• Getting Started

    The time has finally come. You’re just about finished completing your final year in high school and you are about to embark on an exciting life-changing experience: going away to college! Before you know it, you’re going to be making one of the biggest changes in your life. With the prom, final exams, graduation, and your high school buddies behind you, the thrills and apprehensions of going to college are about to become a reality.

    This guidebook is to help provide students, like you, with information that will lead to a smoother transition from high school to college. The essential goal of this guidebook is to assist in highlighting the pathways to academic achievement in college along with the essential personal, social and emotional components, which form the foundation for a productive future.

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  • Choosing the RIGHT college for you

    For those of you who may be tossing and turning in bed trying to figure out which college to
    attend, here are some questions to ask yourself that may make your decision a little easier:
    1.    Location– Do I want to stay in New York or go out of state? Do I want to be able to
    live on campus? Do I want to stay on the east coast or go to college on the west coast? 
    Do I want the college to be located in or near a city or small town?
    2.    Size– Do I want to attend a large or small school? Do I want to be in small or large
    classes? What is the student/teacher ratio?
    3.    Cost– Is the school affordable for my family and me? Are there any scholarships I
    can apply for? Will I receive financial aid?
    4.    Programs of study– Does the college have programs I am interested in and may
    like to major in?
    5.    Activities– What activities are available on campus? Does the college have the
    specific sports or clubs that I am interested in?
    6.    Atmosphere– When I visited the college, did I like the overall appearance of the
    campus? Could I see myself living there for four years? Did I feel comfortable around
    the other students on campus?
    7.    Jobs and/or Internships– Are there any jobs available for me on or off campus? 
    Are there any internship opportunities for me once I become more familiar with my major?
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  • How to Establish a Budget for College Expenses


    Most of you may not be sure how much money to take with you to college. This all depends on your spending habits, how much you can afford, and the cost of living in your college town. In order to take these into account, you must be sure to set up a budget before you leave for school. Budgeting requires you to put a pen to paper to figure out how much money you have, and how much you will need to spend. You may want to use the sample budget worksheet below to help you develop a college budget. If your income is less than your expenses,
    you’ll need some help!

    Sample College Budget Worksheet:


    From Jobs 

    From Parents

    From Student Loans  
    From Scholarships 
    From Financial Aid

    Miscellaneous Income 

    Income Subtotal:

    Amount Budgeted



    Actual Amount










    Tuition & Fees 
    Books & Supplies

    Room & Board (Housing)

    Food (Meals) 
    Car Payment /Transportation





    Misc. Expenses 

    Expenses Subtotal:

    (Income less expenses)

    Amount Budgeted













    Actual Amount














    After completing this worksheet, hopefully you found that your expenses are less than your income. If this is not the case, you may want to find out about getting a job while attending college either on or off campus. 



    Getting a credit card in college is relatively easy. Many companies offer limited credit lines with high interest rates, and most do not require a minimum income. Once students arrive on campus, credit card companies are more than eager to get their business. Many may even sucker you in to fill out an application to get a free T-shirt. 

    Credit cards may seem like your best friend (allowing you to buy now and pay later), but they can be anything but your friend if you are not financially disciplined. If used wisely, credit cards can lead to a respectable credit report and make it easier to purchase a home or car after school is over. If used haphazardly, a credit card can also get you into a heap of trouble. 


    According to a 2000 analysis by Nellie Mae, one of the nation’s top 15 education loan originators, the average credit card debt for an undergraduate student is $2,748. If you only make the minimum monthly payment of $75, it will take you15 years to pay off that amount. Over those 15 years, you will pay as much interest on the loan as you originally borrowed!


    To prevent credit card nightmares, you should look into getting a debit card over a credit card. It differs from a credit card in that the money is drawn immediately from your checking account at the time of a purchase. However, if your parents feel comfortable enough for you to have a credit card, do yourself a huge favor and use it for EMERGENCIES ONLY! 

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  • What to shop for and what to pack

    Unless your college is close enough to home to allow for frequent trips to pick up forgotten items, you should get a jump on packing at least a month or so in advance.

