Every year across the U.S., legions of freshmen enter college for the first time. For a select few, the transition from high school to college will go smoothly. Most freshmen will; however, find the transition from high school senior to college freshman to be a painstakingly long and painful one that is fraught with many hazards along the way. Entering college is an exciting and confusing time for most freshmen. Usually, this is the first time in most people’s lives where they live away from their parents and relatives. Not only are most living away from home for the first time, but at the same time they must learn to adapt in a dynamic, new and entirely alien environment. Upon entering college, students will find that the coursework is more intense, works hours are longer and they are often far away from the positive support networks of family and friends back home. In this new and confusing world, how does one not just cope and survive-but thrive in this new environment? The key to success in college often comes down to knowing several things.
First, it is essential to know how to write a good paper and in order to do this; one must know how to use both the APA and MLA style format. Second, one must know how to effectively research information when writing a paper. Finally, one must be able to seek out positive peer networks to help with integration into college student life.
Writing papers is a large (probably majority) part of every college student’s experience. The two most commonly used citation formats for writing papers used at the undergraduate level are the APA and MLA. Often times citing sources in a paper can become confusing. There are different procedures for citing books, newspaper articles, webpages, encyclopedias, etc… No one ever remembers how to cite this information perfectly. However, there is help. The best resource online for help with using APA and MLA style formats is the Purdue Online Writing Lab-known as OWL or Purdue OWL for short. This website is chalked full of helpful information on using APA, MLA, Turabian, Chicago and many other writing styles. This website is a treasure-trove of information for college students of all levels! The website is https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/. The sooner you become skilled at writing research papers, the better! The best time to learn how to write a good research paper was yesterday, but since yesterday is gone-today is the second-best time to learn.
Another area that students (especially new students) have trouble in with regards to college is conducting good research for their papers. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen students try to use Wikipedia as a reference! Using good resources is a must to write A level papers. The best resources to use consist of peer-reviewed journal articles, encyclopedias (both online and hardcopy), textbooks and books written by recognized authorities in any given field. Early on in college I found that if I went lighter on the internet sites for resources (even those that were high-quality and acceptable for papers); and went heavier on textbooks, journal articles and books, the professor would usually be more generous in grading my papers. Some great resources for getting access to old textbooks are the local library and second-hand bookstores. It is surprising how cheap a textbook that is a few editions back can be purchased for! I have purchased old textbooks to supplement research for papers at prices as low as $7.00. However, there are a number of places on the internet that have scholarly peer-reviewed articles and even whole books that can be read online. Two places I recommend are Google Scholar and Google Books. Google Scholar has many peer-reviewed journal articles for free that can be accessed-though there are also a lot that are available for a fee. Another advantage to Google Scholar is that you can click on the “cite” option for any article and you are automatically supplied with the correct citations for said article in APA, MLA and Chicago styles.
Last; but not least, there is the problem of the lack of positive social-support networks. Oftentimes this gets overlooked in our highly individualistic and competitive society. The fact remains that many people who are new to college find themselves living far away from home and isolated. Without positive social support, it becomes easy to fall in with the wrong crowd and engage in a host of activities that could jeopardize academic and personal success. I always advise people to get in touch with groups of like-minded students at their campus. Fortunately this is quite easy to do! There are usually a host of student clubs on campus that can accommodate every type of person. Are you religious? Chances are that there are a number of religious organizations present at your campus. Maybe you are interested in politics? It is not hard to find political clubs that cater to Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, Greens, etc… Perhaps you are LGBT and want to form positive social connections to the local LGBT community? As you guessed, there are also clubs and student organizations that cater to helping LGBT students make the transition into college. These are just a few of the positive social support networks that can help students. Check out your local campus for more information about student clubs.
While this is not by any means a comprehensive list of resources that are needed to be successful in college, they fall into my favorites. I hope that this post helps many of you with school and adjusting to this new period in your lives. College is a journey and the best way to undertake any long, arduous journey is to have a comprehensive roadmap!
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