Your 1st Step to Higher Education™
Woohooo!!!! You’re headed to Massachusetts or Nottingham (or what have you) for what could be the greatest few years of your life! Yes, we know: The few months before your university adventure begins are filled with hope and possibilities. While it’s true that opportunities and success fall into some lucky individuals’ laps, the majority of good things result from proper planning.
Here’s a list of “shtuff” you should do to prepare for the best launch of your college career:
1. Face the Paperwork
That means you should get your potato bum off the coach (yes, NOW!) and file for that student visa. Yes, the paperwork and process of obtaining your right to study in university overseas are tedious. Just get it done with so you don’t have to worry about it! In most cases, you can begin to apply for a student visa to the US and UK 120 days before your official course start date.
Peruse these sites to get the most up-to-date info on how to submit a successful application:
Once you have your visa and supporting immigration documents in-hand, you should find a flight. Although great sales do crop up now and then, in general, the earlier you book, the cheaper the fare. Here is a site we like:
It’s also likely that you’ll be required to obtain health insurance. If so, your university should be able to recommend a student health insurance policy to you. Try the international students’ office or health services building.
2. Find Educational (and Entertaining) Housing
Countless universities and private organizations in the vicinity of universities offer living learning communities and themed housing.
At the former you, well, live and learn at the same time. Living learning centers offer on-site smaller (and therefore oftentimes higher-quality) university-level classes only for those residing in the centers. Some may even offer a cluster of courses around certain themes, such as “Western thought” or “internationalization”, through which you can not only fulfill general education requirements but also study unique topics holistically. You’ll be studying with your dorm-mates, which means it’ll be easier to meet outside of formal classroom hours and get to know your classmates well. Plus, you’ll be able to shuffle to class in your pink bunny PJ’s!
Themed housing, on the other hand, may not offer classes inside the building where you sleep, eat, and breathe, but should showcase exciting activities, clubs, events, etc. centering on certain themes. For example, the health and wellbeing housing may have a morning aerobics group, a small library of health-related books and videos, and a commitment to a non-smoking and non-alcoholic environment.
Why take up these living opportunities rather than strike out on your own in an apartment off-campus? Well, for one, you’ll be more engaged in the learning and transformation process that is supposed to be university. Many students also find that such housing, which gives residents something in common to discuss, facilitate the social integration process. Basically, it’ll be easier for you to build long-lasting friendships.
Beware, though, that these special living arrangements are popular at many institutions. Book early!
3. Read the Course Catalogue
If you don’t get one of these hefty babies mailed to you, then you should be able to access it online. An advisor will most likely help you register for courses at least for the first semester. However, to make the most of your time with the professional, you should walk in to their office with a basic grasp of what general education requirements you need to complete to graduate and what majors might be of interest to you.
4. Read the Student Organizations Handbook (or Webpage)
Same as above.
Student organizations will hold a fair early in the school year that will allow you to explore which ones you want to join. However, these events are normally crowded and overwhelming. A good strategy is to go in knowing the names of a few clubs that you are interested in. You can approach those booths directly rather than roaming aimlessly around the event hall.
5. Know WHERE to Get Help BEFORE You Are in Dire Need
Did you know that many universities offer free tutorial services for popular classes such as calculus and first semester biology? Most even have a writing center that students can visit to obtain assistance with crafting excellent papers.
Goodness knows I made good use of my academic advisors, who helped me narrow down my list of possible majors and finally select one. This step completed, they helped me make sure I kept on track towards completing degree requirements and select elective courses to round-out my education.
Outside academics, institutions of tertiary education almost always have a career center (or two, or five) that not only helps students explore their fit with multiple potential careers, but also coaches them on resume writing, interview techniques and the like.
What I’m trying to encourage you to do is to get the greatest bang out of your buck. You (or your parents) are paying for these centers that give “free” help. Use them!
Before you even put one toe onto your intellectual home for the next few years, know where to get help before you actually need it. Many of my peers only scrambled to get extra tutoring AFTER they had failed their midterms and half of their semester grade had already been decided. Some didn’t even know who their academic advisors were and chose majors without careful thought about how their decisions would affect them after graduation. You can do better!
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