    If you can, contact your roommate-to-be to discuss what you both can bring to help make your dorm room comfortable. Most college housing furnishes each student with the basics: a bed, chair, desk and dresser. Everything else you bring is up to you. (Just keep in mind that dorm rooms are rather small, so make sure you don’t bring too many huge or extra items that you can do without.)
    ·Clothing– You’ll want casual clothes for most activities, but a few dress-up outfits for special occasions. Take enough clothes and undergarments to last at least two weeks. (You may have intentions of doing your laundry weekly, but it has a way of piling up once you get busy with classes and meeting new friends.)

    ·Seasonal items– umbrella, boots, scarf, gloves, winter coat, etc.

    ·Appliances– You and your roommate may want to share an iron, coffeepot, answering machine, stereo, refrigerator, microwave, television, computer, and printer. On the other hand, it’s probably best to keep some items separate, so there is no hassling over things like desk lamps, fans, hair dryers, alarm clocks, etc. (Most colleges have rules about what appliances are allowed in residence halls. Be sure to check what these rules are before packing your microwave and refrigerator.)


    ·Personal items–Think about the things that you use each day at home. Then make a list and take it with you on a shopping trip to the mall. 

    Use this list to help you get started:

    -  Toiletries
    -        Medication/Vitamins
    -        Linens
    -        Pillows
    -        Blankets
    -        Towels and washcloths
    -        Address book
    -        Stamps and envelopes
    -        Backpack for books
    -        Band-Aids
    -        Laundry basket, detergent, etc.
    -        Shower shoes (flip flops)
    -        Small bucket or shower caddie (to carry toiletries back and forth)
    -        Bath robe
    -        Rug
    -        Garbage pail
    -        Double-sided tape to hang up posters 
                (most colleges won’t allow you to use nails or tacks in the walls)  
    -        Stock of food (cereal, cup of soups, snacks, drinks, etc.)
    -        Clothing hangers
    -        Mirror
    -        Decorations (pictures, posters, plants, etc.)


    Be sure to check with your college and residence hall about things that you can and cannot bring to your dorm (e.g., appliances, etc.) Also, be sure to follow the rules of the dorm. 

    Your residential advisor

    It might be natural to look at the RA on your floor as replacement of parental authorities and then try to have as little contact with them as possible. That would be a mistake. In the first place, they don’t want to be your parents and would prefer to never have to exercise any authority. While RA’s are not looking for confrontations, they do have the weight of the entire college on their side, so if one of them gets on your case for behavior that you know is against the rules, don’t try to give them a hard time. Instead, say you’re sorry and cleanup your act.


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  • How to get along with your roommate

    After the initial acceptance process, if you are going to live in the dorm, the housing office may send you a form asking questions about your roommate preferences and your own habits (e.g., whether you smoke, study in your room, sleep with the window open or enjoy loud music). The housing office matches your responses with those of other students. This doesn’t guarantee your roommate will end up being your best friend, but at least you’ll have similar traits. (Be sure that you answer all of these questions HONESTLY! If you absolutely hate smoking and you say that you don’t mind it on the questionnaire, you will be miserable for the entire school year if they pair you with a roommate who is a smoker.)

    Prior to the start of school, the housing office should send you the name, address, and telephone number of your roommate. To show your interest in establishing a friendly relationship, write or call your roommate before you leave for college. This will give you the opportunity to get to know them a little better and not make the first meeting in the dorm feel so awkward. It will also give you the opportunity to discuss the items you are each bringing to the dorm and help you avoid any unnecessary duplication of things that could be shared (e.g., computer, printer, refrigerator, etc.)

    In the beginning, your college roommate will probably be a very important person in your life. The first few days in a new environment can bring about a mix of emotions, and knowing you’re not alone can be a relief. Remember, you don’t have to agree on everything, but you can achieve an agreeable living arrangement. Discuss your likes and dislikes openly. Share cleaning responsibilities, set up ground rules, and agree to abide by them. Patience, courtesy, consideration, willingness to compromise, and of course, good communication are essential.

    If you cannot get along or resolve your differences with your roommate, discuss your problem with the residential advisor or housing director.

