by the time you find out when filing for graduation, it will be too late. To be safe, seniors should already be planning their classes out by the end of their junior year, but as the saying goes, it isn’t over till the fat lady sings.
  • Do not procrastinate
    Yes, every single student has procrastinated at some point in their lives, but if there is any time you should avoid it, it would be in your senior year. Seniors cannot afford to waste time or miss classes, because there is so much to do and a lot to cover. Time is crucial during last period of your college career, so make it count. Go out with a bang!

 

Have a great school year, everyone! Don’t forget to check Scholar’s App weekly to find new scholarships added each day.

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