Many of the courses students will take in high school are designed to prepare them for college. They can help students develop useful critical thinking, writing and research skills that will help them  succeed in an academic college setting. Despite this preparation, it is natural for students to experience some level of difficulty when transitioning from a high school to a college setting.

Jennifer Zaffuts is a college coach who specializes in helping high school and first-year college students in their transition to higher education, and she has some helpful tips for incoming college freshman to help them succeed in their first year of college.

Lack of writing and research experience

Students will find that upon entering college, regardless of their major, they will be asked to do some kind of research. When it comes to doing academic research, students must have an understanding of what classifies as an academic source and how to find one. Once research is done, students must also be able to incorporate this information into a well-structured and organized essay. It is not uncommon for first-year freshman to struggle in these areas, and Zaffuts recommends that they visit their college writing center for assistance or take a refresher course in writing if it is available.

Misunderstanding of college level work

A student who is an experienced writer with a good understanding of how to do research may still struggle with writing a strong college essay. Zaffuts says that this is most often due to a lack of understanding about the time and effort which goes into a college level paper. Most students write a first draft and then turn it into their professor without looking it over and revising it. Zaffuts suggests that students be aware that at the college level, three to four drafts are considered necessary in order to make sure that an essay is strong and well-structured. She says that reaching out to fellow students, professors, or a tutor for constructive feedback in between each draft is a must if a student wants to receive a good grade. Many students have the skills and information to achieve an A in college but simply fail to realize that it takes more time and effort than achieving an A in high school.

Functioning skills

When asked what some of the biggest struggles transitioning college students faced, Zaffuts said that functioning skills like time management and organization were the biggest. Because students will have varying class schedules and due dates throughout a semester, she recommends that students make use of calendars and planners. They can be on paper or in a student’s phone, but either way it is important for them to stay organized throughout their time at college. For example, setting aside blocks of time each day dedicated to completing assignments, studying, tutoring, socializing, and even sleeping can help a student to stay organized while being as successful and stress-free as they can.

Take care of yourself

For all of the above to be successful, Zaffuts says that students must have willpower to practice good self-care. This includes making sure they get enough sleep, eat well, stick to a routine schedule, socialize, exercise, and manage stress.

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