Going away to college is a life-changing event. For the first time in your life, you will be entirely on your own, independent from your parents, who you lived with your entire life. It’s an exciting time where many students grow and mature. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, learn new things, and prepare yourself for the real world that awaits you. However, living in a dorm room is not all fun and games. You are living on your own means new responsibilities that you may not be used to having.
When I started my educational coaching company three years ago, I did extensive research regarding what college graduates regretted about their time in school. Many of them spoke about going away to school without knowing how to do anything for themselves. Several graduates actually had to leave school and come back home because of how unprepared they were. To prevent this from happening to you, here are five skills you must learn before leaving for college.
This is a skill that gets overlooked because most students assume they will eat all of their meals in the dining hall. What they don’t realize is that sometimes their schedule may not match up with the dining hall hours. You may find yourself getting out of the library or a club activity later than you thought and having nowhere to go for food. As a freshman, you most likely will not have a car on campus. It’s critical that you are prepared for these types of situations.
Now, I am not expecting you to whip up a 3-course meal. However, I do expect that you could cook up some frozen veggies, rice from a box, scramble some eggs, or make a grilled cheese. You could also buy some grilled chicken, freeze it, and then take it out thaw on days you know you will be cooking your own dinner. You should know how to cook any of the food listed above before living on your own.
I cannot tell you how many freshmen tell me they have no idea how to do their own laundry. Thinking you can keep wearing clean clothes and wait until you go home is a poor strategy. Your dorm room will begin to stink due to the mounting pile of dirty clothes. You will also undoubtedly run out of clean clothes quicker than you think. Furthermore, you are in a new place, meeting new people. You should try to look presentable at all times.
If you don’t know how to a load of laundry, find your Mom or Dad and ask them to show you. Pay attention to the difference between how to wash your colored clothes as opposed to how to wash your whites. Trust me, you will not be happy if you screw that up. Once they teach you, it’s now on you to do your laundry moving forward. Don’t let them keep doing it and wait for college to start. The only way to learn and be prepared is by starting now and not stopping.
When entering your freshman year, you most likely will not be working. This could be the first time in several years you won’t be earning a paycheck. While this may change at some point, it’s essential to prepare for not having an income for at least the first two months of school. Whatever money you get from high school graduation or your summer job will need to last until you start working again. If you run out too soon, you won’t be able to go out and do things with your new friends.
The easiest way to save money is only to spend it when you have too. For example, if you have a meal plan, use it! Yes, you can order pizza on the weekend. However, do not fall into the trap of ordering food every time you don’t feel like walking to the dining hall. If you think you might struggle with this, ask your parents to only deposit a certain amount of money into your account each week to avoid spending too much too soon.
A high school class schedule and a college class schedule are entirely different. In high school, you start and end each day at roughly the same time. The most significant difference is that in high school, all your classes are back to back with very little room for breaks. In college, depending on your schedule, you could have breaks that last as long as 2-5 hours. Unlike your previous school years, your parents will not be around to get on your case about doing your homework.
As soon as you get your schedule for the semester, map out all the breaks you have throughout the week. Those are the times you will go to the library to do homework, study, or prepare for the next class. Avoid going back to your dorm room when possible. There will always be someone doing something much more fun than the schoolwork you have to do. The key is to commit to this schedule. Being in a class by 8 am is just as important as being in the library by 10 am.
As we mentioned before, going away to college means meeting a ton of new people. This includes roommates, neighbors, professors, and college employees. These are all people who do not know you very well. Unlike your friends or family, they cannot guess what you are feeling. They have no idea what makes you happy, sad, frustrated, or overwhelmed. You will need to learn how to communicate your feelings and thoughts in various situations.
For example, you may have a professor who teaches in a way you are not used to. They will not stop and make sure you are okay. If you are falling behind, it is up to you to communicate that to them before it is too late in the semester. If your roommate or neighbor does something you don’t like, you have the right to stand up for yourself and say something. However, you must do it in a respectful way that does not damage the relationship. The last thing you want is poor communication causing long term tension between you and someone you have to see every day.
Going away to college is something everyone must prepare for. Your life is going to radically change in so many ways. Now is the time to start learning these types of skills while you still have time to make mistakes and ask for guidance. By mastering these skills, you can enter your freshman year with confidence and focus on growing as a student and a person.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.