The time has finally come: You’re leaving your childhood home to forge your own way at college. Of course, that’s not to say you won’t come back over breaks, or even for a year or two after you graduate, but going to college marks the first step in becoming an adult and joining the real world. There are a few things you should do to prepare, and the summer’s the perfect time to get started!
1. Clean out your closet. Think about what you actually wear, what the weather is going to be like when you’re at school, and what you want your clothes to say about you. Of course, keep a couple of T-shirts or sweatshirts from your high school for the sake of memories, but there’s no reason for you to have 20 different T-shirts advertising your high school’s various extracurriculars. Trust me, you’re going to end up with tons of free clothes from your college. When you declutter, start with things that are torn, that never fit quite right, that you no longer wear, and that aren’t very you—these should go straight to the trash or to Goodwill.
- Hint: The hanger trick is an easy way to clean out your closet, but it takes a whole year. Turn all of your hangers to face the wrong direction. Every time you wear an article of clothing, turn the hangers back around the right way. Once a year is up (you need a year so that you hit all of the seasons), take anything that’s still facing the wrong direction and donate it. If you haven’t worn it in a year, chances are you aren’t going to wear it again.
2. Connect with your new roommate. Once you receive your roommate assignment, you should reach out to your new roommate. Connect with them somehow, whether you find them on Facebook, email them (your school will likely give you some contact information when you’re given your housing assignment), or follow them on Instagram. Introduce yourself and start planning. Do you have a mini-fridge that you want to bring? Can she bring curtains? Who is going to bring a microwave? Deciding these things ahead of time will save you from having to deal with duplicates when you get to campus.
- Hint: Your new roommate may not end up being your best friend and that’s okay! As long as you can live together and be respectful of each other’s space and belongings, you’re in an okay situation. You can always switch roommates next year. Give it time, though. Going to college is new for both of you, as might be living with a stranger. Don’t make any snap judgements.
3. Create a budget. Figure out how much money you’ll have to spend each semester and determine what you’ll be spending it on. Are you making tuition payments? Do you need to pay for your own meals? Travel? Cell phone plan? Did you get a work-study job? Will you draw from your savings account? Managing your money is hard work, especially if you want to build up your savings account or start paying into retirement, but it’s a skill that will serve you well now and in the future.
- Hint: This blog post will get you started.
4. Determine your priorities and get organized. You’re going to have a lot of freedom at college. You can do what you want, when you want without having to report to anyone. You could choose to skip your classes (we don’t advise it), stay up past midnight every night watching Netflix (again, we don’t advise it), and eat pizza for every meal (delicious, but not your healthiest choice). Determine your priorities before you get to college and make a pact with yourself to stay true to them. Do you want to exercise three times a week? Do you want to eat six servings of fruits and vegetables every day? Do you want to be up by 8:00 AM and in bed by 11:00 PM each day? Organize your schedule in such a way that all of your school work gets finished and that your personal priorities don’t get shoved to the side. We recommend a weekly planner to keep track of it all.
5. Learn how to do your own laundry. Laundry is everybody’s least favorite chore, but it’s important to know how to do it so that you don’t end up shrinking all your clothes or dyeing everything red. Once you do a couple practice loads at home, you’ll realize that it’s not all that difficult. Just make sure you use a timer when you’re doing laundry in communal machines at school. If you’re late taking your load out of the washer, you may find that someone else has done it for you… and unceremoniously dumped your wet clothes all over the floor.
- Hint: This guide will have you doing laundry like a pro in no time.
6. Make a doctor’s appointment. If you have a chronic illness for which you take prescription medication, it’s time to stock up on those refills! Ask your doctor to write a three-month prescription with enough refills to get you through the year or until your next appointment, and make sure that you know what pharmacy to direct the prescription to—you don’t want your refills to be sitting at your hometown Walgreens when you’re actually 1,000 miles away. You’ll also need to ask for a meningococcal vaccine. Colleges often require them of freshmen and students who are going to live on campus. Showing up on campus healthy and prepared will save you lots of hassle later on.
7. Navigate public transit. If you’re moving to a town with a metro, train, or bus system, make sure you know how to use it to get yourself around town. Even in cities that don’t have mass transit systems, you might find that there is a bus system specific to campus for the purpose of helping students get around. Check the maps, mark the spots closest to you, and if you’re going to buy a pass, ask about a student discount.
8. Read something. You’ll be meeting so many different people during orientation and your first few weeks of school that you don’t want to have to fall back on “I’m Sarah Smith from Ohio and I used to be a cheerleader,” every single time you’re introduced to someone new. Before you head to school, read whatever is topping the New York Times Best Sellers list for an easy conversation starter. Then, when you get stuck in a conversational rut, you can mix it up with details about books or authors you enjoy reading and ask other students for their favorites. Plus, reading for fun (meaning not reading textbooks) is good for you. It builds your vocabulary, lowers your stress levels, and helps you relate to others.
9. Spend time with your family. Even if you don’t always get along, they’re going to miss you when you’re gone, and you’re going to miss them. Schedule dates with your siblings and take care to spend time with your parents individually too. Have family dinner. Take long walks through the neighborhood. Let your mom help you shop for dorm essentials. Once you’re in college, make sure to call home or schedule a Skype date every once in a while. Everyone will appreciate hearing from you, and it’s always nice for you to hear a friendly voice too.
10. Update your résumé. If you didn’t think much about your résumé in high school, now’s the time to start. A good résumé has your most current contact information (time to put that new .edu email address to good use), your educational history, and your work history, among other things. It’s okay to include some of your high school activities on your résumé at this point, but you definitely don’t want to include anything from middle school. As you progress through college, remove items from when you were in high school, and once you’re out of college, you’ll want to remove any jobs that are more than 10 years old (unless you still work them). Keep your résumé current by updating it at least once a year.
- Hint: Here’s a sample college résumé to get you started.