Prepare for College-Level Academia and Homesickness


While students often think of their junior year of high school as one of the most overwhelming periods of their academic career, the first year of college can also be a particularly stressful time. College freshmen must adjust to advanced-level courses, in addition to navigating new living situations and increased independence. This transition marks an important milestone in a student’s growth and development, but it also comes with a handful of challenges that should be considered well before college begins.

What Students Can Do to Prepare for College-Level Courses

Even all-star students will need to recalibrate their study strategies to keep up with the advanced-level courses that colleges offer. There are a few steps students can take before their freshman year to set themselves up for success.

Stay sharp during the summer

While it may be tempting to go on autopilot during the summer between high school and college, it’s in every student’s best interest to stay academically engaged. College-level courses require advanced critical thinking and analytical skills, so students should strive to keep their minds sharp by reading and working on any summer projects they’re assigned. Participating in a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity is another way to stay sharp during the summer months.

Take time management to the next level

Unlike high school, most college students don’t spend their entire day in classes. Instead, they might be in a lecture for a few hours and then complete lengthier assignments that will help them learn the materials independently. Having more unstructured time outside of the classroom is often an adjustment for students, and some may struggle to use it effectively. To start building better time management habits, begin keeping a planner before college so you’re more comfortable keeping track of multiple deadlines.

Prioritize reading and research

Whether they’re reviewing a new research paper or finishing up a novel, most college students end up spending a lot of their time reading. Almost every college class comes with a lengthy list of required texts, so it’s important that students are comfortable analyzing various forms of content. Summer vacation is an excellent time for students to commit to independent reading, which will help them prepare for college courses.

What Students Can Do to Combat Homesickness

Besides academics, college can be a difficult time for students personally and emotionally. To combat these challenges, students should:

Step outside your comfort zone 

College is an excellent time to try a new hobby or take a class in something you’ve always been curious about. Participating in clubs and extracurricular activities helps you add to your resume and make friends with students with shared interests. Even before college begins, students can start researching the types of activities they might like to do once they’re on campus.

Check in with family and friends

A little homesickness is almost inevitable, particularly if your college environment feels very different from what you were used to in high school. To help ease these feelings, set up standing phone or Zoom dates with friends and family so you can feel connected to your loved ones, even when you’re far away.

Make your dorm feel like home 

Bring comforting and familiar items from home like your favorite stuffed animal or a cozy blanket. Decorate bland walls with photos of friends and loved ones, inspirational quotes, or anything else that brings you joy. Add some mood lighting, plants, throw pillows, a fluffy rug, and even window curtains for those extra touches that make a dorm feel homier.

 Explore your new city/town 

Get to know your new town beyond campus. Discovering places you love in your new surroundings can help you feel less homesick, whether it’s a coffee shop that offers cozy seating for studying, a hole-in-the-wall place that makes the best pizza, or a local park with great walking trails.

 Seek support from on-campus resources  

Don’t be afraid to seek support when you need it. Most colleges offer a wealth of resources to support students outside of academics, including counseling services. Even discussing your feelings with your resident advisor may help. IvyWise Academic Advisors work with students to make the most of their college experience, including helping them take advantage of the resources on- and off-campus that can help alleviate homesickness.

While the start of college is a transition, it’s also an exciting opportunity for students to grow and pursue new passions. If you’re getting ready to apply to college and looking for additional guidance, our team of expert college admissions counselors is here to help.


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