    Morning Larks vs. Night Owls -

    Once freed from their parents’ rules and regulations about when to go to bed and when to wake up, college students choose to turn night into day. Because of this, most students tend to choose classes that begin in the afternoon rather than the morning to avoid having to wake up early. However, even the best class schedules will have the occasional morning class and if you have a job, it will be even harder for you to choose afternoon classes.

    FACT - Living on different schedules is one of the most common problems among roommates

    1.     If you’ve got a schedule that’s full of early morning classes and your roommate never goes to bed before 4 a.m., then you’re going to be sleep deprived and that makes it hard to absorb everything you’re studying.

    2.     It’s not just nighttime sleep that can be affected, because if one roommate wants to take an afternoon nap while the other is watching their favorite soap, the conflict will continue into the daylight hours as well.

    3.     Pack some earplugs. There will be nights when you’re exhausted and will need to conk out before 4 a.m. If you have trouble getting enough sleep at night, cap naps can be quite refreshing. Even 15 minutes’ worth of sleep between classes can keep you going. (Just be sure that you wake up for your class!!)

    4.     If you’re planning your class schedule before you actually arrive on campus, be sure to leave some mornings free so you can sleep late.

    5.     Don’t abuse caffeine in whatever form. You need to sleep to absorb what you are studying, so staying up all night before an exam will only have a negative impact.

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  • How to meet new people and make new friends


    New people are everywhere. In addition to your roommate, you can meet people in the dining hall, the laundry room, recreation centers, and, of course, your classes. All you have to do is make a small effort to be available.

    Don’t stay in your room and wait for people to drop in and introduce themselves; most of the freshmen are as nervous as you. In fact, it’s far easier to meet people during those first few days when everyone is new. If you wait until relationships have formed, you may find it more difficult to make friends.

    One great way of meeting new people is at Freshman Orientation. Most colleges plan programs to help freshmen get their bearings and involve them in social activities that foster friendships. So be friendly and make an effort. 

    Additional ways to meet people are:

    -        Exchange names with people in your classes.

    -        Join residence hall or living group activities.

    -        Consider joining a fraternity or sorority.

    -        Attend sports and cultural events.

    -        Join clubs or groups.

    -        Work for your school government, school newspaper, yearbook, or magazine.

    -        Do volunteer work.

    -        Participate in intramural sports.

    -        Ask to sit with people you don’t know in the cafeteria or dining halls.

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  • How to deal with living in the dorm (e.g., alcohol, drugs, so-so food, noise and other distractions)


    Even if you come from a family with twelve children who all shared a rather small living space, you won’t be prepared for dorm life, as those around you won’t be your sibling and Mom and Dad won’t be around to act as referees. So the key word that you’ll have to incorporate into your lifestyle is “adapt.” What will you have to adapt to? Noise, late hours, so-so food, social pressures, academic pressures, drugs, alcohol, constant interruptions, etc.



    Most students already had to struggle with personal decisions about alcohol and drugs while still in high school. Should I? Shouldn’t I? By the time you arrive at college, you are well on your way to formulating your own set of values. Now college life brings you face-to-face with more choices than ever, and perhaps for the first time you have no parental guidance. Your college experience is an exciting time in your life and a time for personal growth. It will be happier and healthier if you:


    -        Stick to your guns.

    -        Don’t succumb to peer pressure.

    -        Are responsible for setting your own limits.

    -        Learn to stand up for yourself and your beliefs.

    -        Resist overindulging yourself.

    -        Be wary of “party animals.”


    Remember, most of all, that college will teach you more than academics. This is your chance to learn who you are and how to control your life. The ultimate test won’t be graded by a professor, but by you, according to your own standards of success.


    So-So Food

             Most college campuses have a cafeteria and other dining facilities on campus that serve the same types of food such as sandwiches, hamburgers, chicken, pizza, french fries, etc. Some of it is good and some of it isn’t. If you are a person who is a very picky eater, it may be a good idea that you bring your own stash of food and cook it in the dorm (most dorms will have a communal kitchen where students can cook). This will save you money, as the food on campus can get rather expensive, and it will also save you from gaining the so-called “Freshman 15.”

