Going Away To College: High School Juniors Plan for A Future of Freedom

The College Coaching Program 

Gearing up to attend college presents itself as a definitive time in a high schooler’s life, when changes hastily arrive and a universe of learning opportunities waits enthusiastically at the doorstep. The good news is that Tutor Zone’s got your back when the time comes to build your students’ confidence and understanding of college readiness basics. Through our College Coaching Program, students in their Junior year of high school can participate in individual or group sessions where they receive guidance in all aspects of the university application process.¹ The program hosts year-round online and in-person workshops designed to answer students’ unique questions. Every coaching event disseminates info on top priority college-checklist items: admission qualifications, how to fill out the application, essay writing strategies for personal statements, navigating the first year on campus, and more. Students who participate in college coaching with Tutor Zone have the advantage of a flexible timeline as the scheduled activities with their program coach aim to match the pace of the students’ respective admissions process. The one-on-one sessions and additional support via student/parent virtual or in-person meetings greatly benefit future undergraduates who want to be proactive in their preparation for the college application window.¹ 

What To Expect During the First-Year of College 

Because universities raise the bar on standards for student success, familiarizing high school juniors with the factors that make someone well-equipped for commitment to higher learning is fundamental during this critical chapter, when the years of K-12 are soon brought to a close and students push on towards the exciting endeavor of completing a bachelor’s degree. At Tutor Zone, we recently got a sense of what current juniors expect it to be like in college by chatting about the topic with our fantastic Summer Intern Team, which is composed of students actively enrolled in high school who are superbly taking on the university admissions process.

Maddie: “For my expectations for the first year of college, I expect it to be more fun and less restricted than high school is. You’re going out into the real world, you’re now officially an adult, and you’re kind of on your own. In college, you meet so many different people from either  all over country or even people who live on the other side of the world.” 

Anne: “I’m mostly looking forward to the freedom. I know the first two years are more general classes, but it will be a little bit more tailored to you and I know you get to pick the days and times.”

Jacob: “I’m looking forward to the fact that in college, we’ll eventually be able to find what suits us … our major, unlike high school where it’s just general education.”

Christian: “Classes being tailored to me is exciting. Making connections is also exciting… meeting people who can help me.”

Personalized Class Schedules and Enrolling in Units

Across the board, gaining more independence with a personalized class schedule scores big points in the category of what students have to look forward to in college. Regardless of the student’s school of choice, every college campus gives them the opportunity to pick and choose from an extensive catalog of class options. Their particular major program’s prerequisite classes should be prioritized early as these are courses with a higher likelihood of filling up quickly and may be limited to certain scheduling constraints, such as semester-based offerings. However, the range of units a student can earn per quarter, which averages between 12 and 20 units ², typically gives them the flexibility to enroll in more spontaneous classes outside of their field of study. 

Choosing A Major via Career Counseling

If your student does not know what to study, the first year of college is when they’ll begin to explore diverse interdisciplinary interests.

C: “I’m mostly concerned about my major because I’m not really sure what I’m going to do. I have several ideas, but I’m not sure how much I would enjoy any of them. I just hope that one of those ideas will work out.”

M: “For me personally, I want to work while I’m in college so I think learning how to balance my schedule [is a concern]. Even though in college, it’s more flexible in terms of you can pick AM or PM classes. Getting my classes in the right schedule so that it all works out and I’m not overworking myself.”

The campus will certainly have a select number of career counselors available for the students to meet with depending on the different major departments available. Experienced counselors can present course planning options and help undergraduates make important scheduling decisions that solve common student concerns, including how to pick a fruitful career path and balance new employment with academic study. Yet unlike high school, newly admitted college students are expected to be exceptionally self-reliant about their course enrollment choices. Obtaining counseling resources doesn’t look the same as it did in high school, where counselors and teachers are virtually available during all hours of the school day.

A: “I think I [will] have a smaller support system [during college] compared to high school, where you have a lot of resources like your counselor. I think that’s going to be less readily available in college.”

M: “I very much like to advocate for myself. I’m someone who will, if I need help, I will seek out help. I love to go to my counselors, set up meetings, and discuss: ‘Am I on the right track? Am I setting my schedule up? Am I going to be successful if I decide to do this?’ I also like to go to trusted adults in my life. I play sports, so sometimes even coaches. I also go to close family members, like my mom, for help.”

Resources for Academic Success

Engaging in the university classroom, learning from renowned professors and an assortment of graduate student instructors, undergraduate teaching assistants, or class peers, is perhaps the most vital component of a college student’s academic success. High school students must consider that the sizes of their classes could be a lot larger while in college. When trying to understand the complex course material, meeting regularly with a busy professor or TA during their office hours won’t always pan out. Students have to practice being resourceful in college, establish good study habits, and search for creative avenues for help when needed, be it through groups on campus, online tutoring, or sometimes even by reaching out to family members, depending on the nature of resources required (i.e. financial assistance for books and class items). 

