The nation recently celebrated College Signing Day online and on social media as a way to take pride in college and show excitement for the new wave of students ready to carry the flags of our alma maters. We know from statistics that today, only 40% of adults ages 25-64 in the U.S. have a postsecondary degree, which now lags behind other industrialized nations in the percentage of citizens with a college degree. College Signing Day events are significant because they show communities joining together to support and celebrate all students, not just star athletes and valedictorians, and showcase the importance of going to college in an effort to raise that number to 60% and the top of worldwide rankings.
— Monroe Comm College (@MonroeCC) May 1, 2015
Even First Lady Michelle Obama celebrated College Signing Day as she stood in front of the #ReachHigher initiative, which inspires all students in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school.
So as students of all kind begin to prepare for their next steps, they will start by filtering through responses to their college applications, hoping to find the acceptance letter from their college of choice. Once you get that letter and pick your destination, it is important to take action and seek information that can prepare you for the college journey and what comes next on your way through the halls of academia.
We’ve put together some important things to be aware of to help make the transition to college as easy as can be:
Hopefully that FAFSA form has long been filled out, because in some cases the financial aid package that is offered to you may be a deciding factor in choosing the college you will attend. It is important to ask as many questions as needed regarding your financial aid package. Be aware of the aid you will be receiving, the loan options that are available, and any potential scholarships the college has to offer to students. SUNY even has a financial aid tool known as SmartTrack that helps students and families understand the costs of college and develop a financial plan for their future.
Sometimes, students will get accepted into colleges which they have not had an opportunity to visit. Taking a weekend to attend a college tour or orientation session can be a great decision and teach you where the important parts of campus are before you start classes. Make sure you are familiar with the size of the campus, the amount of students living on campus, and the closeness to local activities and services so you don’t come in to campus life feeling lost. A summer orientation session could allow you to get familiar with your new environment before you get started with other new responsibilities.
Selecting your roommate is a decision that is usually made before attending the first day of class. The person you select will be the person you will share a room and spend a lot of time with. In some situations, the campus will place you with a random roommate. Either way, in today’s connected world, you can easily search your roommate up on social media sites with their name in an effort to reach out and virtually meet them to build a relationship before school starts.
Researching your campus meal plans before selecting one can be a helpful tool. Campuses have many varied meal plans and it’s important to know what options you have to ensure you are satisfied with the amount and types of meals provided to you. Nobody wants to go through a rigorous study week without easy access to replenishing foods. Also, if you have any dietary needs or restrictions like gluten intolerance, allergies or diabetes, make sure you find the places on campus where you can find the foods that best keep you healthy and sustained.
Getting involved on campus is a great way to meet new people and make your college experience one to remember. Become knowledgeable of the types of organizations, activities, clubs and teams you can become a part of. Never assume that your campus does not have the club you’re interested in. Many campuses have a large variety of clubs and organizations, and in some cases the school will allow students to create new clubs, so there’s sure to be a fit for all students.
Now that you’re ready to settle in to college life, you’ll need to learn how to build a class schedule that meets both your curriculum requirements and your personal schedule needs. If you play sports, work part-time, volunteer, or are involved with other on or off-campus activities, you’ll need to make sure you leave enough time to both attend class and your outside commitments. Be ready to register early so those coveted class times are available to you.
Good luck and we wish you the best in your future endeavors.
James is a University at Albany graduate student assistant with the Office of New Media at SUNY System Administration.