Denisse-First Girl in Her Family to GO

Get Me To College



Surviving and Thriving Your First Year: 10 Tips From Some Who Knows  
Denisse Gomez, Class of 2013, University of California, Santa Barbara

First to Go to College in Her Family!!!

College is definitely not the same as high school! You might’ve thought you got away with putting in half the effort in high school, but college will take 200% of the effort. These are some tips that will help in this transition from high school to college. Some of these I’m sure you’ve heard, and some you probably haven’t, but either way pay attention!   

1. Attend a summer bridge program! These are programs during the summer before your freshman year that help under-represented students like us get ready for college. Just about every college has them. Once you get accepted, you may automatically be accepted into one. If not, contact the admissions office and ask about them. The lengths and activities of them vary and some colleges have more than one, but just go to one.   

Summer bridge programs help you familiarize yourself with your future college: some offer academic classes, college readiness and study skill workshops, and social activities. If THAT doesn’t convince you, at least go so you can get a head start on making new friends. THAT’S A BONUS. Oh, and don’t worry most colleges offer some type of financial aid for them.   

 I personally did not go to a summer bridge program, and I regretted it all through my first quarter and still do! The worst part was that many of the people I met already had a lot of friends since they had attended a summer bridge program. Also, some programs allow you to earn units so you can get a head start. If I had a second chance, I would definitely want to attend a summer bridge program.   

2. Choose first quarter or semester classes wisely. Make sure that you’re careful when choosing your 1st quarter or semester classes REMEMBER this is your transitioning quarter or semester, so don’t try to jump into college head first! Try to make sure your schedule is evenly rationed in reading, writing, math, etc. and don’t’ think you HAVE TO start your quarter off by taking all major requirement classes as those are usually intense.   

I made the horrible decision of taking all intense classes my first quarter thinking I didn’t want to waste any time and this resulted in me having a horrible and stressful first quarter. All of my classes were intense and rigorous, and I was not yet ready for that much so my attitude towards the school and my grades reflected that.   

3. Use campus tutoring programs right away. Make sure to make use of your campus’s tutoring programs! All colleges have them. All you have to do is ask around or google it! The tutoring sessions are usually free, and professors and teaching assistants offer free tutoring as well. Even if you’re confident in a subject, it never hurts to review!   

I have been using the free tutoring program since day one at this school and it has been a huge help! The tutoring program even offers extra classes to go over lectures and more and many give final review sessions which definitely come in handy!   

 4. Make a schedule. Keep a schedule of all important dates regarding school including: pass times, last day to change grade options, fee deadlines, FAFSA, office hours, last day to drop classes, etc. Remember if you miss deadlines, and withdraw from a class, a W goes on your record forever.   

I do this by putting reminders on my calendar in my cell phone but planners and post- it notes work too just make. Sure it’s somewhere you will pay attention to. This is really helpful because most of the time you will be super busy and you might not remember deadlines or office hours because time flies so make sure to do this. You don’t want to regret forgetting a deadline to something important.    

 5. Choose class times wisely. If you were not a morning person in high school, don’t think you can’t be in college! Choose your class times very carefully. So maybe your mom got you to high school at 8 a.m. for 4 years but your mom will not be there to wake you up in the college dorms. Try not to take 8 a.m. classes if you know you have a hard time waking up unless it is completely necessary (some classes offer different hours a day).   

I thought that even though I’ve never been a morning person, since I usually made it on time to school in high school I could do it in college. I mean why not right I’ve been doing it every day since elementary school. Well I enrolled in two 8 a.m. classes and I learned it was a very bad decision. Since no one was there to push me to wake me up I would over sleep, or be half asleep in class, or sometimes not make it at all. I have definitely learned my lesson.   

 6. Get involved. Remember, college is about academics but it is also about broadening your horizons by making new friends and networking. Join clubs, attend events, and visit the endless amount of centers (women’s center, health center, student resource, career services). This will make your first quarter or semester much more enjoyable and will help you meet some of the older students who can give you advice on classes, professors, assignments, etc.   

I joined an organization a couple weeks into my first quarter, and at first I was shy but finally I decided to attend a meeting and I loved it! The girls were a great support system when I was having a hard time academically and socializing helped to have something to do to get my mind off stressful things. Sometimes you might not be as lucky and love an organization on your first meeting, but there are many diverse clubs at every campus.  You’re bound to love at least one!   

7. Set boundaries. Make sure to make your boundaries clear with your roommate or roommates within the first week. This means making sure they will know what they can and can’t borrow, how to handle visitors, study and bedtime expectations, etc.   

My roommate and I had this discussion in the beginning of the year and even though we still have to have many discussions it is a lot easier to do after the first one.   

8. Keep family ties. Make sure to stay in contact with your family. You may think you want to be independent from your parents but you will soon learn that you will miss their support and comfort so make sure to stay in contact. They can visit you. You can visit them. They are still there for you.   

I talk to my parents everyday sometimes for a minute and sometimes for about half an hour depending on how my day I going.  I love being able to have someone who I know loves me listen to me.   

 9. Use office hours. Visit your teacher’s assistant’s and/ or professor’s office hours! These are one of the least used resources. I already talked about this a little but this is very important because you can learn a lot at office hours and ask questions that you would not be able to ask in a lecture hall. Also, you can gain an advantage over other students because if you have a more familiar relationship with T.A.’s and professors they will usually offer you more help of give you more of any idea of what’s going to be on exams.   

I don’t always follow this tip, but I know that when I have visited office hours I never regret it. Whenever I have visited office hours, I have never had to wait to see the professor of t.a. because there is usually no one there! Once a teacher’s assistant actually told me what I should focus my studying on for a midterm.    

10.  Make friends with your hall mates. As first years you’re bound to have some of the same classes so it will help you to have people in your residence halls to study with.   

I made good friends with my hall mates and found it really helpful to study in groups and to bounce ideas off of each other when writing papers.   

Lastly, HAVE FUN! College is what you make of it.

So go in with an open mind and get ready to work hard and have fun.