When I applied to college – and later went through the admissions process – I remember searching the web for tips and tricks that would apply to a student like myself, who graduated high school not only early, but also with my Associate’s Degree. The truth of the matter is that the more you accomplish, the trickier it will be to figure things out your “freshman” year. But enough cautioning. I’ve compiled this list of advice for students who are walking in the same shoes as me.
1. Keep What You Earn
Chances are, you’re reading this article because you worked your butt off to get where you are today. Congratulations! But now it’s time to get to the fun part. The education system is one big jumbled mess of thousands of students that also have to scream to be heard. The unfortunate truth is that you will easily slip through the cracks if you don’t stay on top of your organization.
Keep copies of all of your records and transcripts. Double and triple check with guidance and administration that the papers you submit for admissions and scholarships get where they need to go. Attending college at the same time as high school means that you not only have double the credits to worry about, you also have double the people you have to go through and deal with.
Take it from someone who’s been there, NEVER wait until it’s too late. Since you are a special case, it is especially important to do things early in case there are any complications. You WILL be forgotten. You WILL have to continuously remind people where you stand. Don’t let anybody shove you through the conveyer belt before you pass inspection.
2. Careful with the Credits
After months of pestering people with reminders and questions, things fell in line for me, and I was one of the lucky ones. All of my credits transferred and everything worked out as intended. Not every duel-enrolled (AP, IB, AICE, and other likewise college-credit-earning-program) student is able to keep the credits they earned. Your best bet is to make the highest grades you possibly can, and talk your way through it with a guidance counselor if you don’t receive credit. Different universities have different policies, and they all have a different level of willingness to make exceptions.
If you do happen to be in the group that has graduated high school early and plan on taking additional college classes before going to university, make sure you are aware of the rules your future universities have regarding college credits. Some will not allow you to obtain any more after you graduate high school, and some have a cap. If you exceed these limits, any scholarship money you are receiving due to your freshman status can be revoked. At Florida State University, they allowed me to take up to ten credit hours of class outside of high school before I would be considered a transfer. If you call your admissions office, they should be able to point you in the right direction. At the end of the day it’s really just about knowing your limits.
3. Carve Your Own Path
Oftentimes, the topics covered at your freshman orientation will not apply to you, so you have to get a little creative with introducing yourself to the school. It made it a little easier for me to treat my case like a transfer case, although the universities often will not consider you a transfer. Pay attention when information is useful, and when it’s not, brainstorm alternatives. For example, instead of joining a Freshman Interest Group (FIG), think about joining a club to meet new people and maybe make some friends.
4. Study Shock
Since you are being thrown into third-year classes as a first-year, the culture shock of college is going to seem even more overwhelming. While college-credit classes in high school are no laughing matter, chances are, the classes at your new university will result in a mind explosion. My first class at university was an Organic Chemistry lecture, where I got prodded and elbowed into a huge auditorium along with a string of 350 other students and sat down in front the tiniest writing table I’ve ever seen in my life. Your experience will vary based on the size of the college, but be prepared to do more legwork as your class sizes are larger. This goes for all freshmen, but specifically ones who will be thrown into their more difficult courses without having any time to warm up to the idea of hundreds of simultaneous murmurs and a miniscule lap table.
5. Always Ask
You are going to have a million questions, and you should ask absolutely every single one of them. Other people are not going to automatically know that you have no clue what you’re doing. Actually, I’m pretty sure most college students don’t really know what they’re doing throughout their expedition for a degree, but ask them anyways. Ask faculty, ask friends, ask strangers. Ask for directions, ask for help, ask them “What the heck is going on? Why is there a karaoke dance party happening on the sidewalk?”. Best case scenario, you figure out how to survive on campus and find somebody you can talk to. Worst case scenario, you have an entertaining or embarrassing story to tell down the line.
6. Enjoy Every Moment
This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. College goes by quickly. It goes by even quicker when your time is cut in half. Make sure that you experience everything you want to experience while you’re there. Don’t become so consumed by your studies that you become too exhausted or stressed to do anything else. Your time at university marks the beginning of your freedom as an adult, and I can guarantee that almost everybody wants to look back at those moments and smile.