Top Tips for new College Students

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My student Trevor is leaving for college at the beginning of August and he was in my office this week looking for strategies to ensure success. I’ve been working with him for a while now and I know how much he likes structure so this doesn’t surprise me.

“I just need a list of to-dos,” he said. “I like steps and routines laid out in advance. It’d be great if you could make a list that I could carry with me and refer to. I bet other students would love this!”

I agree!


All major transitions, like the one from high school to college, could benefit from a how-to guide. So Trevor, and all other students like him, here’s to the great adventure that lies ahead and below is my first list of tips for soon-to-be college students:.

  1. Set up a class schedule that is going to work for your sleep patterns and biorhythms. In other words, if you are not an early morning person, don’t book 8 am classes.
  2. Get 8 hours of sleep a night. Work out an agreement with your roommates as soon as possible about lights out if you are sharing sleep space. Sleep deprivation is detrimental to memory, attention, processing, and self-regulation. I’ve seen students miss classes to sleep in and thus miss critical content.
  3. Get off social media and computers/smartphones an hour before you plan to fall asleep. Read a book, listen to music, talk to a friend.
  4. Work out 3 to 4 times a week.  Make sure you allot time to exercise for 30 to 60 minutes, whether it’s organized sports or bicycling. Whatever it is, make it easy to do. When an activity is convenient and fun, it’s more likely to become habit.
  5. Find out what study space works for you and use it. Some students aren’t able to be productive in their own rooms or apartments. Coffee shops work beautifully. White noise and lattes can be stimulating! 
  6. Review your course syllabi carefully. College instructors generally post the quarter’s work at the beginning of the term, including all reading, topics, paper deadlines, mid-term and finals schedules. Plug the deadlines into your calendar system (you do have one, right?) Set alerts. Know what is coming and when.
  7. Go to class. Stay in bed only if you are deathly ill. Colds are not a reason to stay home generally. Go even if you are tired.
  8. Stay on top of your reading. No one will check if you’ve read an assignment, but if you don’t, you will quickly fall behind and risk being clueless.
  9. Take notes. If you don’t know how to take notes, get coaching or take a class. Since high schools typically don’t teach note taking, it’s likely you are not in the habit of taking notes. Practice this essential skill.
  10. Meet with instructors early. If you are confused, behind, or need help, set up an appointment with your instructor or drop in. Don’t wait until you’re are overwhelmed and avoiding class!
  11. Avail yourself of tutoring services. Find out who does tutoring, when and where.
  12. Connect with the disabilities office on campus early in the semester. Make use of any accommodations you are entitled to, and make sure your instructors are notified.
  13. Set a routine. Know that you’ll need time to get a routine in place that works. Make good use of your “free” time when you’re not in class.
  14. Know yourself. When is the best time of day for you to do complex reading and note taking vs. research?
  15. Get out of bed. This summer, before college starts, get in the habit of getting out of bed without your parents’ help.
  16. Work out budget and communication expectations with your parents before you take off for college. Setting up a system and ensuring that everyone is on the same page goes a long way to avoiding conflict and tension.

Summer Coaching

If you are a college student-to-be (or a parent) reading this and would like help before you go or while you are away, contact SOS4Students to book coaching time this summer. We’ve been preparing students for the next step for over 20 years, so we’re experts on getting them ready and engaged for a successful year!

Summer Workshops

SOS4Students also have terrific summer workshops for students transitioning to middle school and high school. We can help with note taking, study strategies, and expository writing. Check out all of our offerings below.

Contact us. We are here to help!

  • All workshops held at Tilden Prep (Walnut Creek Campus) except "Writing Rx" and "Write On" which are held at Orinda Academy. 
  • Summer coaching is available at our Walnut Creek and Montclair District offices.
  • Space is limited, so sign up early to ensure a spot. 

Middle School Workshops

Mastering Middle School empowers students entering sixth grade. Students learn invaluable skills to tackle the demands of multiple teachers and more complex assignments.

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6th - 8th GradesMake sure your child is prepared for the essay-writing challenges ahead with Write On, where we cover essay fundamentals for middle school students.

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7th & 8th GradeMiddle School Blitz gives your students the strategies they need to have control over their time and workload. Prepare your student to balance classwork, homework and outside activities.

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High School Workshops

9th GradeNailing Ninth Grade prepares your student for a successful transition to high school. Students come away with an invaluable toolbox of study strategies they will use every day.

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9th - 11th GradesWriting RX teaches students an easily replicable system for expository essay writing. Students leave confident and prepared to tackle the complex writing assignments that high school demands.

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9th - 11th GradesSecrets of Successful Note Taking demystifies the note taking process. Students learn techniques to take effective notes and use their notes to prepare for tests and papers.

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Summer Coaching

6th - 12th GradesCan't make the workshop you need? Does your student benefit from more individualized attention? All ages (even after high school) and abilities benefit from the one-on-one summer coaching sessions with our seasoned coaches.

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Beth Samuelson