A few things to over the summer to help you prepare for starting college in the Fall Term.
For many military-connected students, making the transition to college is a challenging proposition; particularly if you are making the transition over the summer and starting your college career in the fall. If you are making the transition from the base to the campus over the summer, there are a few things you can do to minimize the challenges many new college students face as they seek to start the fall term.
The first thing you can do is to start the enrollment process BEFORE you leave the service and before summer begins.
When you are in transition from military service to terminal or transitional leave, you will have a thousand things running through your mind, and a number of actions to complete whether or not you have a family to relocate. So, in order to take a few things off your plate, start the college enrollment process before you leave the service. The majority of colleges are able to complete the enrollment of their students without the student having to step foot on the campus. If your college is able to do this, take advantage of this. As long as you are able to connect to the Internet, receive emails, and text messages while you are on leave, you should be able to complete the majority of your enrollment from a distance. Once you get the ball rolling, it is much easier, while on leave, to take a day or two to go to your college campus and have the admissions office provide you with a tour, meeting with your academic advisor, and most importantly meet with the VA Certifying Official of the college.
Secondly, get your transcripts in order before you transition.
Another reason why you want to begin the process before you leave the military and before the summer starts is you will in all likelihood have to provide the college with an official high school transcript. Whether or not you will be utilizing Federal Financial Aid, colleges require proof of graduation from high school or a GED program. You and your college will have a greater chance of getting your high school transcript before the summer begins as the majority of high schools close for the summer and may only have a very small skeleton staff working.
Also, if you have attended college while serving in the military you will want to obtain your transcripts from the colleges you attended and provide them the school you are going to attend in the fall so they can review them for transfer credit. Also, do not forget to obtain an official copy of your Joint Services Transcripts, CCAF Transcripts, or CGI Transcripts as many schools will review them for relevant college credit. Having these in hand or sent to the college before you make the transition will help to speed the enrollment process and prevent you from having to retake courses you may be eligible for transfer credit.
Start or complete the process to fund your education.
If you are not sure about funding your education and if you are unsure if your GI Bill will cover all of your educational expenses, it is a good idea to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA in addition to starting the process to apply for your GI Bill benefits. Most likely, your college will send you information on their FAFSA School Code and provide you a link to the FAFSA website and/or other online financial aid resources. You can go to the FAFSA site through this link: https://fafsa.ed.gov/.
In most cases, once you have complete the process of funding for your education has been completed, whether using federal financial aid, your GI Bill or other scholarship programs, you will be able to register for your classes. For many Colleges and Universities, course registration is on a first-come, first serve basis. The more popular courses will fill up quickly. Once you know you are registered for your courses, you can relax for the summer….sort of.
Finally, another good thing to do over the summer and during your transition is to READ! Yes, read; and when we say read, we mean a book or two and not just the latest issue of Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Seventeen, or GameInformer. Many colleges have a summer reading list for freshmen. Reading helps to keep your mind sharp, and you don’t want to start your college experience with a dull mind…! Another reason why reading over the summer is a good thing, is that when college starts, you will find that there will be a lot of reading to be done. The more you read, the easier it gets, and the easier it will be to complete assignments during your first year and beyond.
Here is a summary of recommended summer reading list for incoming new students by different colleges:
- 1984 by George Orwell
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
- Into Thin Air by John Krakauer
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
- Looking for Alaska by John Green
- The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
- The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
- Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
Whether you read just one of these titles or tackle them all, the main point is to pick up a good book and read it over the summer, you will find it will help you in the fall. And who knows, you may just read one of the books you will need to read in your first year!
It is natural to want to take some time to relax and bask in the sunlight and take it easy when you are transitioning. But if your plans are to head off to college in the fall, putting things off is not going to make your transition easier. By starting the enrollment process before you begin your transition you will make things a little easier and be more prepared to start your educational career.