A lot of advice would depend on what Ivyboy’s like and whether he knows what he wants to study already. I was and am quite an introvert, and came into college with no idea what I wanted to do. Both those factors can be tricky to work with, but a lot of people don’t have such issues.
Garfield226 and brendon_small have given good general advice already, but unfortunately it’s the kind of advice people tend to ignore. Perhaps because they hear it so much. I heard it all and didn’t take it to heart enough, and I regret that now. The big ones that are easy not to do and are more important than you’d ever guess are talk to professors outside of class and join stuff. No excuses. Do it.
No matter how much I read about it, I went into college not really knowing what to expect, and that’s okay. The only places you can really get yourself into trouble are if you’re harboring any misconceptions. This next bit may not work for everyone, but here’s three things I wish someone had told me about college before I went:
College is like high school.
You’ve probably been hearing for years about how college will be a totally different ballgame. A lot of this is well-intentioned, but misguided. Academically and socially, don’t expect college to be radically different from high school. College is still school and is much more like HS than it is like the real world. College classes will cover more material than a high school course, but in structure I gather they resemble each other more than they used to. College classes usually have homework, often have participation grades, and sometimes take attendance.
A lot more people are going to college now, too. Expect the people at college to be more or less like the people at your high school, except there are more of them. Find the smart people, the dedicated people, and the ambitious people. It might be a little harder than you think, but who you associate with makes a huge difference.
College is not like high school.
There is one really important way in which college is not like high school. I’m sure you’ve heard that in college you have a lot more responsibility and have to take the initiative yourself. In most things not knowing this in advance wouldn’t make much of a difference, as it becomes obvious pretty quick that you’re on your own as far as stuff like laundry, shopping, and getting up for class. But there is one place you can be complacent and not notice you’re in trouble until it’s too late, and that is in assuming that your academics will take care of your future by themselves.
Just taking your classes is only part of what you can do in college to prepare for the real world afterward. Get involved in research, get internships. Learn skills that will be useful, even if they aren’t required or even related to your course of study. Learn writing and communication, they’re universally important in real jobs. Start preparing early to make yourself a great prospective employee. This stuff is most important for people majoring in squishier stuff than math, science, engineering, or premed, but even they benefit immensely. Class isn’t everything. Take some responsibility for your education.
Paul Graham is smart. Reading this essay of his halfway through college totally changed my outlook. I had been having a lot of trouble staying motivated, and though he addresses it to high school students it applied equally well to me.
And finally, one thing that I think has also changed is how often people take time off or transfer. Perhaps I’m in the midst of a statistical anomaly, but around a third of the people I know at college have taken some time off and almost half my friends from high school have transferred at least once. Keep these options in mind if you’re ever in a bad spot.