Advice From A College Senior

Maybe you’re trying not to think about college. Or, you’ve been accepted into a college or university. Now what? UNC Chapel Hill senior and WILMA intern Allie Wilson answers local teen’s questions.

As a freshman, how do you handle the freedom that you suddenly have and how do you balance social life, classes and work?
 Your first year is a gateway to so many social and educational opportunities. Plan time to wind down with friends and experience the college campus as well as your surrounding community. That being said, keep in mind that you are in college to gain educational experiences as well.   
The first week, just go out and meet people. Keep in mind that classes are starting at this time as well, though. The first day of class in college is a lot different than high school: professors delve right into the material. Make it a priority to schedule your classes well and look ahead in the semester for the different exams and papers that will be coming up. 

What do I need to know to survive college academics?
Develop good study habits. It’s a good idea to determine the best way you can study and get work done before the rush of classes begins. Many people like to hide themselves away in the library so they won’t have any distractions. Others, like me, like to work in coffee shops around other people. And some like to work in the quiet of their room. Some people work best at night; others like to use the time between classes to study, so their nights are free. Many times you have to work around so many different work/extracurricular/sports schedules that there is only one set of time that will work for studying, anyway. It’s a lot to balance, but it still is a lot of fun. 
Don’t forget to reward yourself with small study breaks when you’re buried in the books. Take a walk around town or grab coffee or a meal with friends to keep your mind fresh and your morale up. 

What is the hardest part about college?
 For me, the hardest part is juggling classes. The whole dynamic is completely different than high school. Professors will give out a syllabus for the whole semester before your first day of class, and they expect you to remember every due date. It’s easy to get behind in classes, especially when you have four or five at one time with exams all in the same week, but it is manageable.
I recommend keeping a calendar specifically for classes. It helps to stay ahead on your assignments and know exactly when every paper or project is due and when your exams land. Even though the workload is daunting, you also have more freedom with your schedule than before, so it is a nice change of pace, and there are so many opportunities to take advantage of during this time.

What happens if you want to switch your major?
You can definitely change majors in the middle of college. I know plenty of people who decided they wanted to switch majors and that’s fine. I’d say it’s better to switch if you suddenly decide that the major you are working towards is not for you. If you really want to switch in your second or third year, there are ways to take more classes and study something that better suits you. Summer school really helps with that.
In the beginning of college, though, you are taking so many general education requirements that you have a year to discover what you like and what you don’t.

How do I pay for college?
 Apply, Apply, Apply! Get a head start on your college funding (your parents will thank you) by applying for as many scholarships as you can in high school. There are many locally funded scholarships through different organizations, as well as statewide and nationwide scholarships. CFNC.org is a great guide for merit-based and need-based scholarships. FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is also something that you should fill out every year for financial aid. Many scholarships are simply based off of the fact that a student has filled out their FAFSA form. Part-time jobs are also a great way to have spending money. There are many jobs on and off-campus to apply for. Work-study programs pay you through tuition, which is a great way to reduce loans.