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The College Conversation: Several tips to help students overcome back-to-school jitters

September 10, 2011|By Lisa McLaughlin

I always expect our phone lines to be busy the first two weeks of school.

It's true that reality sets in for families after the long summer break, as they realize it's time to figure out the college list, college entrance exams and applications.

But that's not the main reason I hear from so many clients at the beginning of the school year. Instead, I get a barrage of calls from students complaining about a class that is way too hard, a teacher who is way too mean or a schedule that is way too overwhelming. They call us seeking our blessing to drop a class, level down or do something that was not part of the college admissions plan we originally developed.

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There are the typical adjustments and complaints that come at the start of the school year that parents should be ready for and students should understand.

Here's my advice aimed primarily at students:

Don't give up so easy. There's something to say about struggling and then overcoming. Colleges look for this in applicants. Keep in mind that your class schedule is the most important element of your candidacy in college admissions, so dropping a class might have some serious implications.

Don't freak out if you're struggling in a class. Get help early and often — having a tutor is not a sign of weakness.

Adjust your study habits. Turn off your Facebook chat online status and phone. Instead dedicate focused time to your work. You'll be amazed at what you can get done without interruptions.

Don't be stupid. The start of the school year means back-to-school dances and football games. Making the conscious choice to drink or otherwise "party" before school functions is just that — stupid. And even though your brain might not feel ready to ace a test, don't be tempted to cheat. Academic dishonesty is something that colleges won't tolerate. Most applications have a disciplinary question that both the applicant and counselor must answer.

This issue is so important that all students should read the way most of these questions are phrased: "Have you ever been found responsible for a disciplinary violation at any educational institution you have attended from the ninth grade (or the international equivalent) forward, whether related to academic misconduct or behavioral misconduct, that resulted in a disciplinary action? These actions could include, but are not limited to: probation, suspension, removal, dismissal, or expulsion from the institution."

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