15 Things To Do Before Your First Day of College!

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Tue, May 19, 2015 @ 04:41 PM

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted to college! All those long years of hard work have paid off. Now you can kick back, put your feet up and chill until the first day of your freshman year, right? WRONG!

There’s a lot to do between now and that first day of school and while your parents may have taken care of all the little details in the past, now it’s time for you to step up and take responsibility! We know this may be new for you and your parents, so here are a few tips to help you both make a smooth transition.

1. Confirm your enrollment and send in your deposit!

Yes, the letter said you got in, but there’s a lot more important information in that packet. Take some time and review it, as well as deadlines for requested information. In addition, check your e-mail often for any updates.

2. Check out your school’s website. 

Just about every school has a “New Student” section.  Read it now. There may be early deadlines for medical forms, registration for orientation, residence hall selection, and online awareness education programs, just to name a few. Don’t wait until the week before school begins to go through the list.

“In May, after all new students have made their deposits, they are given access to websites to help them learn about registration, complete their housing form, submit health forms, and learn about other helpful guides to promote their success,” said Jeff Rickey, Vice President and Dean of Admissions & Financial Aid for St. Lawrence University. 

Michael Coombes, director of North Carolina State University’s New Student Program, encourages parents and students to visit their school’s website often and double check the New Student Check List.  “The list is a roadmap of what to do between the time of when they get accepted and before they start classes. Take care of things early. The less you have to do in August, the better.”

3. Schedule your orientation session now. New_Student_Orientation_at_NC_State_University-1

The earlier you do it, the better. Don’t forget to book hotel rooms too. Depending on where you go to school, there may not be a lot of options for lodging. In addition, if your parents plan to bring you to school for move-in day and they need to stay overnight, make those reservations now too.

Parents are encouraged to attend orientation. It’s a great way to support students with their transition to school. “Orientation can give parents a basic knowledge of what their student is going to experience,” said Coombes. “It helps parents understand the environment, as well as the different resources available to the students.”

4. Get Connected!

It can all start with #. Take some time to get connected to your new school.  There are so many options and social media is a great place to begin. “After students are admitted they are encouraged to join their class social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram,” said Rickey.

In addition, different groups for your major, your residence hall, or clubs, etc., may have their own social media presence. At NC State, #NCState19 is used for new students to find each other, learn about different events, and follow relevant information. When students come to orientation or the start of the semester, they already have a certain comfort level because #NCState19 started the conversation.

“Often, it’s the students who create these connections on their own,” said Coombes. “It stems from what students want. They are forming smaller connections. It makes the students feel they are a part of the community, a part of their new home.”

5. Sign up for housing.

Residence halls fill up fast. Make sure you get your assignment as soon as possible. Social media is a great way to learn about different housing options, get insight from upperclassmen, and even research creative decorating ideas. Check out YouTube for virtual tours! It’s also a great way to find or get to know your future roommate! Once you have your roommate assignment, Rickey recommends making contact as soon as possible.

6. Look for First Year Send-Off parties.

Many universities have alumni chapters or parent association groups that host get-togethers in local cities for new students to meet each other, as well as meet returning students or alumni. It’s a great way for parents to connect as well. “This bridges the connection to their new school and makes them feel they are part of the community,” said Coombes. “It gets them excited about what they are doing.”

7. Keep your brain active.

“After high school graduation, students should read,” said Rickey. “Reading promotes better reading - a skill that is paramount in college – and promotes better writing, too, another vital skill.”

Many universities now have a common reading program. A book is chosen for everyone to read over the summer. “It connects the students to the intellectual environment,” said Coombes. “When they come to campus, they can hear the author of the book speak. They participate in programs and discussions. Students can have conversations and think critically about themes in the book. We have one common experience. It keeps their mind fresh.”

Coombes also suggests that students familiarize themselves with the university’s academic resources before they get to school. “If students know they are there, they are more apt to use them.”

8. Think about how you want to engage in your campus when you get there.St._Lawrence_Orientation

“Engagement is vital to their success,” said Coombes. “Take a look at your university and what you want out of it. Think about ways to engage in your new community, whether it’s in a sorority or fraternity, a club, studying abroad, or service learning. Ask yourself who you are going to be and how are you going to act. Think critically about your behavior.”

