For students making the transition from high school to college, nagging questions can turn into doubts. Left unchecked, those doubts can turn into the dreaded “summer melt,” where students who accept an offer to attend college don’t manage to make it to campus in the fall, for whatever reasons.
Those reasons can be abundant: From financial concerns and fears about academics to feeling overwhelmed by a larger campus or not knowing how and when to turn in housing applications, there are as many pitfalls for students transitioning to college as… well, there are students heading to college.
If you’re a student heading to college this fall, don’t let the changes ahead psych you out and take you off your game. College is an exciting time with new opportunities and there are many resources for helping with those questions and concerns you might have as you get ready to walk on to your new campus.
Here are some great places to look for answers, support and a confidence boost this summer:
Your College’s Financial Aid and Admissions Offices
Many students feel that once they’ve been accepted to a college that their next interaction with the school shouldn’t come until the fall. The truth is that financial aid and admissions offices are the perfect place to answer questions about tuition, fees, student aid, housing deadlines and more. Much of this will be covered at orientation (make sure that you sign up for it!), but if you have questions before then, a call to your school’s office can lead to a quick answer before it becomes a big issue.
Your College’s Student Organizations
Just as the school’s financial aid and admissions offices want to see prospective students succeed, so to do student organizations. Even though the school year is over, many organizations are already working to help embrace a new class of students, engaging in their community and working to make the transition to college easier. First-Generation students can especially look to these groups for support, advice and a chance to meet new people before even getting to campus. Having a familiar face when you get there makes the move to college that much easier.
Many of the questions and concerns that students have during their summer transition aren’t unique to a particular campus. For more general questions, you can always call a local college to get insight to other resources or advice on how to move forward in the fall.
Iowa College Aid’s “Course to College” program works to build community engagement in many towns throughout the state. That means that you may have a local organization in your own backyard that’s looking to help students making the transition from high school to college. Even if there isn’t a group in your town, reach out to local organizations such as United Way, your church or even a mentor or friend who has made the transition to college before you. They’re advice may have more in common with your concerns than you think.
Iowa College Aid’s website offers advice and answers for students facing any number of issues heading to college. From our blog to our video gallery, we can help students feel a little more secure about what awaits them in the fall.
Iowa College Aid’s annual guide to preparing for, and succeeding in, college offers guidance of the steps that students can take before getting to school. More than that, the guide offers advice from college students on what to expect, as well as an example of average college student’s daily schedule. Getting a heads-up and hearing first-hand from other students can make a big difference in a student’s confidence.
The snow coats are finally put away in place of the short-sleeve shirts. Spring is here, with summer right behind. For high school seniors, the end of years of hard work are within your grasp with the goal of a college education just beyond it. But rather than coasting to the finish line, students looking to save money and hit the ground running once they get to college will find the next few months important.
“Summer melt” is the term used in higher education to describe students that intend to go to college after high school graduation, but never make it to college in the fall. Their college plans have dripped away like an ice cream cone in the July heat. Here are some tips to stay on track and keep those college plans firm this summer, and even saving a few dollars once you get there:
- Don’t fall victim to “senioritis.” The end of high school is certainly in reach, but that doesn’t mean students should take their foot off the pedal when it comes to school. Completing AP or dual enrollment courses in high school can reduce the number of credits that need to be taken in college. Think of it as getting free classes that would otherwise be part of tuition costs.
- Plan ahead to avoid changing majors. It’s not out of the ordinary for students to get to college not knowing exactly what they want to do. But changing majors, even once, can add a year or more to a student’s time in college. Use this summer to explore areas of career interest as a volunteer or intern to get a taste of what the day-to-day life in a particular job will be like. It might lead to reconsidering a college major before too much time and money is committed.
- Consider summer courses. Just like taking the AP, any courses that can be taken before college will help later. General education, or underclass, units can be taken at local community colleges, often with smaller class sizes and for less money than when a student gets to a college or university. Math is math, no matter where you take it. Why not get a head start now?
- Take a part-time job. Working during college can help reduce the amount of money that needs to be borrowed, in addition to providing valuable job experience. Use the summer to help build a nest egg for college expenses.
- Research textbook and supply rentals. Course books can be one of the biggest expenses for students once they get to college. While many colleges allow students to rent textbooks instead of buying them, online sites such as chegg.com, eFollett.com, textbooks.com and others can provide other options and the opportunity to compare prices. Getting to know the options ahead of time in school can lead to saving hundreds of dollars come fall.
