Marian heard scholars

15 Tips on Getting Ready for College from United Way’s Marian L. Heard Scholars

What your college-bound student should know: advice for students, from students

Getting ready for college for the first time is a big deal. If you have a family member who has recently gone through the process, you know how overwhelming it is for the whole family. You may have successfully survived high school, the SATs, and the dreaded college application process (a huge accomplishment for students and parents!), but that’s just the beginning of the college journey.

For the thousands of college students arriving on campuses this fall, as well as the high school juniors and seniors thinking about college prospects for the first time, there is a lot to know. And who better to tell us than the students who have just been through it themselves? We asked the pros – United Way’s Marian L. Heard Scholars – to offer their best advice on getting ready for college.

High School Academics: How Important?

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1. “‘Junior year is the only important year’ is a myth! Every year counts. Your GPA IS CUMULATIVE!
-Rosa Reynoso, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

2. “Don’t stress too much over the social aspect of high school. Focus on academics so by the time senior year rolls around you do not regret not trying as hard as possible.”
Soad Tahlil, Simmons College

3. “Make sure you are building relationships with your teachers because they will be writing your recommendations.”
-Rosa Reynoso, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

4. “Don’t be afraid to get involved in your community. Colleges like to see consistency, so if you find an activity that suits your passions, stick to it.”
-Jennifer Duran, Union College

Choosing the right college for you

20160628-355. “Start thinking of what you want in a college, whether it be a small or large campus, a rural or urban one, or one that is coed or strictly women.”
-Jessica Hernandez, Swarthmore College

6. “Visit the schools. I think the process is less stressful if you know the gut feeling you get at campus, versus what a teacher or friend tells you.”
-Adrelys Mateo Santana, UMass Amherst

7. “Don’t be influenced by what people say about a college. Do the research and make sure the college offers what you want.”
-Adrelys Mateo Santana, UMass Amherst

The College Application Process (Start early!)

Jennifer8. “Don’t be scared away by the statistics of a school (like SATs, GPA). Take a shot and apply!
-Adrelys Mateo Santana, UMass Amherst

9. “The common application opens August 1st, so you should be familiarizing yourself with the additional essay questions the schools you’ve chosen may ask you.”
-Jennifer Duran, Union College

10. “When I was applying to college I wish someone had prepared me better for the financial aid process. You and your parents must sit down and complete the FAFSA in order to get aid and depending on which colleges you choose, you may have to complete another application called IDOC.”
-Jessica Hernandez, Swarthmore College

Congrats, you’re in college! Now what?

20160628-7211. “Enjoy your time as an undergraduate and network with as many people as possible, because those networks will help with getting internships and jobs.”
–Nehemie Alcindor, Suffolk University

12. “Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. You may enjoy something you would’ve never seen yourself doing in the first place.”
– Jason Martinez, Bentley University

13. “Work hard, but always find time for yourself and have fun. Maintaining this balance and keeping your eyes on the prize (graduation) will ensure four unforgettable years of college.”
– Jason Martinez, Bentley University

14. “College is a stressful experience, so make sure they have a strong support system in place. Remember to get help before any minor problems turn into major ones.”
– Miriam Nyan, UMASS Lowell

15. “There are so many resources on campus and people outside of school that are always rooting for your success. Sometimes your biggest struggle can have the simplest solution if you just reach out to others.” –Sheila Reyes, Boston College

Even with the best advice, getting ready for college is overwhelming for any student or family. But for first-generation college students, like many of our United Way Marian L. Heard Scholars, they are charting this course on their own without a family member who’s been there to guide the way. That’s just one reason why we pair each Scholar with a volunteer “E-Coach” to mentor them throughout the college process. Scholars also get the support of their peers – a network of other MLH Scholars, past and present – who inspire and support each other and offer the best tips and advice for success.

Learn more about Marian L. Heard Scholars.
Read more about the Marian L. Heard Scholars Class of 2016.

Would you like to mentor these bright young Scholars through their college experience? Email Dahlia Bousaid Cox at to learn more.