Updated: Sep 27, 2022
Soon you will be leaving for college. There are a few things we would like to pass along as you get ready for this big adventure.
Thing one: Get excited! This truly is an adventure, one in which you will have new experiences, meet new people and learn and grow in many ways.
Thing two: No matter how much you are looking forward to college you are probably a little nervous. You are human; that is completely normal!
Here is a mix of pragmatic and prosaic tips to help make your transition to college and dorm life a little less stressful.
Think about what you need for your dorm room before you leave home.
Most colleges will send you a list of recommended items--everything from bed sheets
to small appliances (hair dryers, computer), as well as a list of things not to bring (your dog, your George Foreman Grill). Shopping for most of the items on the list before you leave will give you the chance to decorate, get settled and concentrate on the start of school. If you have your roommate’s contact information you might touch base and find out if you can collaborate on special needs. You may have the microwave; your roommate may have the Nespresso. Click here for a link to Bed, Bath and Beyond’s Campus Checklist. Of course there will be shopping opportunities, but there are also helpful links to many college’s dormitory checklists. Do pay attention to the “What Not to Bring” section. Different schools have different rules, especially about appliances.
Prepare for the practical aspects of living with someone else.
For most people roommates are the first friends at college, and for many of us they become friends for life. But this may also be the first time you have shared a space with someone other than a family member and that requires some adjustment. Colleges try to match student preferences (trying not to pair night owls with early risers for example), so if you filled out a roommate survey it is likely you and your roommate will share some tendencies. That being said, there is no way for two (or more) people to live together without some conflict occurring. Flexibility is the key to a good roommate experience. If you must have the room temperature at 68 degrees to sleep you might want to consider offering your roommate an electric blanket. If you are planning to come in very late at night, be aware that someone else is trying to sleep. If you do encounter real problems with your roommate start first by talking directly to your roommate. It is possible that your roommate does not realize you don’t want to spend every evening with her boyfriend. (After all she thinks he is fantastic.) If you find you cannot compromise then approach your dorm’s Resident Assistant (generally an upperclassman assigned to a floor, or group of rooms). In the very worst cases all schools have a system through which you can change a roommate, but the truth is that is rarely necessary if you are willing to compromise (which in the end is a great life skill).
Don’t mix your red shirt with your white pants unless you like pink.
Among the many tasks you may be undertaking for the first time laundry can be one of the most challenging. Never fear; this isn’t rocket science!
Get (reasonably) involved your first semester.
Very likely there will be an activities fair early in the school year. Take the time to see what kinds of activities are available and think about how you would like to be involved. You will be busy your first semester adjusting to your academic schedule and your new living conditions, so be reasonable in your outside involvement. A good guideline is to choose one activity that requires a greater time commitment and one activity that has a more social component. Many students feel most comfortable committing time to an activity they already enjoyed in high school or one that they always wanted to participate in but never had the chance. For example, if you played soccer and are not on your college soccer team you may want to become involved in club soccer in college. Or perhaps you always wanted to be in drama, but didn’t have the opportunity in high school; this may be the time to throw yourself into that activity. These kinds of activities will require a decent time commitment, so don’t overload yourself until you have a better idea of how you will manage your time. You will also find a variety of clubs which you can join, everything from serious political discussion groups to squirrel watching clubs (yes, that is a thing), in which you can become involved initially without involving hours of your time. As you think about your extracurricular involvement do factor in whether you are intending to pledge a sorority or fraternity. The pledging process for a Greek organization is a significant commitment, and you want to keep that in mind before you become over involved in other activities.
Learn what ‘time management’ really means.
Of all the things that students comment on about college life, ‘time management’ seems to come to the top of the list of skills they needed to acquire. As we alluded to in the previous section, there will be many activities from which you can choose. First and foremost, however, you must remember you are at college to be a student. Unlike high school, there will be no one reminding you to study, or any set times for study hall. Balancing your activities, your social life and your academics is all up to you now. A friend of ours tells this story about his own initial failure at time management: At his college it was common for there to be opportunities to go to parties on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. He jumped right into the social scene, but by October his grades were terrible. At that point he began to assess the situation and realized that he was the only person actually going out every night. His roommate and friends had study times and social times, and they were doing much better academically. He followed their lead; set clear study times and stuck to them. In the end he averted academic disaster. As a side note, he also met his wife, not at one of those parties, but in English class. Think about it!
Find your perfect ‘study spot.’
As you plan your schedule and set time aside for studying we recommend you find a study spot that suits your style. Do you need total quiet to focus? Is music necessary before you can start working? Are you a loner or someone who works better in a group? Many colleges even provide information about group study sessions, so if that is your style make sure to check it out. There will be many different environments available to you; take some time to find the one perfect for you. It may not be the one your roommate or your new friends love, but that is OK. Find what works for you; you will be more successful academically with good study habits, and you might even meet someone else who has similar tastes!
Meet your professors
Your professors will post office hours at the beginning of the semester. Your professor is not just there to answer questions about the daily lecture; he or she can help you learn more about the subject area. Internships and work study opportunities often come from recommendations made by professors; so if you have a special interest in an area let your professor know. (Note: If you are at a very large university you may find that you are assigned to meet with a graduate assistant. These advanced students work closely with professors and have lots of experience to share with you.)
Looking for more?
If you would a few more tips for freshman year check out these links!
From College Info Geek: Click here.
From Live Career: Click here
Enjoy the journey!