5 things students need to know before they get to college

Even the most academically prepared students have trouble adapting to a more mature campus environment, Shannon Reed writes for the Washington Post.

Reed, an English professor at Cornell University, is familiar with the many questions young adults have about—well, being an adult. Pulling from her experience fielding inquiries from new students, Reed identifies the lessons every young adult needs to learn before stepping on campus.

Lesson 1: How to learn from others

On campus, students will encounter people who are different from them, and they should be ready to learn from those differences, Reed writes. Young adults can start learning about the world outside their bubbles by paying attention to current events, she recommends.

Lesson 2: How loans work

Few students understand how much they've borrowed to attend college or how long it will take them to pay it back, Reed writes. But financial literacy courses can help students prepare for the financial challenges of life after college.

The California Community Colleges (CCC) system, for example, is implementing a crash course in personal finance to arm students with the knowledge they need to "save, invest, [and] stay out of debt," according to the CCC website.

Lesson 3: How to handle emergencies

Students will get sick on campus, but they should know that their professors aren't the right people to ask about cold medicine, Reed writes. Students should know where to reach medical help and how to take care of themselves when a cold strikes.

Sexual assault is another issue that students may encounter. Don't assume that students know how to report or prevent sexual assault, she warns. Some colleges are starting the conversation about affirmative consent and sexual assault prevention during orientation. Trinity College, for example, requires first-years to complete a sexual assault curriculum.

Related: A holistic approach to sexual violence prevention

Lesson 4: How to be alone

First-time students expect college life to mimic the movies or their parents' experiences, Reed writes. Too often, they're unprepared for the loneliness and homesickness that can accompany the tricky transition to college, she adds.

To help students understand that their feelings of isolation are common, leaders should amplify campus conversations about mental health, writes New York Times op-ed columnist, Frank Bruni. We need to let students know that college has its ups and downs, and feeling lonely is more prevalent than they think, he writes.

Lesson 5: How to be a good person

Students don't need to learn "Edwardian-era" table manners, but they should know how to hold the door open for the person behind them, Reed writes. Campuses are close-knit communities, and word gets around about "who's pleasant and who's not," she adds (Reed, Washington Post, 2/15).

Keep reading: 3 hidden pain points in the student experience


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