The summer semester is coming to a close, which means many new students are gearing up for the trip to college. This is a challenging and exciting time in the young adult’s life, but one that can come with far too many challenges if not adequately prepared.
In fact, nearly a third of college students won’t make it through their first year of college. One primary reason for this is that many dive headfirst into college life without being properly prepared for the challenges we all face.
This is worst when parents have not attended college and have little advice to pass on to their kids about the road ahead. But in some instances, even parents with PhDs fail to prepare their children for the world of college.
So if your parents or school hasn’t given you the ‘college talk’ – and even if they have – check out our pre-college checklist to get you started for the first chapter of the rest of your life.
Know what you Want
People may try to convince you that college is the best time in life to figure out what you want; they’re wrong. Students need to enter college with some idea of what they hope to achieve by graduation day.
This prevents the likelihood of prolonging your years in college while you experiment and change majors. It is way too expensive a time in your life to tack on extra semesters at school to figure out what you want.
If college is rolling around and you still have no idea what you want to do with your life, take a trip. Traveling is a great way to get away from everything familiar and to think objectively about what you want and where you want to go in life.
Take the time to not just enjoy yourself, but to reflect on what makes life enjoyable and how you can work that into a career. Avid readers might want to become a journalist or a literature professor. If you’re a Math-wiz consider engineering, physics, statistics, econ, or accounting.
But whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you want to do, and something you know you can turn into a living later in life. Doing what you love is great, but if you can’t pay the bills with it, it’s probably not worth racking up new bills to learn it in school.
After deciding what you want to do with your life as far as your major is concerned, it’s time to ensure you qualify for those classes. Not every college allows you to just waltz into certain programs, or even the school, for that matter.
There may be certain grades you need to land in core courses, or exams you need to sit. Don’t wait until the very last minute to figure out what those are.
When taking entrance exams, be sure to study. Many college-hopefuls hit the end of the road right here, because they fail to adequately prepare and don’t do well enough to move forward.
Apply for Financial Aid and Scholarships
Be sure to look into all your external sources of income to pay for a college degree. You will need it. Check with parents to see if a college fund was ever started, and if anything is left of it, as sadly parents do sometimes end up spending that money. Apply for financial aid, and look around for scholarships.
Many students joke around through high school with plans of buckling down later in life. But the lower your grades were in high school, the less money you can count on getting from external sources like scholarships and grants. Also, the less likely people you know are to invest in your education. Basically, low grades mean forfeiting ‘free money’ for college.
Work Out Independent Sources of Income
One of the top reasons people cite for not attending or dropping out of college is the cost. Help to cement your own financial stability by finding ways to supplement your income.
It’s tempting for a college student to just rely on family members to assist with living expenses. However, what if something happens to your primary provider? What if they lose their job, or end up needing to use that money to pay for healthcare costs or other emergencies that may crop up in their own lives?
College students can earn money by working in the summer, holding down part-time jobs through the year, and freelancing. If you’re worried about balancing a job and going to school, check out this article for advice on what jobs to consider, and how to make it work.
My freshman year of my bachelor’s studies required moving six hours away from home to the capital city on my island. Not knowing much about the areas surrounding the university, I ended up finding a cheap apartment, which sounded good enough, but which also happened to be in the ‘hood’. It took months before I was able to find better housing somewhere else.
Do your research before you move, and be sure to bring a friend or family member who has experience in house or apartment shopping and knows what to look out for. Find the right balance between cheap housing in unsafe areas, and more expensive housing in safer areas. Keep in mind also that housing very close to campus is usually more expensive, whether it’s the rich or poor that live in the community.
For the first year at least, students who have no experience living on their own should consider dorming on campus.
Find a Roommate
Rooming alone can be an amazing adventure. There’s lots of privacy and freedom. However, for women living in hostile communities, consider a roommate. There is safety in numbers. Rooming also means splitting bills, which is usually cheaper than living alone.
College students coming from larger households should also consider getting a roommate. No matter how eager you are to get away from your annoying older brother and two screaming sisters, when the silence hits you, it gets lonely and almost eerie, if you’re not used to it.
Think carefully about who you want to room with, and don’t be too quick to room with family or best friends. These matches hardly ever work out; mostly because family and friends tend to be less respectful of your personal space, and house rules. So be sure to establish boundaries before embarking on that journey together.
Pack Everything you Need
Whether you’re moving an hour or ten hours away, ensure you pack everything you need and double-check before you go. Make a list and tick things off one by one as you go along to ensure you don’t forget anything.
Otherwise, you could find yourself going to your first class with no deodorant, or spending your first night in your new bed without sheets. For a detailed guide on what to pack, check out The Ultimate Guide to Packing for College.
Make Plans to Stay in Touch
It doesn’t matter if no one else in your group of friends went to college, or if leaving your family behind was more a relief than a sad departure. Unless you have good reason to cut people off, keep in touch.
This could mean just staying connected on social media, or taking the time to reach out every once in a while with a text or a ten-minute phone call. You will be glad for those relationships when college is over and it’s time to return to your old life temporarily, until you find a new job.
If a particular person is helping with college expenses, then this person is one you should make the extra effort to keep in touch with by whatever means is convenient to them. Call. Write. Text. But don’t ever let them get to thinking that you don’t appreciate their sacrifice.
Make Arrangements for Kids and Pets
Whether you have two or four-legged children, be sure to make arrangements for them. If you plan to live off campus, it should be easy to find an apartment that allows pets, though it does limit your options somewhat.
Some pets that usually fly under the radar of no-pets rules though include guinea pigs, small snakes, fishes, hamsters, and other ‘caged’ animals. Birds may still be a no-no because of the noise.
Parents and guardians should also work out arrangements for children as soon as possible. Bringing a crying baby or an inquisitive toddler to class with you is not an ideal situation – and one many lecturers will not stand for. Work out arrangements with daycare, friends, family members, or hired help.
We hope this list helps to make your college experience a bit more fun, and a lot less challenging. All the best for the years ahead!