J: “Since college is more independent, the resources are more limited to what you can access. In the quickest way possible, if it’s something simple you need help with, probably your friends as a resource could help you since they probably went through the same thing.”

C: “I think I’m going to have to turn to my friends for help because I don’t have any older siblings or older cousins who have gone to college. I could also turn to my parents I guess.”

A: “One of my big concerns is how big of a transition it’s going to be because I’ll be away from my parents and living on my own for the first time. So that’s something that I’ll definitely have to get used to.”

Know Early What The College Has To Offer New Students 

Students are encouraged to reflect with anticipation on what their college options can offer them and to make the most out of the 4-year journey. Some considerations include: resources for study time (accessible libraries, tutoring centers, etc.), financial aid (scholarships and loans), the different academic pathways available (for example, double majors and minor programs), and any additional extracurricular experiences (clubs, internships, athletic activities, studying abroad, etc.). 

J: “Specifically for college, I think one of the biggest problems is just affording it in general since it is such a steep price, even with financial aid. Tuition, text books, other services, student parking, etc.”

A: “I’m not really sure what particularly my dream college offers, but I know that I definitely want to be involved in multiple clubs.”

C: “I would probably want to join a lot of clubs, even though I’m not really sure what I would want to be doing in college. It might help me figure out what I want to do there.”

M: “I’m still on the fence if I want to continue my athletic career and play collegiately, but that’s possibly one way [to have fun]. I also want to plan on maybe even starting a new club at my college. I’m very much into programs that involve outreach to the community. I’m into leadership. I love being a leader, especially on campus, and point other people in the right direction.”

J: “My brother goes to Cal State Fullerton and I learned a little bit about it from him. One of the programs he’s in that I kind of want to join is the Business Honors Program. I’ve heard that they do activities together, go places, and it’s sort of in a club type of way that I’m able to meet new people.”

How to Do Research on a College

If prospective undergraduates can visit their intended college campus, that’s the best way to get a feel for the school, through attending campus tours, talking with current students, and visiting the major departments. Alternative options for those who can’t go to the physical college locations are: researching the university website, calling the admissions office directly for information, setting up virtual tours/conversations, or participating in their specific hometown’s events for college-bound youth, since this is where universities usually make an effort to have representatives from their schools correspond locally with eager students. Naturally, high school students will want to know how they can further their current interests, develop advanced insight both inside and outside of the classroom, and plan for a successful, enjoyable college experience.

M: “As my career choice, I plan on becoming a Public Relations Specialist. I want to major in PR/Business and minor in Social Science. I love being a part of the school and getting involved with all activities. I pretty much do that with high school right now. I know college has something similar to high school where students go to sporting events and support their college teams. That’s something that I already do and I enjoy it a lot. I plan on being very active in college.”

J: “When it comes to having fun, I’m more of an individual person where most of my fun stems from me relieving stress by myself. So when talking to others or when I meet  people around campus or in classes, I’ll tend to observe them, see what they’re interested in, maybe I could take a page from their book, maybe I could try what they’re doing, maybe it relieves some of my stress. Sometimes it doesn’t, but ultimately when I keep trying to find new interests, eventually one will stick.” 

Advice from Current High School Juniors for Future College Applicants

We know we’re pretty lucky here at Tutor Zone to have such a talented group of interns willing to share their perspective on how to be intentional about securing a future at a university. They will be moving on to their Senior year of high school during the Fall of 2023. As we root for them to complete the important final steps of their application process–submitting their applications, getting admittance results, and making a final school selection–they’ve rewarded us with some excellent advice for high school underclassmen who will be in their shoes soon:

A: “The summer before your Senior year, you should start really early. Use that summer to your advantage and get started on your essay and stuff like that really early.”

J: “Being able to look into the future, even in Freshman or Sophomore years, looking forward to what you should be doing by the time you get to Senior year, I think that’s really important. What you should have on your college applications, what you do extracurricular, what your essays are gonna be like.”

M: “I would tell other students to be confident in everything that they’re doing. Basically, trust the process. Trust that they are doing the right things. In terms of academically: getting their schedule right, classes right. In terms of extracurriculars, maybe community service hours. Trust that you know what’s best for you, and that you can do anything as long as you’re determined and you believe you can. Don’t stress out even though it can be a stressful time. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter where you go to college. We’re all getting an education and going out to do big things.”

By Daisy Ocampo

Academic Regulations and Procedures < University of California Irvine (


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