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One of the most reiterated pieces of job searching advice is the importance of networking. One of the easiest ways to incorporate this is to join a local young professionals group through your company, industry or metropolitan area, such as the Young Professionals Connections of Greater Des Moines (YPC). This organization not only gives me the opportunity to make professional contacts, but also a chance to volunteer, socialize and learn more about what Des Moines has to offer.
This organization has helped me feel at home since I moved here after college graduation and continues to open more opportunities, from athletics to fashion fundraisers. Membership costs for these organizations are often very reasonable, or you may even be able to get your company to pay for it if you can make a convincing case of why this membership benefits your current position. Membership to networking groups can also include perks such discounted rates at local businesses and events.
Through YPC, I’ve heard various speakers on such topics as leadership, perseverance and how to be resourceful. Come prepared to events featuring speakers so you can ask intelligent questions and offer valuable comments. The best part of having these speakers in a small environment is the chance you get to ask questions and connect with these professionals on an individual basis. After all, you don’t want to wait until you need a job to start making connections and asking for references. Building up these relationships now will make any future job searches or graduate school applications that much easier because I’ll already have an established network of professionals.
Another important aspect to consider when joining a young professionals group is the opportunity to take a leadership role. Serving as head of a committee or project will enable you to meet even more key players in your community while also gaining valuable management skills. I look forward to pursuing one of these positions in the future and to all the volunteer opportunities available this summer.
So whether you are currently job hunting or have already begun your career, join a networking group to enrich your professional possibilities and connections!
Our guest blogger this week is Kate Tindall. Kate is a student at Iowa State University where she is working to earn degrees in Journalism and Mass Communication and Political Science, with a minor in Economics. She currently serves as a production intern for the City of Ames, Channel 12. This past year, Kate also served as an intern for the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics.
Warning: The following statement will look repetitive … An internship prepares you for a job, helps you gain business connections and looks great on a résumé.
Yes, those are valid reasons for finding and accepting an internship. Of course, if you’re accepting an internship SOLELY because it beefs up your résumé, you might question how much you will get out of that experience. But those reasons are both overused and a bit misleading.
I wanted an internship because I wanted my college experience to work for me. I wanted to see what I could DO with my degree. Before internships, I had worked on farms, in lumber yards, at nursing homes and for libraries. All those jobs prepared me to work hard. Now I wanted a vocational internship. I wanted my activities and classes to build my career. When I got the internship offer from Ames Channel 12, the May 20 start date couldn’t roll around fast enough.
Luckily, I found an internship where I am encouraged to ask as many questions as needed to produce a good broadcast. My favorite part of the learning experience is producing a feature like “The Hall of Mayors” (a special feature to showcase the history of Ames mayors) and critiquing that feature to make the next project better. Because I seek feedback from this internship, I find that opportunity in all internships, teaching assistantships and jobs. When attending internship interviews, try asking whether constructive feedback is a part of the experience.
Remember how an internship prepares you for a job? I learned quickly that I was not preparing for a job. I was preparing for a career. The difference? A job is specific to certain tasks. You learn those tasks, and you are set. But at a good internship, you don’t simply learn tasks. You learn skills you’ll use after the tasks become irrelevant. Those include confidence, communication skills and solving problems efficiently.
I thought I had learned this in college classes. Wrong! An internship provides immediate challenges that are only learned in the work world. If the monitor decides to stop working at 6:55 p.m. and the meeting starts at 7 p.m., I still broadcast with what technology still works (true story, by the way). Because of these challenges, class work frazzles me less. A simulation, final exam or law case brief is less daunting once vocational challenges put class into perspective. I now enjoy career challenges. Sometimes it’s nerve-wracking, but it’s not scary. Because of the confidence that comes with appreciating challenges, things like class tasks are just exciting!
Gaining connections are just as important as gaining skills. But one tip? Don’t wait until you get an internship to make connections! Make connections in high school by meeting with potential employers and job-shadowing. Then make more connections at a future internship. I enjoy my internship because I work with government employees, Ames citizens and university students on a daily basis. Ask potential employers for an internship description. Always look for internship opportunities that improve your skills and foster new connections in your field.
I love lists. I love calendars and I love time-management. So when I took the responsibility of an internship, I thought, “This will work.” But I have also shouldered semesters with full class-loads, two internships and activities. With all my calendars, it can be a handful. To keep sane, I have accepted there are only so many hours in a day. I set limits (sometimes with alarm clocks) on time for any one school project, social event or activity. Good time management saves me a trade-off between my internship, school and life in general.
So, have you found an internship with mentors to give you constructive feedback? Are you confident the internship will build your chosen skills? Does the internship give you a chance to meet those in your field and in your community? If so, be passionate about pursuing that internship! I have, and I look forward to going into work every morning. That is an exciting internship experience!