How to Prepare for College: Learn the Most Useful Tips

how to start preparing for college

Are you preparing to become a college student? Do you feel worried and overwhelmed? That’s totally normal. Studying at college is an extremely important experience and a crucial time in your life. If you Googled “How to prepare for college,” you’re not the first! 

In a new school, you’ll learn a lot of new things, meet plenty of amazing (and not-so-amazing) people, and you’ll test yourself. We understand your anxieties and worries and, as always, we’re here to help. Continue reading to learn the secrets to effective college preparation, unlock your true potential, and ensure you make the most of every moment of your higher education journey. Let’s go!

Quiz: Are You Ready for College?

Prepare yourself for academic success! The first year of studying is crucial, and with proper preparation and in-depth knowledge about your university, campus, effective study strategies, subjects, and schedule, you can maximize your chances of achieving your goals.

To evaluate your readiness for college, we have developed a brief quiz. Get ready to test your knowledge and set the stage for a successful journey!


Prepare for College Thoughtfully: Essential Steps You Should Take 

As you launch this exciting new chapter in your life, you have a lot to think about, a lot to plan for, and a lot of important decisions to make. To tackle the challenges that college has in store for you, here are some things to think about:

  • Academic preparedness. Doing well in your studies is super important, so aim to shine academically. Strong grades will improve your college application and boost your chances of getting into your dream college. There are additional ways to enhance your academic profile as well. Like taking a college preparatory course. Here are some of them:
Preparatory courses Why should I take it?
Advanced Placement (AP) Courses The renowned AP classes in high school provide a superb opportunity to immerse yourself in the college-level learning process and even receive some much-needed credits. Plus, acing those AP exams will impress colleges and show off your academic prowess.
International Baccalaureate (IB) Program Definitely consider participating in the IB program if your high school offers it. You’ll have the opportunity to get a super-cool, well-rounded education with a global perspective that colleges and universities are keen on.
Dual Enrollment How to prepare for college in high school? Take advantage of dual enrollment courses! It is possible to be a high school student and a freshman in college at the same time. Yes, you can enroll in college courses and earn credits through dual enrollment programs.
Honors Classes You’re all about achieving greatness, right? Well, participating in honors classes is a surefire way to showcase your commitment to academic excellence. Plus, nailing those classes will give your GPA a sweet boost and show colleges you’re up for any challenge.

Acing these courses is one of the ways to prepare for college. This might even score you some academic scholarships or get you into advanced classes at the college of your dreams. Thus, be sure to consult your school counselors and teachers for sound guidance on developing an academic plan that is tailored to your interests and ambitions.

“Balancing your course load with demanding programs such as AP, IB, dual enrollment, or honors courses is a smart idea. College admissions officers will appreciate your commitment to academic progress and taking the preparation for higher education seriously.”

Leticia Adamson, Ph.D. in English Literature and head of the ESL program at

  • College applications. Take the time to learn about the college you’re interested in. Check out their application process, jot down those important deadlines, and keep an eye on what documents and essays they might need from you. A pro tip – get those applications in early, so you can kick back and relax without the last-minute stress.
  • Financial planning. College can be a bit pricey, so it’s smart to take a close look at your potential expenses. There are numerous scholarships, grants, and financial aid options out there, both from the college and outside organizations. Create a budget that covers not just tuition, but also other expenses like books, transportation, and your personal needs. It’s all about being savvy and planning ahead.
  • Housing and accommodation. If you’ll be living on campus, complete the necessary housing applications and submit any required deposits. Look into the different dormitory options and their amenities. For off-campus living, start searching for apartments or shared housing in proximity to your college.
  • Orientation and advising. Make the most out of college orientation programs and advising sessions for freshmen while getting ready for college. Student orientation is your unique opportunity to get to know the campus, and all the great services and incredible support available to you. It’s like your personal tour guide to college life. Academic advising is your trusty sidekick in picking the perfect courses, figuring out those degree requirements, and planning your epic academic journey.
  • Course selection. First things first, follow your passions and choose courses that correspond to your desired major and interests. Remember, you’re not alone – academic advisors and upperclassmen are there to give you inside advice. Explore your options and build a schedule that’s just right for you. 
  • Health insurance and immunizations. Preparing for college, check out your health insurance coverage and make sure it’s all good to go. Some colleges might have specific health requirements, so take care of those health checklists.
  • Packing and essentials. Make a comprehensive packing list for a comfortable college experience: comfy bedding, soft towels, toiletries, school supplies (laptop included!), stylish clothes, and maybe a couple of things from home that make you smile.
  • Networking and connecting. To get ready for college, harness the power of social media platforms and college forums to connect with potential roommates or classmates before you arrive on campus. These early connections can make a world of difference, easing your transition and providing a strong support system throughout your college experience.
  • Health and well-being. Maintaining an active lifestyle, eating healthy, and practicing mindfulness or meditation are all ways to put your physical and mental health first. This will help you enter college feeling refreshed and energized.
  • Familiarize yourself with college resources. Check out college websites and other resources to learn about the academic support centers, clubs, and extracurricular activities and facilities – like libraries, fitness centers, and dining halls. By getting to know all the resources available to you, you’ll really enrich and make the most of your college experience.

