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  Salish Kootenai


Everyone wants to get off to a good start in college. But at first, you may feel anxious, uncertain, or overwhelmed. You may have many questions.

What classes should I take?
Which instructors are best?
When do I register?
Where are my classes?
How do I add or drop a course?
When do I declare a major?

You will be considered an adult in college. As an adult, you are responsible for your own success. You also are responsible for finding answers to your questions. But don't worry. There are people to help you. Learning who they are is one way to get off to a good start in college.

Your professors and assistant instructors. Most professors want you to come to them. Take advantage of their office hours. Talk to them before you start having problems. If you are having problems, see them often. They can help you learn to study their subjects. They can't help you as much after you have done poorly on a test or paper.

Find out who your adviser is and meet with him or her before school starts. If you don't feel comfortable with the adviser assigned to you, you can ask for a different one. Keep in touch with your adviser.

People who work in these offices can answer questions about your application, financial aid, tuition and bills, registration, and academic records.

Your classmates can help you learn where things are and how things are done. Talk to student or alumni ambassadors. They are current and former students who can help you learn where things are.

If you live in a residence hall on campus, you will have a resident assistant. This trained student coordinates activities at the hall and counsels students about campus residence hall policies or roommate difficulties.

Some schools have offices that help you decide on what major or program to enroll in. These offices also may be able to help you find jobs.

These centers usually have free tutors. They also may have information or conduct workshops to help you learn to study.

Find out what services your school health center offers before you need them. Health centers usually treat students for minor illnesses and refer them to physicians for major problems. Some offer counseling.

One of these people could become your mentor. A mentor is a mature person, like a teacher or older student, who can give you advice. Studies show students with mentors often are more successful.


Know how to help yourself. Even though there are many people at your college who can help you, you are responsible for your own success and your own happiness. Do what is expected of you as a college student. Find answers to your questions on your own when you can. Here are some resources that can help:

college catalogs list requirements for graduation and major areas of study.

class schedules include courses listings, school calendars, and other registration information.

orientation activities familiarize you with classmates, the campus, and college services.

school newspapers and magazines inform you about school activities, programs, and projects.

student bulletin boards advertise campus and community events and services.

the Internet offers access to activity calendars, library services, class schedules, and student directories.

You will do better in school if you enjoy what and where you are studying. Make sure your program of study will help you reach your career goals. If you aren't sure what career you want, use your education to explore your interests. Here's how:

Think about your interests, abilities, and goals. Get to know who you are, what you're good at, and what you want.

Read course catalogs to learn about different programs of study.

Talk to your adviser, instructors, and other students in programs that interest you.

Sign up for a variety of classes. Explore subjects you may not think you are interested in.

Check into career planning or career development courses. See if your school offers career counseling.

Set up an informational interview. In an informational interview you talk to someone in a career that interests you. Ask about education needed, employment opportunities, and if the person is satisfied.

Job shadow. Shadowing a job is spending a few hours or a day with a person who works in a field that interests you. This lets you see what the job involves and talk to someone who knows about it.

Consider getting a part-time or summer job in an area that interests you.

Go to them. Learn the skills taught. Don't panic if your first-semester grades are low. You are adjusting. Talk to your adviser. You may need to manage your time better, take fewer courses, or improve your study habits. College courses require a lot of time and concentration. Doing well in high school is one of the best ways to prepare for college academics. If you have problems in college, try these tips:

Talk to your instructor during his or her office hours.

Organize a study group among your classmates. Studies show students in study groups do better in classes, especially math courses.

Seek help from an academic support center at school. Check into hiring a tutor if the academic support center does not offer free services.

Improve your study habits. Call the Hotline and ask for the ICPAC Study Skills Guide.

If you need to drop a course, make sure you withdraw officially. If you don't follow the proper procedures, you could receive a failing grade. Ask your adviser or registration officials what to do.


Part of getting off to a good start in college is learning to adjust to your new life. Even if you don't move away, there will still be changes in you and in your relationships with family and friends. Here is some advice from Nancy Buckles, Director of Counseling and Psychological Services at the Indiana University-Bloomington Student Health Center, that might help ease the transition.

Beginning life in a new school and living on your own can be very exciting. It also can be very stressful for you, your family, and your friends. You are all moving into the insecurity of the unknown. It's often frightening to know things won't be the same. Your relationships may be stressed as you all prepare for the transition. Here are some tips to help you cope with change:

Recognize it's healthy to be anxious about leaving family and friends. An unfamiliar place with new people might cause you to want to quit school and go home. Don't give up. Things will get better.

Stay in touch with those close to you through telephone calls and letters. See if you can keep in touch with high school friends on other college campuses with electronic mail on computers at college. It may be best not to go home the first few weekends you are away. You need to give yourself time to adjust.

Ask for help from people in your new community. Talk to your resident assistant, your academic adviser, or workers at a school counseling center when you are feeling low. You might also get help from community or religious centers and professional counselors. Check your school directory or your telephone book.

Part of your identity is defined through your social group. In a new community, you may suddenly have no social group. If you get involved in your new community, you will begin to feel at home there. You will have to create opportunities to meet people and make friends. Here's how:

Don't be shy. Sit next to a different person every day in class. Begin conversations with people you do not know. People naturally like to talk about themselves and receive compliments. If someone eats alone in the cafeteria every day, join him or her. If someone looks lost, offer to help him or her find the way. If someone gets a new bicycle, ask him or her about it. Being friendly can help you develop lasting friendships. But remember, it can take a long time. Start out slow.

Join in campus or community activities. Just because you are in a new environment doesn't mean you can't continue old interests and hobbies. Take time to try new activities, too. Attend social events, political speeches, and club functions. Ask about student activities. Read the campus newspaper and student bulletin boards. Get involved at your residence hall. Visit local religious centers and volunteer with social service organizations. You can make new friends doing both.

Your health is one of the most important factors in whether you are successful in college and in all aspects of your new life. Make sure you eat healthy, exercise, and get enough sleep. Studies show most 17-25 year-olds need nearly 10 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to function at their best. You also are more likely to get sick if you aren't getting enough sleep. To help you sleep better, go to bed and wake up at the same times each day; don't eat large meals, drink caffeine, or exercise late at night; and relax by watching television or talking to friends before you go to bed.

In college, things will not always be easy. You will have to deal with a lot of people and a lot of paperwork. Some of these people may not be nice, and some of the paperwork may be confusing. Stay tough. You've dealt with similar people and similar situations before maybe a store employee, a mechanic, or insurance or tax papers. Use the skills you've learned. Communicate and be assertive. Make sure you get the services you are paying for and the treatment you deserve.

In college, you will have the freedom to make more choices, and you will be responsible for the decisions you make. You will be confronted with difficult choices about relationships, alcohol and drug use, sexuality, academic performance, and careers. At times, you may feel confused by your own behavior and decisions. It may be helpful to talk with people you trust and respect. Make sure you have as much information as you can get before you choose what to do. Look at all your options and consider all the consequences. Making decisions that will influence you the rest of your life can be painful, but it is an important part of being an adult.

You will probably experience some tough times, as well as exciting ones, during your college years. Be patient with yourself. Give yourself a chance to settle in. Ask for help when you need it. Cope with change, make new friends, and become a part of your new community. You will adjust sooner than you think.

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