How to Start College Right from an MBA Grad and Parent of College-Bound Kids

This month I’m going to dedicate every video I make to college. Last year I got my MBA, which was a two-and-a-half-year program. And so I was juggling work MBA and a new baby all simultaneously during the last year. And so I got good at making sure that I had everything laid out and I was productive when I could, in those short amount of times to get my MBA eventually. The other thing that is happening is that both of my kids are starting community college at the end of this month. And so it got me thinking about what I’m doing to help them prepare because they’re asking you many questions asking me for my help. And so I decided that yeah, this month is going to be all about what worked for me, what advice I’m giving my kids, and how you can get ready to have a successful time in college.

Visit the College Campus

The first thing that I recommend is going to the campus before school starts many times, especially in four-year colleges, they have orientations, and you can do that. For example, when I was doing my MBA, they had a whole day of orientation where we talk to the Dean, to the library, staff, to the professors, and just got an understanding of what the program would be about as well as I was able to meet my cohort and the people whom I went through this whole journey with that was really lovely. And the other thing is if your campus does not offer that, try to see if there’s a tour that you can join or go on your own.

That’s what I’m going to do this Friday. I’m going to take the kids. We’re going to go to the campus and go there and explore, try to figure out where their classes are. Try to understand like where the student affairs offices, where the financial aid offices, where everything is just layout of the land. So when they do go there, the first day of school, they are not late trying to find their class or get stressed out, trying to figure out where everything is. So I recommend that whatever way you go to the campus before your actual classes start, do that; that will help you so much. And also, make sure that you don’t get overly stressed or anxious on your first day.

Learn Your College’s Required and Recommended Tech

The other thing that you would also want to do is make sure that you understand what apps you will need for every class and in general.

When I was going to James Madison University for my MBA, I downloaded the Duo app because many schools now require multi-factor authentication. So you can secure your accounts in James Madison. It was Duo. My kids’ community college is using a different app.

If you are doing online school, you also want to download any meeting apps you’ll be using. At JMU, we were using WebEx. I also downloaded the phone app because if there was a time that I was either at work or doing something that I could not get home on time, I could get the app connected to my car. I was able to listen to the class until I could be in front of a laptop. It is a must to understand what websites are helpful and what apps you’ll need, which will get you started technically.

Play with Your Notifications

A lot of the apps and many websites do have different notification options that you can play around with. So make sure to play around with that. I would recommend that you review it once a month, go in there and see what your notification settings are, and see what needs to be modified. For example, at work, we use Teams. I went ahead and updated the default notifications. So that’s something you want to do is go ahead, always review what settings you have and see what actually makes sense, and then make any changes that need to be made and do that every so often to tweak whatever settings you already set.

Go to the Writing, Math, and Tutoring Centers

I forgot to say that when I was talking about visiting the campus, try to figure out your writing center. There are tutoring centers, trying to figure out those types of centers as well. When I was doing my undergrad, I was always trying to get help in the writing center. And some colleges have tutoring centers. You want to go there. It’s usually free tutoring, free help with your writing to get them and give you tips and feedback. They always recommend that, like my kids, community colleges also have a tutoring center. I already told them they better be there getting to know the tutors and getting that free tutoring. And if there is one tutor that they like, and that tutor offers their tutoring services. You have a tutor that you already built a rapport with and you already feel comfortable with.

Check out your centers. You want to get to know those centers and visit them at least once to get familiar with them. And then I’m telling you, if you go once, you’ll probably go back.

Mentorship Program

Many colleges are starting to offer this. And I think it’s so great. They’re offering mentor programs. So if your college does offer a mentorship program, join it. Usually, it’s just a quick application, and they’ll try to have an interview with you. And then you’re able to connect with someone that they feel will help guide you through your college years. And I have had mentors at work, and believe me, it is so nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, especially someone who’s already gone through all that and has more experience, and they can guide you.

Yes, you probably do have your parents or your counselors or other people that are helping you. But having that one person that you can vent to, you can say whatever you want to, and they won’t judge you, and they’re there to help guide you and be there. And to eventually graduate from college is so priceless. So definitely, if your college offers a mentorship program, sign up for it.

Understand the Financials

Even if you’re paying for college from your pocket or your parents are, you want to make sure that you understand the financials huge. If you are doing financial aid, you have to realize that many colleges have loan entrance counseling. So they do like a quick little training course for you to understand that. But I don’t think people grasp it as they should have to pay that money back. So especially if you’re doing that, or if you’re getting scholarships or anything, any funding has to do with college, you want to understand what that is. So get in there, learn your college financials. Even if you’re getting a full ride, you want to understand what that is. I recommend that you get to know that you review it every semester. You’re not going to be caught at the end of college, owing a bunch of money, or any just weird situation that will arise. That is something that you need to understand is the financials.

Join Clubs & Organizations

Check out the clubs and organizations. My niece created her club, which is something you can do as well. So get out there and know the clubs. The organizations also know if there are intramural sports that you can join for your undergrad.

You want to join a club or two, or even start your own because it’s also an excellent way to meet people who have the same interests as you. And maybe it can spark a new friendship. Yeah. Check out the other clubs and organizations. It won’t hurt. And you might meet a friend or two.

