Five Tips for High School Seniors Headed To College

Summer is an exciting time for students, especially graduating seniors. You’re moving into a new phase of your life, and for many of you, that means attending college. Whether you’re going away to school or attending a nearby college, there is a world of opportunity waiting.

I know this also may be a nerve-wrecking period with worry about what’s to come in college. As someone who managed going to UCLA as a single mom while juggling multiple responsibilities including work, I offer some advice to help with your journey.

  • Know You Deserve To Be Where You Are

I hear too many times from young adults in college who say that they don’t feeling like they belong. It seems as though other students are more prepared or know exactly what they’re doing. I felt that way the minute I arrived on campus for my first summer session. I didn’t take rigorous enough classes and lagged my classmates. But trust that you are ready. You are where you are meant to be. Everything can be learned. You bring a wealth of experience and ideas to your classes. The more classes you take, the more papers you write, it will get easier. You will get better. Don’t linger in the feelings of frustration. Allow them to be, let them pass, and get to work.

  • Seek Out Support

I am a big believer in the power of help. I joined the student support organization for first-generation and low-income students. I received tutoring through the program, and I had a tutor for nearly every class my first year. Even when I thought I would do well in the class, I still went to tutoring to build my academic skills. Tutoring was especially helpful with my writing. I needed practice writing college papers, and my tutors were amazing. If you don’t have tutoring at your school, ask friends or your professors for additional help. I have two sons and know how hard it is to get young men to seek support, but I implore you to do it because it makes a difference. Eventually, I became a tutor in the same academic support center. Also, don’t forget about your college and career center. I also received a lot of job leads through job postings at school.

  • Handle Setbacks Carefully and Gently

Stuff happens. After I had my son, I had a hard time juggling a new baby, work and school. I was placed on academic probation. I was scared of being kicked out of college. I quickly reached out to a counselor and developed a plan to get back on track. I ended up graduating with honors and going on to graduate school. Whatever happens, know that you are not alone. One bad semester or class is not the end of the world. Successful people have dealt with setbacks and failures. What matters is to remain loving to yourself, seek help, figure out a plan, and recommit to your goals. Take one step at a time, don’t leave or abandon your dream, and things will work out.

  • Explore, Explore, Explore

I went into college as a science major. I didn’t have a lot of role models and so I thought the only options with a college education was to be a doctor or lawyer. When in college, I started to think that maybe I had more options. I knew which classes that I needed to take to graduate. But, within those categories, I chose courses that were new and interesting. If I had to take history classes, I made sure it was Latin American or African American history. The same for my humanities and social science classes. Even for physical science, I chose astrology because it seemed interesting. I spent the year exploring different areas of interest, which led me to eventually majoring in socio-cultural anthropology. Don’t just take a bunch of courses without a plan — make sure the classes satisfy a requirement that you need to graduate. At the end of the day, you need to graduate!

  • Have Fun

Finally, I want to tell you to enjoy your college experience. We have so many responsibilities — school, work, family, and friends. It can feel like you’re overwhelmed. Make sure that you carve time out to have fun. Make new friends. If you can, plan to travel abroad. I didn’t get to, but most of my friends who did it loved their experience. Whatever you do, find a way to enjoy where you are in life.

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Raquel F. Donoso

Raquel F. Donoso

Raquel F. Donoso is a parent, advocate, writer, and results-driven leader. Her mission to increase educational equity for students began when she became a single mother in college. Having first-hand knowledge of the barriers and obstacles low-income, single-parent families experience, she dedicated her life to increasing opportunities for other families like hers. With 20-years of experience in the social sector, she founded Just Results Consulting, a mission-driven firm that works to increase opportunities for children, youth, and families. Prior to JR, she directed the Mission Promise Neighborhood, a $30M federally funded initiative to create a cradle to college to career pipeline in San Francisco and was CEO of the Latino Community Foundation. Raquel earned her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from UCLA and is currently completing her Doctorate in Educational Leadership from UC, Davis. Her older son is a graduate of Clark University, and her younger son is a Junior at Middle College in West Contra Costa.

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