Letter to the Editor: College advice for new high school graduates

Around this time every year, high school gymnasiums and football stadiums are filled with seniors wearing caps and gowns. While graduations mark the end of a formal education for some, they’re just the beginning for others. After the Pomp and Circumstance stops, at least two-thirds of Delaware’s seniors will enter an institution of higher education in the fall.

When I headed off to college two years ago, I was frustrated by the lack of advice for new students from current students. College has changed a lot within the 15-25 years, so it’s important to hear from those who are in it today. Now, as a rising junior in college, I’ll share three college tips that I’ve learned with this year’s high school seniors.

First, realize that college is a significant time commitment. Compared to classmates who directly enter the workforce after graduation, going to school for four more years may appear to be an easy option. But it’s not. Essentially, college is like going to school as a full-time job. On average, it’s possible to spend 4-8 hours per day studying or doing homework. That doesn’t even include the three or more hours of lectures that may be needed on most days.

A study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found that 54 percent of college drop-outs quit school because of problems with juggling work and school. One third of respondents said that balancing their schedules was too stressful, and 47 percent agreed that they spent too much time socializing.

It’s easier to handle college the sooner you recognize the amount of time it requires. Often, students don’t understand this concept until their grades plunge. Proper time management greatly helps to ensure academic success.

Second, surround yourself with the right people. College is different from high school in that students have much more free time. Everything is optional. There are some who devote themselves entirely to their classes. And there are some who devote themselves to anything but their classes.

Everyone starts with a blank slate in college. Few know what you did in high school or care about past exam scores. Use this opportunity to build good habits. If you hung out with a group of troublemakers in high school, try being around the serious students instead. Studying isn’t as difficult when friends collaborate with you or provide encouragement to stay on-task.

Third, use your school’s resources to learn some marketable skills. Not all major fields of study directly pertain to a job. Pick a major in something about which you’re passionate to keep yourself invested in your studies. But take some time to learn other subjects that will help you get a job. Most colleges offer computer programming, Arc GIS, foreign languages, public speaking, statistical analysis, or social media management as classes. Any of them are good options.

Always learn technological skills whenever possible. They will give you an upper hand in the job search. The World Economic Forum predicted that 65 percent of the jobs that today’s high school seniors will have do not yet exist. Innovations are happening every day that will create new opportunities for employment. Colleges, being at the forefront of research, are always willing to teach their students about these breakthroughs. Take advantage of them.

Enjoy graduation and summer vacation in the coming weeks. The next 2-4 years will be more difficult than high school. But don’t forget to have fun and explore new opportunities.

I wish everyone the best of luck in the fall.

Liam O’Connor


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