Going away to college is one of the most exciting times in a young student’s life. You are taking the next step in your life by living on your own. You will get to meet new people and experience new things in a brand new town or even state. Living in a dorm is a great way to practice independence and prepare yourself for the real world that awaits you. If done correctly, it can be an overwhelmingly positive choice that turns you into someone that brings value and impact to the world around you.
It is also a significant change that should not be taken lightly. Over the years, I have heard from hundreds of graduates who spoke about being unprepared for living in a dorm and away from home. They entered college thinking about stuff like partying and how great it will be to be out on there own. Most of these graduates never stopped to think about the skills they would need or the lifestyle changes that were coming their way. This is why, this week, we are going to focus solely on how to prepare for this significant transition and change.
#1 – Start Waking Yourself Up In High School
Surprisingly, one of the most common issues that graduates tell me about there freshman year was oversleeping for class. Many of them spoke about how their parents would wake them up throughout high school. If they went back to sleep, their parents would come back in and wake them up again. Letting your parents wake you up and push you through your morning routine may seem harmless, but it is actually creating a bad habit with severe consequences. If you oversleep too many times, it will impact your grades and drag your GPA down before your event start.
If this sounds like you, it is time to make a change. Start small by setting the alarm on your phone and placing it on the other side of the room. The key will be telling your parents to no come and wake you up. If they think you overslept, they are not allowed to come and help you. Even if this means missing the bus and being late to class, it is better to try and fail now when the stakes are lower. After two weeks of getting yourself out of bed and into the shower, you will begin to develop a new routine that you can carry into college.
#2 – Learn How To Cook and Do Laundry
If you choose to go away to school, you are agreeing to begin your transition into becoming an adult. Being an adult means learning how to complete basic tasks by yourself. You especially need to grasp an understanding of skills like cooking and laundry because you will be required to do them at college. Not having clean clothes or food to eat can add unnecessary levels of stress. This may seem minor, but if you are struggling in a class at the same time, it can become overwhelming.
Not to worry, you still have time to prevent this from happening to you. Once again, it would be best if you started small. Ask your Mom to show you how to do the laundry. More importantly, even if you already know how too, start doing your laundry every week. It is not enough to learn something once. The only way to truly understand how to do something well is by doing it over and over again. Also, you want to start getting used to having more things to do throughout the day. This will help you budget your time better and ensure that you do not forget actually to clean your clothes.
In terms of learning to cook, this can be a vague task since there are so many different skill levels when it comes to preparing food. Learn the basics, including how to scramble eggs, make grilled cheese, soup, and grill chicken. You do not need to know how to cook gourmet meals every night for your entire floor. You need to know how to cook the occasional basic meal for the days you cannot make it to the dining hall.
#3 – Learn Where Your Classes Are
As we mentioned before, going away to college is a massive transition. Even the most well-prepared freshman can become overwhelmed with all the new changes. Once you are signed up for your classes, it is crucial you know where they are in relation to your dorm room. Some will be within walking distance while others may require a bus. The last thing you want is to be late for your first class because you do not know where you are going.
Also, the amount of time it takes to get from class to class needs to be worked in your routine. You may not have your first class until 10 am, but if you are required to take a bus that leaves at 9:30, then you need to work backward to determine what time to get up. Again, it is all about not getting overwhelmed. By planning out your days and understanding where you need to be, you are reducing unnecessary stress and increase your chances of a smooth transition into college.
#4 – Connect With Other Incoming Freshman
Most incoming Freshmen have spent the last 12 years surrounded by family and friends. When you arrive at college, you are no longer surrounded by either. Adjusting to not seeing your family every day can be difficult and is pretty much unavoidable. However, not having friends to lean on during this transitional period can prove to be too much to bear. Most students who transfer back home do so because they are homesick. Again, it is not about being overwhelmed by one change but by the combination of several changes.
Make it a point to connect with other incoming first-year students through Facebook and Instagram. Do your research and see if someone has created a Facebook group for your incoming class. Then find some people who live close to you and send them a personal message. It may seem awkward at first, but chances are they are looking for the same type of connection. If possible, try to meet a few of your future classmates in person. At the very least, you will have a few familiar faces when you arrive on campus.
#5 – Create A Study Schedule
It is almost impossible to prepare for what it is like to live in a college dorm. There are dozens of students living on the same floor as you. They have different majors and schedules and, therefore, will be free and active at different times of the day. Take it from experience; there will always be someone doing something more fun than going to class or studying. This is a very easy trap for anyone to fall into. The key is to create a plan to prevent it from happening.
A hard rule I implore all of my student coaching clients to follow when they get to college is to not study in your dorm room. It may seem like the more comfortable option at first, but it comes with several distractions. First, you will have roommates who may be watching TV or playing video games and will want you to do the same. Second, there will be other students in the hallways, knocking on your door and doing fun things you would rather be doing. You may be tempted to cut your studying short to join in on the fun.
My strong advice here is to create a studying schedule for yourself. Take your class schedule and find blocks of time where you can go to the library and study instead of going back to your dorm room. For example, if you have a 3-hour block in between classes, make it a point to get something to eat and then go to the library. Look at what work you have due that week and next week and get started on it. This will allow you to focus and ensure you are dedicating enough time to your studies.
Living at college can be a fantastic journey. It can provide new connections and experiences that help you grow as a student and a person. Most college students stay in contact with the people they met at school for decades after graduation. Going away to school is not something to be feared. However, it is something to take seriously. Significant changes are coming in your life, and you need to be prepared. You owe it to your future self to be as prepared as possible to have the best college experience you can.
Kyle Grappone is an educational coach helping students prepare for the next steps in life.