How To Start The Academic Year Right

Ijeoma Nwaogu
How To Start The Academic Year Right: 5 Steps For First Year College Students

Part I of II

A new academic year will soon be here! Are you ready to start it off on the right foot? I understand the excitement, nervousness and uncertainty you might feel as your new life in college swiftly approaches. And I’m sure you could use some convenient, straight-forward advice to rest assured that you are preparing yourself for a smooth transition into college.

Apart from buying the supplies you need for housing and classes, here are some important actions you must take if you wish to enter your first term in college on a more positive and favorable note:

#1. Make sure your financial aid is all set.

A recent study found that roughly 20% of young adults who planned on going to college at the time of their high school graduation, didn’t actually show up in the fall semester! That’s a whole ‘lot of students! Oh, and the reason for them not showing up? Their financial aid wasn’t set up early enough to have been available at the start of the new school year. Understanding student loans and getting all the required filings completed can be difficult to do, so make sure you check in with your guardian(s) and/or mentor(s) about this. Also, check your notification letters or call the financial aid office of your institution to ensure that you are all set.

#2. “Do the right thing’ right off the bat.

This means you should make good choices that lead to positive outcomes. Practice good habits early- as soon as you step foot into that first college space.

#3. Know that you belong and deserve to be in college.

First-year students will likely feel like impostors or undeserving of being in college. No matter what positive qualities you see in others, know that YOU earned your right to be in college and because you made it in, you deserve to be in that space. Did you know that the people who actually go through these types of anxieties or worries are actually really smart, capable and high-achieving individuals? These feelings indicate your deep care about being great. Don’t allow these negative impostor feelings to cloud your thinking. Embrace your college student identity with confidence because you’ve merited that right.

#4. Keep a journal to reflect on your hardships and successes.

College life is full of new and transformative encounters that will shape your ways of viewing life, your habits and your goals. You should document your experiences so that you can read about your hardships at a later time and see how you’ve progressed and grown. Journaling is also a good way to reflect on your life experiences and process them to make sense and draw meaning from them. Additionally, journaling is therapeutic as it gives you the opportunity to get all your heavy thoughts and feelings out in a constructive way. You might even keep your journal entries if later on in life, you decide to write a wildly profitable book about your life experiences… you never know!

#5. Be true to yourself.

This means you should be authentic! Be patient in knowing that the right group of people will come to you as long as you are true to yourself. If you pretend to be something that you’re not, then you will attract the wrong kinds of people. Don’t compromise your values for anyone. Don’t conform to fit in. If you do, you’ll likely end up piling up added and unnecessary stress to your life.

Overall, keep these 5 actions in memory and actually put them to practice. By doing so, you set yourself up for nothing short of success.

What other tips have others shared with you about starting the school year on the right foot? Help each other out and offer your insights below. Also, read Part II to learn more useful tips on this topic!

Wishing you a safe, happy and positive start to a brand-new school year!


Dr. IJ (Ijeoma Nwaogu, Ph.D) is the #1 College Life Coach and host of the YouTube Show, College Life on Fleek. Having served as an advisor, counselor and educator in college and university contexts, Dr. IJ is passionate about college student development. She enjoys coaching students who wish to maximize their potential and live thriving lives during their time in college and thereafter.

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