    If you put on 15 extra pounds as a freshman, it usually means that you’re probably not eating right. With all of the available junk food on campus, you can’t keep yourself from gorging on pizza and chips at least twice a day. Now that you’re living away from home, Mom is not constantly looking over your shoulder to make sure that you’re piling on the broccoli and carrots and making sure that you eat a proper diet.

    Just remember, when you go away to college, try to eat at least a few healthy meals a week and be sure that you get enough exercise. Most campuses will have a gym that is probably just as equipped, if not better equipped than Bally’s or Gold’s Gym. Use it!!

    Noise and other distractions

    The noise in a college dorm doesn’t just keep you awake. It can also be a detriment to studying. While there are always some students who don’t think studying is their main purpose for being at college, most students realize that learning and getting good grades is their prime purpose for being at a place of higher learning. But if you’ve gotten used to studying in a quiet room, then you’re definitely going to have to adapt to studying in college.


    Noise all by itself doesn’t have to be a problem. In high school, you might have accustomed yourself to studying while you had some music playing in the background. But if you did, you set the volume, and there weren’t three, four, or five different kinds of music going on at the same time, as well as TV’s blaring, people shouting, and someone sharing your room who keeps talking to you whenever they feel like it. Each dorm is going to be different, so you have to be aware of what the rhythms of your particular dorm are and work around them.


    Look for quiet areas where you can study and use them when you have a test the next day or reading that has to get done. If you need to use the computer in your room to get work done, listen to a quiet CD through headphones. The music will drown out much of the other noise. Most dorms are quiet in the morning, when the students are either at class or sleeping. Make use of that time (if you can) to get work done that requires a lot of concentration.

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  • How to know what courses to take

     In high school, you had a guidance counselor who told you what classes you needed to take in order to graduate (e.g., four years of English, four years of Social Studies, etc.) College is very different. Most colleges will assign you to a freshman advisor, but, for the most part, it’s up to you to fulfill basic requirements and select courses that fit into your program.

    The first thing you should do is become familiar with the course catalog. It will give you basic information on graduation requirements and specific details about courses. Most schools assign each class a value of credits (usually it’s 3 credits), depending on the amount of work and time it involves. 


    For each major, there are required courses and elective courses defined in the course catalog. If you do not have a major chosen when you begin your freshman year, it’s okay. You’ll still be able to take your liberal arts classes or CORE classes that everyone must take in order to fulfill their graduation requirements. Be sure to take some electives so you can get to know about the different majors that are offered. If you choose a major and decide that it’s not what you expected, you can always change majors. 


    Ask questions of your advisor or registrar such as:

    -        How many credits are required for graduation?

    -        Which courses are mandatory for graduation?

    -        How many credits are you allowed to carry each semester?

    -        How many credits is each course worth?

    -        How many credits per semester can most students handle?

    -        How far into the semester can you drop a class?

    -        When do you have to declare a major?

    -        What are the requirements (credit hours and course sequences)
                for your major course of study?

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  • How to familiarize yourself with the college campus


    The first couple of weeks at college should be the time to find out everything you need to know about the campus. Most campuses are pretty large and it is a good idea to get familiar with every aspect of the college so you can take advantage of everything that’s available to you for the four years you will be living there.


    Some of the things you should find out about are:

                1.  Places to study such as the library–Sometimes your dorm may get a little bit loud and distracting as you are trying to study or get some reading done. It’s a good idea to know where there are other quiet places where you can get some work done such as the library. Make sure you know where it is located and the hours it is open.

    2.    Places to eat–Of course there will be dining facilities on campus where you will be able to purchase a meal-plan at the beginning of the semester. Usually, when you purchase a meal-plan you will get a card that you can use anywhere on campus to purchase meals. It is a lot easier to swipe this card whenever you’re buying food rather than carrying cash with you all of the time. It is also a good idea to find other places to eat off-campus just in case you start to get sick of eating the same cafeteria food. The downside to this is that you won’t be able to use your meal-plan to purchase meals off-campus.

              3. Transportation–Some of you may bring your cars with you when you go away to school so make sure you know where you are and aren’t allowed to park (usually there is  faculty and student parking). Be sure you find out the university’s rules about allowing
    freshmen to have cars on campus. If you do not have a car, know where the bus stops are,
    train stations, etc.