Preparing for college in high school, taking care of these essential aspects will help you approach college with confidence and readiness.”

Cristel Roberts, a nursing student in Philadelphia

The Summer Before College Is For…

Now that we’ve already identified the basic – even vital – steps you need to take to prepare well for college, let’s move on to an equally important issue. What about what to do in the summer before this new, turning point in your life? Here are some excellent activities and approaches to make the most of this summer before starting college:

  • Academic refresh. Use the summer to review key concepts from high school courses, especially in subjects related to your intended major. This academic refresh will help you feel more confident when starting college-level coursework and help you over later scholastic hurdles.
  • Summer classes or workshops. To prepare for college, consider taking a summer course or participating in workshops that align with your academic interests. These experiences can provide a head start in your field of study and allow you to meet other motivated students with similar passions.
  • Hourly jobs or internships. Earning some extra money through side gigs or interning in a field related to your future career can be a valuable experience. It not only builds your resume but also gives you insights into professional environments and work dynamics.
  • Travel and exploration. Use your summer vacation to travel and experience new locations. Before you start college, travel may widen your viewpoint, introduce you to different cultures, and give you unforgettable experiences.
  • Reading and learning. Preparing for university, be sure to read books and articles, or listen to podcasts on topics that interest you. This practice encourages logical thinking and keeps your brain active over the summer break.
  • Personal projects and hobbies. Use this opportunity to work on personal interests and passions that you might not have time for during the school year. Getting involved in creative projects can be a terrific way to unwind and relax.
  • Family time and reflection. Spend quality time with your family and loved ones before leaving for college. Reflect on your journey so far and set goals for the upcoming college experience.

“The summer before college is a valuable time to strike a balance between preparation and relaxation. It’s an opportunity to set the tone for your upcoming college journey while cherishing the last moments of high school.”

Xiu Zhang, an international student in the USA

Use this time wisely, and you’ll step into college with confidence and readiness for the adventure that awaits you.

Things High School Students Aren’t Ready for in College

College life is a thrilling adventure, but there are a few things you might not feel completely ready for.

  • Heavy academic workload

A significant number of first-year students find themselves overwhelmed by the rigorous academic workload they face, which can exceed what they are used to. Many freshmen also complain that they have large gaps in their knowledge and find it difficult to keep up with the pace of their studies. They have to work hard on their own to meet the academic standards of their colleges.

prepare for college_academic rigor

Source – Reddit

  • Living in a dormitory can be difficult

One of the most important aspects of going to college is living with other students. On the one hand, having someone around who is going through a similar experience is helpful and can be empowering. On the other hand, everyone is different, each with their own understanding of “acceptable behavior” and their own biological rhythms. This can cause difficulties and even interfere with learning. The key to solving this problem is good old communication (it’s at least worth a try!).

college preparation_noisy roommate

Source – Quora

  • Maintaining a healthy lifestyle

After finishing school and leaving their parents’ homes, some students feel lost. There is no one to make sure they eat well (including those dreaded vegetables!), stay hydrated, and go to bed on time. Now, they have to decide what to do and when to do it by themselves. They generally have to take care of themselves. This can be challenging at first. It’s essential not to get swept away by the parties and to stay away from harmful habits (yes, cigarettes and binge drinking won’t make you happy in the long run, remember that).

how do i stay healthy in college

Source – Quora

  • Proper time management

A student’s life is filled with various events: classes, preparation for those classes, extracurricular activities, part-time work, socializing with friends, and much more. The main requirement for all these activities is time. Many students, especially newcomers, seek advice on how to manage it all. Indeed, it’s not an easy task, but there are several ways to address time management. Effective time management is not a fantasy but a reality that can be achieved through strict planning and self-discipline.

how do i manage time in college

Source – Quora

  • Need to make some money

Living on your own as a student can sometimes bring the shocking realization: “I don’t have enough money to feel good.” Yes, many new students face financial difficulties. Having enough money o pay for books, food, and yes, fun, is important and necessary. Finding a part-time job can help. It can help you to pay your expenses and lessen your stress over money. Don’t forget to manage your time properly so that you can succeed in your studies and aren’t suffering from juggling both work and study.

easy preparation for college_earn money

Source – Quora

  • Dealing with stress

Moving, a new environment, many different people, difficult subjects, long hours in the library, and scrupulous preparation for classes — all this can’t help but provoke stress. Feelings of anxiety and “it’s all too much for me” are quite normal and to be expected. Don’t hesitate to ask your family, friends, and your college counselors for help. They will help you find your rhythm and overcome the stress.

get ready for college_manage stress

Source – Quora

How to start preparing for college? With a clear plan of action and a calm mind, you will succeed. For sure, treat college preparation as something you need, but don’t let anxiety overwhelm you.

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Steven Bloom
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Steven is an IT student who constantly seeks new opportunities for self-development. He is also fond of popular culture and entertainment. Lately, Steven has started writing about the challenges he faces as a student. He finds it helpful to brainstorm when difficult tasks arise.