No two college experiences are the same. Different schools have different rules, practices and mindsets. Students (even those that graduate with the same credentials) take very different paths in college. When you listen to advice about what college is like or what you need to expect, be sure to take each opinion with a grain of salt.
Before you get to college, there are a few useful little tidbits that you need to understand. Firstly, you need to have a plan before you get to school. This whole notion that you have two years to find your academic goals is nonsense. If you want to get the most out of your college experience, then you need to start working toward your major while you take your GEs. You don’t have to declare your major until your junior year, but you should be working towards your major from the moment you arrive.
When you go to college, you need to budget your funds. Tuition costs are massive, but they do not cover your living and supply expenses. Get used to spending hundreds of dollars every quarter (or semester) on books, materials and readers. Be sure that you’ve set aside enough cash to shop for food, have a life and pay your rent and bills. For many students, college is the first time that personal cash has to be properly allocated. Make sure that you understand what expenses you have to pay, and how (and when) you have to pay them.
One important thing to understand is that college can be personalized. Many universities allow students to craft their own majors and independent study classes. If you have a wacky set of academic and professional interests, then combine them while you’re in school. You can study law, engineering and art simultaneously if you want. If you’re going to take boat-loads of classes for each major, then might as well leave school with three degrees. If you want to combine disciplines and graduate with a degree in Psychology, Sociology and Linguistics, then do so. It’s remarkable how easy it is to customize your learning experience. Take advantage of tailor-made approaches to learning, and create your own course or degree path.
Keep in mind that college advisors don’t know everything. If you don’t feel like you are getting accurate information from an academic advisor, front office desk clerk or student financial aid helper, then seek out info from more sources. Don’t think that these university employees are all-knowing infallible entities. They can make mistakes (like telling you to fill out the wrong form, saying it’s impossible to take a certain class, etc.). If you doubt the accuracy of the advice you’ve been given, don’t feel bad if you have to seek out additional sources in order to confirm the information you’ve been presented with.
When you get to college, you need to hit the ground running. So take as much time as you can to familiarize yourself with your particular university before you get to school. You can save a lot of time and money if you come in as an informed student ready to perform.