“College is an opportunity for a student to reinvent herself or himself,” said Rickey. “If a student has a bad habit, she or he wants to break, then now is the time. One way to ease the college transition is to be open-minded and to be interested in everyone and everything. Just about everyone is looking for new friends!”

9. Look for opportunities to be independent.

Get a part time job for the summer or look for opportunities to volunteer in your community. If you don’t have one already, set up a checking account and talk to your parents about financial responsibility and spending behavior, as well as how to use a debit card or credit card wisely. Do your own laundry!

“Students who have not experienced some independence before coming to college sometimes have challenges dealing with the freedom and responsibility that comes with attending college,” said Rickey. “Parents would do well to promote or create opportunities for their high schoolers to exercise some independence and have them learn the joys, challenges, and lessons that stem from doing things themselves.”

10. Attend Welcome Week.

Look for events that might help you adapt to your new environment and meet other new students. Welcome Week is geared for new students and usually takes place the week before classes begin. NC State also has a Summer Start program, a Symposium, and an Outward Bound trip. “It’s a great way to connect to the institution and build a small community within a huge campus,” said Coombes.

11. Don’t wait to pack!

You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t!) at how many students wait until the night before to pack. Think about what you need for the semester. Keep a running list over the summer and start putting things aside. Give yourself time to go through everything again before you leave.

12. Go for a walk.

During Orientation, Welcome Week, and before your first day of classes, walk the campus. Go to each classroom and see how long it takes to get from class to class. Become familiar with your surroundings. Coombes said many students admit they wished they had looked at a map of the campus and walked it before classes began.

13. Don’t do anything you’ll regret. 

Every university has a code of conduct and your admission is not guaranteed. “We expect students to continue performing at the level at which they were admitted,” said Rickey.  “We have rescinded our offer of admission when the student has underperformed. We have also rescinded admission for criminal offenses that occurred after our offer of admission.”

14. Have some conversations. 

Don’t wait till the week before drop-off to talk with your parents. Have conversations throughout the summer about expectations about grades, finances, privacy, communication, behavior, etc. Also talk about whether parents will have access to grades and financial information.

15. Have fun! 

Make time to get together with family and friends this summer. Celebrate your accomplishments and share the excitement of your future at college!

Photo credits:  Tara Freeman, St. Lawrence University,  and Blaise Bolemon, New Student Programs, NC State University.  

Topics: back to school, college, College advice

College Move-In Day - A Major Milestone for Students and Parents

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Aug 18, 2014 @ 02:52 PM

In a matter of days, you’ll hear the collective sighs of mothers around the country saying goodbye to their college bound students. You may also hear a few whoops and hollers from the students as their parents drive away!Mom_+_Daughter_Move-In_Day

This is a major milestone for parents and students. As parents, we are excited for our children and the road ahead, but it also signals the end of an era for us. For students, it means newfound freedom and the beginning of an amazing journey. While most won’t admit it, they probably are a bit anxious about leaving the security of home, as well as free laundry services and clean bathrooms.

So imagine combining all of your emotional baggage with plastic bins, luggage, and small appliances. Now Female_Resident_Move-In_Dayadd in traffic, minimal parking, August weather, and if you’re lucky two elevators – that is college move-in day! Don’t worry. In the right frame of mind and a little preparation, you’ll get through it just fine. Here are few tips from Residence Hall experts and parents that have survived the freshmen day move in!

Before You Go

If your child is like mine and hasn’t looked at any of the literature about move-in day, then enjoy taking charge one last time! Go to the university’s residence life website where you can find all the details about move-in day.

“We encourage students first to take a look at the “Move-In Checklist” and our “Policies and Procedures” on our website,” said Dr. Ann Bailey, Director of Housing for Mississippi State University. “This list not only includes a list of items students may need, but also includes items that are not allowed in our residence halls.”

University of Pittsburgh’sArrival Survival” details everything from before you leave home to after you’ve moved in. They even have a twitter handle just for the big event.

Residence Housing websites provide information about each residence hall, including what basic items come with the room. Some schools provide or rent the mini-fridge and microwave. Note that many rooms use extra long mattresses – meaning your sheets from home may not fit! You can also get measurements to determine if there’s space for additional items like beanbag chairs, extra storage units, etc. You don’t want to waste time and money buying and packing items that may never be used.

