Congratulations! Your child has been accepted, agonized (or maybe not!) over which school to attend, and finally decided on a college.
Newsday asked high school counselors for their best advice on what high school seniors should do over the summer to ensure a successful freshman year on campus. Don’t want to nag your kids (like you probably did when they were writing their application essays)? Text them this checklist.
1. Start religiously reading email. Students should sign up for their .edu email with the university and check email daily. That’s how colleges communicate, says Martha Tuthill, school counselor at Shelter Island High School. “They’re not used to checking email, and they need to make that a priority,” she says.
2. Join the school’s freshman class Facebook group. Many students find their roommates through school-specific social media groups instead of being randomly assigned by their college, says Elizabeth Hammer, chair of guidance at General Douglas MacArthur High School in Levittown.
3. Check again for scholarships. Colleges may have offered another student a merit or niche scholarship, but that student has decided not to attend, freeing up that money, says Antoinette Shervington, school counselor at Brentwood High School. “Reintroduce” yourself to the admissions/financial aid office and ask if any scholarships have reopened, she says.
4. Visit campus again — or for the first time. Many students have visited multiple campuses and their memory may be a blur, says Jonathan Macaluso, director of guidance for the Connetquot Central School District. “The more familiar you are with your surroundings, the more comfortable you’re going to feel once you walk on that campus,” Macaluso says.
5. Explore the college’s website. Email the adviser or the club president now for groups you want to join. “Setting yourself up for social success before you get to campus is a good idea,” says Paul Weber, executive assistant for guidance for the Massapequa School District. Peruse courses to have an idea of which ones are appealing before registration, says Laurie Levy, supervisor of guidance and student support services at South Side High School in Rockville Centre.
6. Consider a pre-college experience. A lot of colleges offer “freshman experience” programs before school officially starts — for instance an outdoor adventure or an honors program. “You bond with people right away,” says Jillian Tammany, school counselor at West Hempstead High School.
7. Get to know roommate/s. Agree on parameters. Discuss study habits — for instance, some students like music on when they study, others don’t. Talk about sleep habits and about who will bring what for the room. “If these things are set before moving in, it will really make it a more enjoyable experience once you step into the dorm room,” says Chris Ruffini, assistant principal and former guidance counselor at Syosset High School.
8. Practice self-advocating. In high school, parents take care of phone calls to make medical and other appointments. “We’ll actually dial the phone and hand it to them and say, ‘Why don’t you speak to this person, because you’re going to have to do it eventually,’” says Lynn Castellano, school counselor at Division Avenue High School in Levittown.
9. Choose an organization system. “There are students who are successful in high school with a lot of support from parents and teachers who help them organize their lives and get through it no matter what,” says Greg Sloan, director of guidance at Jericho High School. College professors may not extend deadlines or make accommodations. Students won’t be in a classroom every day; they won’t have constant reminders. Test physical or digital agenda options, Sloan says.
10. Look for a work study job. To get a plum position, applying early may give students an advantage, says Brentwood’s Shervington. She recommends a job in the school library, so students can study if there is down time on the job.
11. Get credit for AP and other eligible courses. It’s the student’s responsibility to send AP test scores and grades for classes taken in conjunction with a local college to the chosen institution to credit, says Shelter Island’s Tuthill.
12. Address special needs. Colleges have offices of student services or student disabilities to help with accommodations needed due to physical or psychological issues. Find out the steps needed to qualify, says Rockville Centre’s Levy. Colleges also will help students address dietary needs. “Most institutions have a plan for students who have a peanut allergy, for instance,” Levy says.
13. Consider health, tuition and dorm-room insurance. Many colleges automatically include health insurance as part of the cost, but if you have insurance you can have that waived, says Shelter Island’s Tuthill. Companies also offer optional tuition insurance, which protects a percentage of a semester’s tuition cost if a child has to drop out for a medical reason. There’s also insurance that protects items in the student’s dorm, such as phones and laptops. While those things may be covered under parents’ general homeowner’s insurance, the additional insurance may offer a much lower deductible and avoid the need to file a claim under the parents’ policies.
14. Know emotional and academic resources. Students should know where the health office is, and who to turn to if they are feeling anxious or depressed. They also should know where to get extra help academically. “Almost every college will have a writing center,” says West Hempstead’s Tammany. “Knowing that you have that available from the beginning gives you a leg up freshman year.”
15. Tackle privacy laws. Parents may be footing a chunk of the bill, but they don’t have rights to know about students’ grades or health issues. Colleges may allow students to sign a form giving parents the right to talk to the school, says Gerilyn Smith, director of guidance with the Roosevelt School District. Consider having a health care proxy signed by the child to give the parents legal rights to make medical decisions if the student is incapacitated.
16. Make hotel reservations. Do it now for accepted students' days, move-in, orientation and fall parents' weekends. Hotels around campus fill up quickly during those times due to high demand, says Jason Miller, school counselor for the Plainview old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School.
17. Learn to do laundry. Enough said.