You’ve heard all the classic college advice, like “go to class,” “study hard,” and “be social.” But preparing for college is so much more than that. You may even have questions like: How often are you supposed to do your laundry? How do people make friends? Is it weird to talk to my professors before class? There’s a lot you want to learn about how to prepare for college, so we’re here with 50 tips that answer some of your burning questions about college life. Whether you’re a high school senior looking at colleges, an incoming freshman, or a sophomore, junior, or senior looking to make the most of your years, here’s some unique college advice you may not have considered that will make your university experience that much easier and more fulfilling.
For College-Bound High Schoolers:
- Take required courses in high school. You want to demonstrate a broad base of knowledge and a solid academic foundation on your college application. If you have an idea of what you might major in, take any prerequisite courses that your potential colleges may require to get a head start.
- Take AP and IB courses if available at your high school. If you pass these exams, your college may let you opt out of certain basic requirement courses or these may even count towards your total credits, which will mean a lower tuition cost down the road. These types of courses also show a level of commitment and proficiency that college application readers like to see.
- Do college visits if you can. You won’t get the “feel” of a school unless you see it in person and/or talk to people who attend. Don’t commit to a school based on the specifics or reputation alone. You’ll be there for four years, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit for you!
- Hone your study skills. Now is the time to figure out what kind of study techniques work best for you. During your first week of college, you’ll be thrown right into the fire of schoolwork, so start prepping your time management techniques early.
- Don’t slack off senior year. This goes for both high school and college seniors! Even if you’re accepted to your dream college, some schools will rescind the offer if you drop below a certain GPA. Besides, keeping your study skills sharp can help you figure out how to prepare for college courses effectively.
- Read: How to make your freshman year incredible.
College Organizational Tips:
- Set goals every semester. Give yourself something to work toward in each facet of your life: schoolwork, friends, extracurriculars, health, etc. This can help you measure your progress and success, ensuring you get the most out of your four years at college.
- Find a day planner or organization app that you love. Whether it’s a physical planner with inspirational words on the cover or a phone and computer "to-do" software, your planner will become your sidekick in college, so choose one that fits your organizational style and needs best.
- Use separate notebooks or binder dividers for each class. When it comes time for homework or exams, having all of your notes in one place will make it easier to prepare and study.
- Use a loose leaf notebook, rather than a spiral-bound one. This lets you add handouts or supplemental sheets, and you can move around papers for easy exam prep.
- Check your email at least once a day. You’ll get important emails from teachers (like homework assignments or class cancellations), and it will keep you updated on all of the goings-on with clubs, sports, and school news. Just don’t get too attached to or distracted by email.
- Try out time management techniques until you find one that works for you. Check out this interesting article about how to increase your productivity by knowing your time management style.
- Don’t bring all the extra stuff to college. If you “might” need something, chances are you probably won’t. Don’t clutter your already small space, and don’t waste time packing it up twice a year. If you need something you don’t have, a friend might have one that you can borrow or, worst comes to worst, turn to Amazon for quick fixes. Check out our list of dorm essentials for first-year students here.
- Get rid of distractions. College is an incredibly enriching experience—if you go out and do stuff. Don’t waste time on social media and other distractions that can pull you out of the present moment.
College Schoolwork Tips:
- Find a quiet place to study. Getting rid of distractions is our top piece of college advice. You want to minimize distractions and also have a consistent place that you use solely for work. After a few times of studying hard in that spot, it can actually have a psychological effect that instantly snaps you into work mode the second you sit down in your fave study spot.
- Take breaks while studying. Studying nonstop without breaks can actually be counterproductive. We recommend at least a 10-minute break for every 50 minutes of studying to keep your brain sharp. Get an awesome school-themed clock to mount on your wall to keep track of time.
- Don’t multitask. Your brain can only think about one thing at a time. Switching between tasks actually wastes time and drains mental energy, so try to focus on one or two important things at a time. Then, give yourself a break before diving into the next task.
- Focus on sleeping the night before an exam. Study in advance, and take the night before to review material one last time. And then rest. Research shows that sleeping at least 8 hours before an exam is necessary to process and recall information. With a good night's sleep, you’re more likely to do better.
- Act like every class will have a pop quiz. First, if there’s actually a pop quiz, you’ll be ready for it. Second, it will help you learn in advance, so you’re not cramming at exam time. Plus, if you feel confident with the material, you’re more likely to participate—and professors always appreciate participation, even if it’s not officially “counted” in your grades.
- Read the syllabus and plan ahead. Put exams and homework on your calendar in advance, so you can get ahead of the game. College stress is directly related to feeling “behind” in classwork.
- Be early or at least on time for class. This gives you time to get settled and comfortable, and you’ll have some time to socialize with classmates or the professor. If you’re looking to get a mentorship with a professor, showing up early is a great way to open the conversation and introduce yourself.
- Ask questions. If you have a question, others probably have the same one and they’ll be glad you asked. If you have questions while doing homework, write them down and ask them in class (or when you get there early). Don’t wait until the night before an exam to ask a question you’re unsure about.
- Take time choosing a major. Lots of people end up wasting tuition money by taking courses that don’t end up counting toward the major they switch to. Talk to professors, career services, and advisors to help you find a major you’ll love and that can help support your career goals.