Leave things like heaters, toasters, hotplates, Panini presses, rope lights, wireless routers, and halogen lights at home. “Anything with open heat sources aren’t allowed due to fire hazards,” said Samantha Noblit, residence director for the University of Pittsburgh. “Halogen light bulbs are typically not allowed as they can get very hot and start fires.”

Once you’ve figured what your student needs, make a list of items they use at home – toiletries, kitchen supplies, laundry, etc. This will give them an idea of what they will need to bring and determine how to store it.

It’s the Little Things

Don’t forget miscellaneous things like a garbage can, hangers, and a first aid kit. Shower curtains and tension rods come in handy for additional privacy in suite-style bathrooms. Anne Garraway, a mom with two students at Mississippi State, said to consider purchasing a good mattress pad/foam pad to make the bed more comfortable, as well as a little fan in case roommates don't agree on temperature.

According to Noblit, shower caddies and flip-flops are some of the most used items. “Communal showers are an adjustment for students, but shower caddies allow them to be able to put all of their toiletry items in one easy transportable basket.”

Noblit also suggests students bring pictures, decorations, or anything else that can make their room feel more like home. She advises bringing an alarm clock even though many students use cellular devices for this purpose. “Sometimes batteries die in the middle of the night and parents aren’t knocking on their door!”

Consider waiting a few weeks on items like an iron. “Many times, one student on the floor will have them and they can share with others,” said Noblit. She also said televisions and printers are on the decline, especially with the rise of streaming television sites and more professors accepting assignments via email or other online systems. Most residence halls have student lounges with TVs for public use.

Talk Before You BuyDr._Keenum_Move-In_Day

Michele White, a mother of two college graduates and a senior at the University of Louisville, advises students to talk to their roommate(s) before they purchase anything. Decide beforehand what common items they will each contribute. “You don't want two refrigerators and two TVs,” said White.

 Should you buy here or there?

Some parents suggest buying supplies in your hometown before you go. “It can be difficult to shop in college towns,” said Garraway. “They run out of everything on move-in weekend.”

However, if you want the full experience, a trip to the university’s local Wal-Mart or Target with everyone else on move-in day can be a fun and memorable event!

Another option to is to purchase items at big box stores online or in your home state and then have them delivered to the local store near the university.

Get Packing

It’s important to have everything in manageable bins, suitcases, etc. Misc. grocery bags of items are sure to rip, or fall over emptying your nice clean linens on the ground. 

“Label all of your personal belongings with your first and last name, room number (include wing/floor, if applicable), and only bring essentials on that first day,” said Bailey. “Then, be aware for the next few days of items you want/have room for and either take a trip home or go to a local store to purchase them.”

“There is no use to pack a bunch of oversized winter coats if you are coming home in a month,” said Noblit. “There isn’t a lot of storage in your residence hall room, so being mindful of the seasons will be important in fitting everything.”

Checking In

Move-in day is usually staggered by dorms, floors, etc., to ease traffic and parking. When you get there,your student will check in to receive his dorm keys. Once we pulled up to my son’s residence hall, there were at least four volunteers ready to take his belongings straight to his room. The van was unloaded within minutes. His residence hall did not have elevators, so we were extremely appreciative of the help to the third floor! Even if your student’s residence hall does have elevators, expect a wait or use the time to get your cardio by taking the stairs!

Saying Goodbye

Once you’re all moved in, schools may have complimentary refreshments. LSU offered banana splits – encouraging parents to “split!” MS State had a “Blues Breakfast” the morning after move-in.

Gwen House Hymel, a mother of one college graduate, a junior at Baton Rouge Community College and a sophomore at University of Louisiana at Lafayette advises to make the goodbyes short and quick. seeyoulater“I did it and had a good cry on the way home.  My kids said I took it well and they weren’t worried about me! It made them feel better about moving on.”

For Hymel each goodbye was different. With one, they agreed to just say “see ya soon!” With another, the best farewell was a long hug and a few words of encouragement. Her youngest just gave her a kiss on the cheek and told her he would be fine.

“We encourage families to say ‘see you later,’” said Bailey.

