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Expert advice for incoming college freshmen

There are things to do before classes start.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Students kicking back following their high school graduations should be preparing now for heading off to college, according to experts. 

Experts have a number of tips to make the transition from high school to higher education as smooth as possible. 

Katie Kitchens, Assistant Vice President for Student Success at the University of Hartford, said incoming students should take these summer days to check on paperwork.

"Make sure that the college has everything that it needs as far as tuition and making sure your documents are all in. See if there's deadlines that are required for immunization records that need to be turned in, or any paperwork that you need to submit," she said.

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She also stressed how it is important of addressing problems.

"The more time we have where we're aware of something that was missed or not completed on time, the more time they have to work with you and to help you and get you up and running," Kitchens said.

Some new students assume their high school will pass along needed documentation, and that may not always be the case.

"If a student had any special accommodations or a learning difference in high school, we're going to need to receive that information directly from the student, so that we're able to help accommodate the student at the college level as well," Kitchens added.

Students living in the dorms need the obvious, sheets, towels, school supplies, clothes, etc.

Kitchens pointed out that some colleges have different requirements for things that you're allowed to bring, specific microwaves and refrigerators that are required or banned, and even what kind of animals you might be able to bring.

Parents will also need to get used to the fact that school administrators and professors can not talk to them about a student's grades. The Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits contact without written consent from the student, a court order, or a situation where there is a threat to health and safety.

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Incoming students should prepare for a very different academic environment than what they had in high school. College schedules are different, and the student operates more independently. Kitchens advises students to check their schedules in advance to see when classes fall.

"What are those gaps looking like between your classes? Start mentally preparing yourself for spending a little bit less time getting in classroom instruction and spending more time doing that out-of-class work," she said.

College is a time for students to break away and start with a clean slate, not defined by who they were before in high school or in the town where they came from, said Kitchens. They may use a new name, try different sports, come out of the closet, or explore their gender identity. 

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"I think college is this unique time, and everyone's sharing in this wonderful experience. And so the kind of the opportunity is ripe for meeting those people who are going to make a huge impact on your life," said Kitchens. "I think if that happens early. Awesome. And I think if it happens later, that's totally awesome, too. Because, you know, it's just a matter of kind of finding your niche and making sure that you're meeting those people who are going to kind of make the biggest impact on your life.

Doug Stewart is a digital content producer at FOX61 News. He can be reached at dstewart@fox61.com.

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