              4. Clubs, sports, fraternities, sororities, etc.–You want to be sure you are involved in campus activities as possible to allow you to make new friends and to keep you from getting bored when classes aren’t in session.


              5. Health office–You MUST know where the health office is located just in case you
    ever get sick. Usually health offices are able to prescribe medication if are seriously sick
    (e.g., strep throat, cold, stomach flu, etc.)


              6.    Gym–It is a good idea to know where the gym is to be sure you get the exercise you need to stay in shape, especially if you are involved in intercollegiate or intramural sports.


              7.   Class buildings–This may sound tedious, but make sure you know where all of your classes are located. When you first get your class schedule, take a walk around
    campus to familiarize yourself with the different buildings so you’ll know which buildings your classes are in and so you won’t get lost the first day of class and risk being late.


              8.    Computer labs–In most cases, the dorms will not be large enough for both you and your roommate to have your own computers. If this is the case, you will both have to share one computer. You will most likely run into a time where both you and your roommate have a paper due on the same date and obviously, you both can’t be on the same computer at once. Familiarize yourself with the computer labs and the hours they are open just in case you are ever in this situation.


              9.    Your advisor–All students on campus are assigned an advisor who they usually go to for advice about academics, friends, and other stuff. Be sure you become familiar with your advisor so they know who you are and know where their office is located and their office hours. Usually the advisors are also professors on campus and they are only in their office a couple of hours a day. Make sure you know what these hours are just in case you need to drop in and see them.


             10.  Jobs–Some students’ parents will be helping them out with money while others have to go out and make some extra cash. Familiarize yourself with the jobs that are
    available both on and off campus.

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  • How to get a job and make some extra cash


    With college tuitions as high as they are, more and more students are working while they attend classes. On most campuses, college students work an average of 25 hours a week either on or off campus. Students who are working will certainly have a much different lifestyle than those who don’t have a job. While you can shift the times you study, and even get some choice as to when to schedule your classes, work hours tend to be less flexible.

    Most campuses have a career center on campus where there are counselors that can help you get the job you may need. Be sure that you think about what type of work you want to do, how many hours you want to work, if you want to work on or off campus, if the job will give you any experience to what you may want to do in the future, and how much you are willing to be paid. 

    If you have a choice of jobs, don’t let the pay rate be the only deciding factor. Obviously if one job teaches you something of value, that should be your first choice. But if you can find a job where you can crack open a book now and then, it might be better than a job that pays a little more but occupies your attention full time. 

    If having to work and take classes is too much for you, maybe it’s a good idea if you take fewer classes during the semester and take a few courses over the summer to balance out the semester. Whatever you decide to do, remember college life is supposed to be fun. It is normal to run into a few stressors here and there, but always be sure that you make time for yourself to relax and have fun. 

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  • Ways to stay in contact with HS friends and family


    Most of you are going to be busy your first few months as a freshman in college making new friends and going out to social events. It may be difficult to do, but try not to loose contact with your high school friends and especially not your family. 

    Stay in contact with friends and family by:

    -         Letters–Always be sure you have stamps and envelopes so you can write letters back and forth to the ones that are closest to you.

    -         Email–Email is the cheapest way to go about staying in touch with loved ones. Try to write emails to friends and family once a week or every couple of weeks to keep them up to date on your new life and to find out what’s going on in theirs as well. Most of your high school friends will be in the same boat as you and you want to make sure that you are just as interested in their college experiences.

    -         Telephone–Most campuses will only allow you to use a certain number of minutes on your phone so you want to keep conversations to a minimum. Try making calls to family once a week and to friends once every couple of weeks.

    -        Visits–Of course you’re going to want to see your family and friends so try to set up a schedule where they can come up and visit you at school and you can go back home to visit them.

    Some students when they first get to college are apprehensive about change and begin to feel homesick. It is only natural to have these feelings your first year away from your family and friends. However, you don’t want to spend too much time dwelling on these feelings otherwise you will miss out on fun and exciting aspects of college life. Try to keep yourself as active in campus life as possible and you will adjust without a problem.


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