Noblit said the best way to say goodbye is to hug your child, tell them you love them, make a plan for communication, and a plan for their next visit home. “Making a plan for their next visit home puts a slight moratorium on “empty nest syndrome” and gives each of you something to look forward to.”

We want to hear about your move-in day experience. Make sure to send pictures!


photo credits: MSU Public Affairs & Dolly Duplantier



Topics: back to school, parents, higher education, college, College advice, residence halls, College move-in day

Students Should Take Advantage of All College Has to Offer

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 02:59 PM

There are many words I would prefer my children not use (even though they’ve heard a few of them at home!). However, there are three words I hope I never hear them say - "Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda!" (Okay, technically those aren’t words, but I’m sure you get my meaning.)

As my children begin their college years, I want them to take advantage of everything this time in their life has to offer. It’s not just about getting your money’s worth – although that’s an important lesson – whether you are paying tuition or your kids are taking out loans. This is the time to take risks. Try new things. Meet new people. Step out of your comfort zone.

There are many things I wish I had done during my college years (and maybe a few I wish I had not done!). I wish I had developed more of a relationship with teachers and sought their advice. I also wish I had taken more advantage of clubs, school organizations, and service work, but I let self-doubt and fear prevent me from taking those risks. 

Don’t get me wrong, I am very happy with my life. I had a wonderful college experience. Hindsight is 20/20. Things happen for a reason, but I don’t want my kids to have regrets about not taking chances. Four years (or maybe five or six!) go by very quickly. It’s a great time of life to discover who you are, find friends with different opinions and passions, and transition from child to adult. So, as my second son begins this new phase, I’ve consulted the highest authorities – nostalgic parents, friends, and recent college graduates to offer their words of wisdom. Will he listen? I honestly don’t know. Maybe, though, these pearls of wisdom will remain in the back of his mind when an opportunity presents itself. And, instead of looking the other way because it might require effort and risk, he might just hear that little voice of mine and decide to go for it.

So, here’s a quick list for college students to consider as they get ready for school. If those of us that have graduated could go back, these are the things we would do differently! 

Wish Lists from the "Woulda Coulda Shoulda’s"lsutiger_stadium

1. I wish I had gone to more events...ballgames, rallies, etc.

2. I wish I had served on a student government board.

3. I wish I had spent more time meeting individually with professors to pick their brains. I view it as a missed opportunity.

4. I wish I had done more volunteering.

5. I wish I had joined an Engineering club.

6. Sometimes, I wish I had gone to school out of town.

7. I wish I had taken my undergraduate studies more seriously.

8. I wish I had understood that it wasn't about the points to get a certain grade, but that it should have been about really learning. Graduate school was a rude awakening.

9. I wish I had gone to college with a more open mind and not a specific major.

10. I wish I had switched majors.

11. I wish I had traveled abroad.

12. I wish I had gone to the Bruce Springsteen concert rather than study for an anatomy test. (Okay, I’m not advocating choosing a concert over studying. However, every student needs to take a break once in a while. It’s good to recharge! And, no, this wasn’t me.)

10 Suggestions from current students, teachers and alums:

1. Go to Class!

2. Get out there and enjoy it all. Take it seriously and always do your best.

3. Sign up for a club.

4. Utilize resources available on campus, including services like writing centers and tutoring.10264317_10152504222274744_8343547831175655741_n

5. Volunteer on campus or at local organizations. Take time to help others.

6. Develop a good relationship with your professors. They can be great mentors. Take advantage of their office hours. You want the people who determine your grades to know your name and that you're working hard. They can also clarify course material, provide guidance on papers, and offer tips on how to prepare for tests.

7. Study abroad for a full year. (If a year is too long for you, consider studying abroad for one semester, the summer, or holiday breaks.)

8. Take computer classes even if they are not required for your major.

9. Get to know the history and traditions of your school.

10. Reach out and meet new people.

What are your suggestions and tips for incoming freshmen and current college students? Did we miss anything? Share your words of wisdom here!


 Photo credit: Dolly Duplantier & Delta Upsilon, Global Service Initiative Trip 

Topics: back to school, education, volunteering, higher ed, service, graduates, opportunities, college major, higher education, college, involvement, College advice

5 Back-to-School Tips for Success

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Wed, Aug 28, 2013 @ 10:55 AM

This post was written by NobleHour Special Contributor Natasha Derezinski-Choo.