Social Life Recommendations:
- Prepare for a roommate. Having a roommate in close quarters isn’t always easy. You can say goodbye to privacy and peace and quiet for a little bit. Rather than butting heads with an unclean roommate, though, try to look on the bright side of things. In a dorm, you’re surrounded by new people and potential friends. It’s one of the best parts of social life, so look at the positives.
- Lock your door. The last thing you want is an intruder to get into your things. Use a college lanyard to keep your dorm keys secure and within reach.
- Party! Just not too hard. College is first and foremost about school, but it’s also about networking, making friends, and having fun. Hit up football tailgates or get involved in some school traditions, like dressing in costume for the big game. These are some of the best moments you’ll remember from college.
- Try out intramurals. They’ll help keep you in shape (and avoid the freshman 15) while making friends and having a blast.
- Join a student organization that interests you. Colleges offer tons of clubs, including academic, political, publication, community service, theater, arts, cultural, religious, and sports groups. Try out different extracurriculars and see where you fit in most, then commit to it. Having these kinds of commitments will help you with time management skills and your social life.
- Don’t be afraid to rush if Greek life is big at your school. It’s not for everybody—and it doesn’t have to be for you—but if you’re interested in joining a sorority or fraternity, don’t let fear hold you back. Get yourself out there and pledge.
- Use college to find your passions. Figure out which extracurriculars, clubs, and groups are really important to you and what you really enjoy doing, and then pursue it full force.
- But don’t overextend yourself. It’s often better to be fully engaged in one or two clubs rather than spreading yourself thin trying to do too much.
- Make at least one friend in each class. This will help you meet new people, especially those in your major. Plus, you’ll then have a go-to person for notes if you miss a class, and they can be your study partner before an exam.
- Go on dates. Ask someone out. Dates don’t have to be fancy; they can be to the dining hall or even a study date. But dating can be a fun part of your college experience, if you’d like it to be.
- Go to networking events. Whether they’re leadership conferences or pizza socials, getting to know your classmates and others in the community can be invaluable both during school and post-grad.
- Build relationships with mentors and professors. Your social life will consist of classmates, but you also want a wider network to help you learn and grow. Learn how to effectively network with professors here.
Campus Life Health Advice:
- Plan meals in advance. This will not only save you time during the week, but will also ensure you’re less likely to resort to fast, unhealthy meals. Health has to be your priority; if your body and mind aren’t in shape, the rest of your college experience can fall apart, too.
- Eat breakfast. It will keep you focused throughout the day, and you’ll be less likely to grab for whatever’s closest when you start to get really hungry after your morning classes.
- Minimize sugar. Sugar gives you a temporary energy bump, but it can ultimately drain your physical and mental energy. Plus, it’s linked to weight gain, acne, depression, long-term health issues, and other health concerns.
- Turn down tech an hour before bed. Blue light interrupts sleep patterns and contributes to stress. Give yourself about an hour before bed to wind down without phones and computers so you can have better, more restful sleep, which is critical to a healthy and successful college life. One or two all-nighters is part of the experience, but it can be super unhealthy if it becomes a common occurrence.
- Invest in ear plugs. Maybe even noise cancelling ones. They’ll help minimize distractions, keep you in the zone, and can even help you sleep better. When preparing for college, the best thing you can do is invest in items that assist your learning and health.
- See the sun. Not only is vitamin D an important part of avoiding colds, flus, and illness, but sunlight can also improve mood, energy, and productivity. However, be mindful to not get too much sun exposure as it can cause harmful skin damage.
- Do your laundry. You might be new to doing laundry by yourself, but now’s a great time to learn! Avoid turning all your whites red and shrinking your favorite sweater by getting the how-tos of doing your laundry in college here.
- Wear flip flops in the showers. You’ll thank us for this one.
- Listen to your mom and wear a sweatshirt when it’s cold. Staying warm will keep you safe and healthy.
- Read: How to prepare for college if you’ll be a student athlete.
Other Important Tips:
- Use your student discount anywhere you can. Keep your school ID on you and see if stores, experiences, and restaurants offer a student discount. You may get a percentage off your computer, free access to newspapers, free or discounted local experiences (like cool concerts and festivals), or unlimited public transit around town. You can save a lot of money with student discounts. Check out this list of retailers that give a student discount.
- Remind yourself that this experience is new for everyone. Even if you’re a junior or senior, every year brings with it new challenges and obstacles. Keep a level head and try not to get overwhelmed. It’s comforting to know that everyone is in the same boat as you, and you can even leverage these new, unfamiliar experiences to bond with others.
- Make use of campus resources. You’ll be surprised how many free or low-cost resources are available on campus, including health and mental health services, access to gyms and nutritionists, free career services, and so much more.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. If you’re doing your best but still feel stressed, talk to your professors and advisors. Most will have a heart and work with you to help you learn and reach your deadlines.
- Take risks. Branch out and try new things, meet new people, and experiment with your interests. College is the time to find out what you like!
Preparing for college can feel overwhelming, but the best college advice we can give is to relax, focus on the moment in front of you, and make use of everything at your disposal. College is an incredible time, and you’ll remember it forever—so enjoy it!