Secondary Speaks: Advice for the Transition to College

For this Secondary Speaks round-up, we polled secondary teachers and professors by asking them what they wish more high school students knew before going to college. Their tips for the transition to college cover organization, study skills, life, and more, so click through to read all of the advice!
Welcome back to Secondary Speaks!

Now that we've polled high school teachers about how middle schoolers should transition to freshman year, it's time to ask secondary teachers and professors what we wish graduates knew before going to college!

(If you want to catch up on previous posts from us, make sure to click on the Secondary Speaks tag at the bottom of this post.)

Remember: Stay tuned for more posts, and comment below if you want to join in!

Q: "What do you wish more high school students knew before coming to college?"

  • I wish more high school students knew how to manage their time before going to college. It's so hard to go from living at home w/ your parents, to suddenly being off on your own. Even though many are in dorms, it's still very different than what they're used to. My best advice is to keep a planner. There's no way to remember all that they have going on if they don't keep consistent track of it. Lit with Lyns
  • If you know your career path, plan your resume and make sure you have experiences, skills, internships, or other qualifications that the other graduates in your major won't have too. If you settle for what is provided, required, or expected, then you won't stand out from other job applicants when you graduate! From freshman year on, seize the clubs, jobs, and opportunities that college has that the real world might not. Secondary Sara
  • Plan early. Do not wait until your senior year and all of a sudden start to plan your future. Take part in activities, join clubs or teams, donate some time to help others less fortunate than yourself. Build a complete portfolio that offers more than just a GPA. Brian Dalton

Life Skills
  • That group work is valuable because the skill set of working with a team will be needed for almost any job they will do in their life time. Also that your life plan will change as you grow, so do not worry if their are bumps in the road. Kristy from 2 Peas and a Dog
  • I wish more students had financial literacy skills and didn't get suckered into debt or cracking cards. History Gal
  • I think high school students need more practical life skills - opening a checking account, what it means to buy a car (dealer fees, interest, Gap protection, etc.) Lisa @ Mrs. Spangler in the Middle
  • Before going to college, I wish more high school students knew real world skills. I worry what might become of my students when they don't know how to balance their bank account, don't know their address (and I mostly teach sophomores!), or understand how credit cards work. I believe that every school should have a "life skills/how to survive in the real world" type class where you practice paying bills, the pros and cons to buying a house or renting, how taxes work, the ins and outs of voting, how jury duty works, how and why to set up a will, how to register your car, how to shop for insurance, how to start a small business, etc. Especially for students who go straight into the workforce, taking this class as a senior in high school would help students start their lives much more responsibly, and there's a chance they would be more successful earlier on. For those who go straight to college, a real world skills type class would still be beneficial because you typically don't learn how to shop for insurance or how taxes work in a class on Ancient Roman Archaeology. After discussing this concept with many teachers over the years, in different states, none of us have ever come up with a negative to this. We genuinely only see positive effects from students taking a "how to survive in the real world" type class before going to college (or rather before graduating from high school).  Stephanie's History Store
  • What was really needed to go into the career that they are interested in. I often have students that say they want to be an engineer, dentist, doctor, etc., but they are taking the general level courses in high school. I always try to counsel them, but I wish they had a more realistic view of what is needed for certain career paths, so they aren't really disappointed after high school. The Math Factory

  • I wish they had greater resilience and the ability to push themselves in the face of adversity. Too many give up too easily and don't work through the tough stuff. Addie Williams
  • I see so much stress in my seniors every year because they think they need to decide their future career path right away. They're eighteen and just figuring out who they are--how can they possibly know for sure what they want to do for the rest of their lives? I tell them to let the stress go, keep their options open and explore. Most importantly, they need to figure out what they love and try to find a job that focuses on that, not just a salary. Room 213
  • I wish they knew that many degrees do not end in career, and that it is so important to find a mentor or, mentors to help them settle into studies that will serve them. Not get a degree that will simply give them debt. They must be their own advocate and ask for help - in Grade 10, begin asking parents and teachers. Gina
  • Stay goal oriented. College is a time to have fun and be free, but don't let that get in the way of the rest of your life. Creative Couple
  • I wish that high schoolers knew that college isn't just about going to "school" and "class." College is an experience. While the goal is to graduate with a degree, I feel the real learning comes from being out on your own as you learn to live in a semi-adult world. College is fun, challenging, rewarding, and tempting all at the same time.  The Daring English Teacher
  • I used to say to my students "You'll need to know how to do this in college." I stopped doing that because after having been out of college for 20 years, I don't really know what it's like anymore. Plus, no student was ever going to come back and give me the satisfaction of telling me that I was right.  David Rickert
  • A great book stated where you go is not who you are. This is so true. College is your time to explore, discover, develop, and learn. It is an amazing opportunity, not just high school continued. I would love to see high school students see college as an opportunity not just another box on their checklist to ending up in some "job" somewhere. It is a precious time in your life that you can never get back. DocRunning  
  • I wish students would leave high school knowing: That college professors don't take excuses. How to take notes and/or study efficiently. That classes in college can be so interesting, so they should explore their options. That you probably won't remember a lot of these people who you think are making you miserable right now. Mme R's French Resources
  • I wish they knew that going to college isn't only for the purpose of getting a good job. It's also a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all kinds of new learning and a great time to explore new areas or just learn new things for the fun of learning.  Classroom in the Middle
  • Your social life will not rule your worldview forever. Betsy Potash

  • "Suggested" or "optional" reading isn't optional. Your professor is basically saying "You'd better do the reading, but I'm not going to make you". So many students move to college expecting someone to bail them out if they don't do the work. In college, no one cares if you fail, you have to do the work yourself. Mrs. E Teaches Math
  • I would love more students to recognize that writing effectively will help them in all aspects of life - whether it's writing a business letter, a memo or an important email. If it's written well, the message will be taken much more seriously. Thankfully, there are students who realize this. Allyson's Creative Corner
  • That they will use critical thinking skills daily. Lauralee 
  • I wish more high school students knew that math really matters. Hmmm.. this is the same answer I gave to the middle schooler question. I guess this means that I want everyone to know that math really matters. But in addition, I want ALL students (and everyone is a student after all, so I guess this means everybody) to know that math is exciting and incredible and amazing and not just a bunch of boring formulae and algorithms. weatherly
  • Self-reflection/revision of their writing. Student need to be able to critically look at their own writing in order to improve it and rework it to make it better. (Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind

Study Skills

  • That there are practical and doable ways to engage the mind actively -- even in those classes where faculty forget to do so. That enthusiasm is a choices and that you have to become your own best advocate! Play! Jump at every chance to do it differently -- so that your brain will expand to take in more useful information. Ellen Weber
  • Presently, I teach college, and I just wish students would come to me with good study skills. Scipi

  • Make sure you have a good work ethic in high school. You are going to need it! The Lab
  • I wish that high school students knew that when they get to college it's all on them. Their success and/or failure is dependent on their efforts. No one is going to call home if they don't do their homework or if they absent from class. No one is going to give them a do-over if they skip questions on a test or neglect study. I wish they knew that college can be the best few years of their lives if they open themselves up to all of the opportunities that are presented. SecondaryMathShop

What other advice would you give to incoming freshmen? Tell us in the comments below!

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