On the first day of kindergarten, there are always the kids crying and clinging to their parents not wanting to go inside, and then there are some who march in without a second thought.  Every year after that, it’s still the same except less tears and clinging to parents.  For some students, the first day can be nerve-racking.  They don’t know what to expect from their teachers and peers, and fill their heads with every worst-case possibility from not having anyone to play with during recess to getting lost between classes.  A little nervousness is normal, but by lunchtime most students have forgotten all their worries.  

nh backtoschool spot resized 600

When returning to school, kick some of the nervousness by being prepared.  Consider how last year went, and decide what went well and what you’d like to do differently.  Here are some tips for kicking bad habits of schooldays past, and starting the year anew ready to improve.  

  1. Hit the Ground Running: Don’t wait for the first report card to improve your habits.  A new year with new teachers and classes means a fresh start for students.  It’s the opportunity to do better and break old habits.  Each year there are courses more challenging from the last, so think ahead as to what subjects you may need to give more attention to this year.  Study and review a little each day so you know all the material so you aren’t cramming.  Pull yourself out of the ease of summer and start on homework the day you receive it—yes, even on the first day—to break any old habits of procrastination.  Don’t fall behind on the first week, or it will just become more and more difficult to catch up.

  2. Stay Organized:  One of the worst feelings is having done an assignment but having left it at home on the day it’s due.  Devise a system of organization on the first week.  Know what belongs in each binder, notebook, or folder so that by midterms you aren’t searching to find notes among a pile of papers haphazardly thrown into your backpack.  If your teacher allows it, periodically discard old papers you don’t need, but never through out notes and study materials you may need later.  Instead store those at home so you don’t have to carry around weight that you won’t need for class on a day-to-day basis, but you’ll still have them come finals.  One year my teacher had a poster reading, “Organization is the key to success” above her blackboard, and it’s true.  Instead of spending time looking for things, you can use your time on the things that really matter.  

  3. Manage Your Time:  In addition to managing books and papers you’ve got to manage your time.  If you’ve ever found yourself up at 2 a.m. gluing together a history project, regretting the time you spent not working on it earlier, you’ve learned the hard way the importance of using your time wisely.  Always keep in mind what the week ahead looks like.  Consider how your days with practices, games, meetings, or other extracurricular activities could conflict with tests or major deadlines, and get ahead on assignment or studying you won’t have time for later in the week.  This way you can keep doing your fun activities without sacrificing academics.  If your school doesn’t provide you with one, think about picking up a weekly planner to write down all your assignments, tests, and activities.  If you let assignments pile up you won’t be able to do your best. Managing your time properly alleviates stress and allows you more free time to do the things you love.  

  4. Get Involved:  At school there are many opportunities to be involved with clubs and sports.  This is the chance to do something you enjoy and meet people with similar interests.  You’ll make friends, gain experience, and get more out of you education.  It’ll also boost applications or resumes.  The hardest part for some students is knowing where to start.  Make sure you take advantage of any club fairs or interest meetings your school may host so you know what might interest you.  Talk to the teachers who help organize, coach, or advise for different clubs and athletics. If you’re still lacking some confidence, talk to another student involved or bring a friend along.  

  5. Ask Your Teachers for Help:  Teachers are there to help you, so don’t be shy to ask.  If you find yourself in a tough spot with the material, talk to your teacher after class to get advice on getting some extra help.  If on a particular week you’re stressed despite your time management with lots of assignments or tests coincidentally at the same time, explain to your teachers the situation ahead of time to see if you can get an extension, but don’t make a habit of it, and I wouldn’t advise coming the day before with excuses.  Teachers should be interested in your success, so don’t be afraid to ask for their advice and help when you need it.  

Learning is the most important part of school.  As you return to school, consider trading in bad habits from last year for better ones this year.  This process of learning about your own capabilities should continue throughout the year.  Constantly evaluate what techniques are working that you should keep up with, and what’s not helping and needs to be changed or improved.  Here are just a few tips, but each individual must understand his or her own learning style in order to achieve.  Good luck in the new school year!  

Topics: back to school, education, k12, higher ed, millennials

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