How to Develop Independence at College

You might be thinking, Doesn’t college help you become independent all on its own? 

And you’re right! And wrong. College is definitely a huge step in independence, and there’s nothing like living on your own in a dorm building or apartment without your parents around that will help you take a lot of great steps toward being self-sufficient. You’re forced to grocery shop on your own, do your own laundry, put yourself to bed and wake up on time, and get to your classes promptly with your homework completed.

However, it’s easy to lean on your parents in a variety of ways while you’re at college. It’s often a gradual shift that happens during your years away at school, and it’s certainly not a negative thing to need your parents’ help with things. However, if you’re looking to take some steps toward independence, consider the following ideas.

1. Get a job on campus

Many students lean hard on their parents for one thing in particular while at college: money. While everyone has different beliefs about how much college students should depend on their parents to provide them with cash, there can be some good boundaries both you and your parents can set to help you become a little more independent in this area. Consider getting an on- or off-campus job to make a little money of your own.

While working a job can seem a bit tricky when you have classes to attend, homework to complete, and tests to study for, you might find that fitting a few hours here and there throughout the week can actually give you a little more freedom to do some other things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t had the budget for. Also, depending on the type of job you work, you might be able to do homework while working. Some university buildings have front desk jobs that allow you to simply be a presence and others, like a tutoring office, often have downtime in between appointments. That kind of job would really be the best of both worlds!

2. Take some initiative

Another way to grow in independence while in college is to take some initiative—especially when you’re home from college on break. Pipe up and ask what you can do to help around the house, clean up after yourself, or offer to help cook meals. As you grow into an adult, taking the initiative to take care of the space your in, the mess you make, and to care for others around you should grow and mature as well.

Even little things like offering to run errands for your mom or paying for your own gas are little things that can help move you forward toward independence. Adults take care of themselves and each other, so it’s important that you don’t just rely on your parents to do everything for you.

3. Take ownership of your faith

Growing up, it might have been really easy to piggyback off of your parents’ faith choices, but now that you’re in college, it’s time for you take ownership of your faith if you haven’t already. This could look like doing some research to choose and get involved with a church and maybe an on-campus ministry. It could look like pursuing your own devotional time every day or working on memorizing Scripture.

The disciplines of faith aren’t there to simply be things you do in order to check off a box. They’re there to enrich your life and draw you closer to God. Prayer, worship, and time with the Lord and in church community are some of the healthiest things you can do for your life.

4. Take ownership of your schedule 

Maybe you always relied on Mom to be your in-home alarm clock, but that won’t be the case at college! It’s time for you to get your very own alarm clock, planner, calendar, and whatever else it takes for you to keep track of your to-do’s and schedule. Writing everything down might feel like a challenge, but your brain will thank you later when it’s overloaded after a full day of classes and extracurriculars.

This can also look like honoring your parents’ time over the holidays when you’re back at home and connecting about when you’ll be home and when you’ll be out. Communication about these things is always helpful and respects everyone’s space and time.