Review the Syllabus Before the First Class

Usually, a week or two before the classes start, you’ll get your syllabus. Your professor will email it out to you posted on canvas or whatever similar app that you’re using. So you want to go in there and review the syllabus and understand who the professor is during their office hours. And I’ll talk more about that and understand the deadlines that have been defined in the syllabus and the rules. So you want to make sure you get an understanding of that. Because usually, on the first day of class, you will review your syllabus.

If you had reviewed beforehand, you’d be able to jot down some questions to ask the professor. If you’re like me, that asks many questions, but then also you’re someone who thinks about questions after the fact, you can still email the professor, but it’s nice to do it in front of everyone, because then if there is someone else in the room has the same question. You’ve answered that question for that person as well. So that’s the reason why it’s always great to review the syllabus beforehand. Or, if there’s anything that’s a discrepancy, you can email the professor privately and let them know. So when they are in front of the class, they’re able to address that. So I always say review that syllabus and get to know it. The other thing too, with that syllabus, I said, there is deadlines for different things like exams, essays, whatever you want to make sure that you take those dates and you put it in your planner, calendar, whatever you’re using to be on top of your classes.

If there is a notification that you can set for those reminders, that’s always a plus. Make sure that you get to understand that syllabus every word. So you can start your classes the right way.

Go to the Professor’s Office Hours

Build relationships with your professors by going to the office hours. Go to a couple, go to three. I would say three or more, go in there and get to know your professors. Let’s say if there’s one day that you forget an assignment or something happens, the professor will be more lenient on you than someone who has never shown up to any of the office hours. You don’t know how many students that professor sees. So you want to make sure that that professor has a new face to the name and they get to know you go to the office hours, a minimum of three times, get to know your professors, get to know the assistants. They usually have office hours as well. So you can do like a mix of it but go. That also is free tutoring. And let’s say if you’re working on something if you go to the professor and ask, you probably will get a better grade on it because you’ll get a better, a deeper understanding of what the professor is teaching than someone who never goes to any of the office hours.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

The last thing I’m going to say to you is to get out of your comfort zone. This is when you want to explore, make mistakes, take a class you hate or take a class you love. So you have to get out of your comfort zone. So that’s why I’m saying join some clubs, join some organizations, meet people, dues, just things like honestly being young is the best thing because you can do anything you want. And if you do fail in some way, always easier to get back up. So I say, take the risk, get out there and enjoy your college experience.

Parents, How You Can Support Your College-Bound Kids

I’ve talked about it as a student and what I’ve told my kids, but now I’m going to tell you that I have been guilty of this as a parent. Because our parents were super strict with us and very hardcore, we try to be different from our parents because everybody has said it. I don’t want to be like my mom or my dad. Well, your parents weren’t entirely wrong. One thing I will say is parents we have, or kids too much. My kid, my sister, and I talk about it all the time. We have cuddled our kids too much. And it’s time that we stop. They need to be their person. I have told my kids, they need to get part-time jobs. It has to be 24, 30 hours a week jobs. It could be 10 20 hours, but they need to do something. So you want to make sure that they’re able to one day stand on their own. Yeah. Your kids might make mistakes in school. But when they come to you crying, especially if it’s something that they did, don’t sit there and try to fix it for them. Have them deal with the consequences of their actions.

You don’t want to sit there and fix anything for them. I was always trying to help and fix everything for my kids, especially with my daughter, who has made some mistakes. I have learned to let her deal with the consequences. And I’ve noticed that now that she understands that life isn’t just the, “now” you also have to think about the future. I’ve noticed that she started to be more responsible and independent because I’m not giving her any money. I’m not doing everything for her. When she started trying to register for community college, she did ask me, Hey, can you please help me? Of course, I’m going to help. I’m always going to be there. So that’s my other thing. Be an advisor. Don’t be the person doing everything for them. At this point, you should be their advisor. If they need any assistance, questions, or anything, you should always be there to help your kids, but don’t initiate it.

And don’t jump to help them when they’re the ones that got themselves in whatever mess that they’ve gotten themselves into; you are there to guide them and help them make good choices, but not to make their choices for them. And just as a parent, be there to listen. Listening is important. So if your kid comes to you and they’re venting about a professor, they’re talking about something, maybe talking about a friend, they’re talking about how, what a crap assignment this is, or how stressful this is, whatever there they want to talk to you about. We as parents are there to listen, not give advice, not jump because I know I’m famous for that. Like, I would always be like, well, maybe you need to do this. Maybe you need that. Nope, don’t do that. Like now I’ve learned, I listen.

And if they want my advice or something, or they want me to help them with something, they will ask me, Hey mom, like, what do you think, Hey, what should I do? So that’s when I will respond to what they’re saying, but be there to listen, be there to hug them when they’re stressed out, maybe buy them chocolate. That’s because I love chocolate so much, whatever it is to help guide them, but don’t do everything for them and let them enjoy college and learn to be independent and be their person. So I hope that this video was helpful. Let me know what you want to learn about college. I will be posting more videos about college in the upcoming weeks, and I will talk to you next week.

To be successful in college, you need to start it the right way. I will show you some ways that I have found to start college the right way. I also talk about how parents can support their college-bound kids have a great college experience.

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