If you’re college bound for the first time this fall you’re probably counting down the days until you move out of your parents’ home and into your dorm room! You may be experiencing a wide range of emotions—from excitement to nervousness to uncertainty to the restlessness that says: let’s just get there already!
It’s hard to know what to expect when you’ve never done the “college thing” before, and it can be difficult to anticipate what’s just around the corner. While you’re waiting for the big move-in day, here are a few practical things you can do to get ready:
Up Your “Adulting” Skills. There are certain skills that will help you function well in college…things like knowing your way around the kitchen, being able to do your own laundry, basic budgeting and car maintenance skills. If you recognize yourself as fundamentally deficient in any of these areas, it’s not too late to gain some expertise before you leave home. Ask your parent or older sibling for a crash course in your areas of weakness, or even check out YouTube if necessary. If you’re not already proficient in these life areas, practice changing a tire, making a meal or doing your own laundry. College life comes with enough other adjustments; having these basic skill sets under your belt will set you up for a win!
Check Off the Details. The Boy Scout motto definitely applies here: BE PREPARED! Before you leave home, there are tons of tiny but wise steps you can take in order to be organized and ready for whatever may come. For example, experts suggest backing up your phone before you leave home and photo copying your driver’s license and other important documents so your parents have them “just in case.” Additionally, you’ll want to communicate with your parents about finances so it’s clear who’s paying for what. Linking your bank accounts to make money transfers easier and to provide accountability as you learn to manage your own money can be a wise move. Take time to research the medical centers and hospitals closest to your college campus, and find out which local physicians accept your insurance. If you have prescriptions you’ll need, investigate where you’ll be filling them while away from home. It’s not necessary but if you’re especially motivated and want to save time, you can work ahead of time to purchase textbooks for your fall semester before you get to campus.
Start Packing. The tendency for college freshman is to over-pack. Remember dorm rooms are small, especially considering you’ll be sharing tight space with at least one roommate. Stick to the basics! Clothing, bedding, toiletries, school/office supplies and a computer are top priorities. Unless you know your room dimensions it may be smart to hold off on purchasing shelving and storage containers until you see your dorm room and get a feel for what is truly needed. Feel free to bring fun décor and a few special items that remind you of home, but don’t get carried away. Less is definitely more, and too much stuff can create a burdening sense of clutter in your new home-away-from-home. Stick with the few possessions you truly can’t live without because you use them frequently and one or two sentimental items that bring you the most joy, comfort and happiness, and leave the rest.
Plan for Quality Goodbyes. Before you can say “hello” to new friends and experiences, there are always a series of “goodbyes” that bring a healthy sense of closure. As you leave for college, a chapter of your life is closing. You are exiting a season. Even though you will return to your family, you will not return the same person. College has a way of growing and changing you, and even if you come back home for weeks or months at a time, you will never again be the same “kid” under mom and dad’s roof. Similarly, your friendships will change and shift as well. They may remain long into the future, but they will definitely be restructured. Take time to let this settle into your heart. Even if you are not sad, recognize that your parents, younger siblings or friends may be wrestling with various stages of grief which sometimes displays itself in crying, anger, agitation, sentimentality or even some form of pushing away/denial. You may recognize this in yourself as well. Know that grief over this big transition is normal! One way to honor the grief (as well as the very real anticipation) is to carve out quality time and space for the relationships that matter most to you before you go. It will mean the world to those you’re leaving behind to know they’re a priority, even as you move through your seemingly endless pre-college checklist. More important than all of the other “to do’s” are the relationships in your life. Make sure the people you love know it! It can be special to plan ahead for the times when you’ll reconnect with your friends and family—whether it’s a weekly “FaceTime date” or the fun you’ll have when you get back for Thanksgiving break. After all, you are leaving, but it’s not forever! Though change can be hard, it is also exciting and has potential to strengthen relationships. The best is yet to come!