Posts filed under 'what to expect'
1. If You Need Help, It’s Probably Available. Mom and Dad may not be just down the hall anymore, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get help when you need it. Most campuses have set up great support systems for their students.
Trouble with academics? Talk to an academic adviser, look in to free tutoring (offered on many campuses), or stop by your professor’s office hours. Feeling sick, homesick, or overwhelmed? Head to the campus medical clinic and ask about seeing a doctor or counselor. Many schools have support groups for students in all different types of situations, too. Can’t figure out the laundry thing, or want a recommendation for a fun off-campus excursion? Talk to your resident advisor (RA)!
2. Watch Your Wallet. It’s easy to get swept up in the swirl of social events and the freedom of managing your own cash, but don’t get spendy too quickly! According to an article at our sister blog, the Pay for College Blog, the average college student has over $3,000 in credit card debt–and that is on top of the debt you may already be racking up in student loan debts.
But don’t worry–you can definitely take control of your cash flow. Learn more about managing your finances and learning to budget here, and consider whether you should get a job during the school year.
3. Plan Your Time. One of the trickiest parts of adjusting to college is discovering how different it is from high school. Your class schedule can be different every day of the week, your professors probably aren’t taking role in every class, and you might even find yourself with huge hour blocks with nothing scheduled–or even entire class-free days. Building yourself a schedule can help you make time for a job, social life, study time, and all those to-do list items in between.
While you’re at it, learn how to create an easy semester study calendar so you don’t get (too) behind in class.
4. Get Involved. If this is your first time away from your family, friends, and everything familiar, homesickness is bound to strike at some point. Getting involved in your college community can help you beat homesickness, make new friends, and (bonus) give you something new to add to your resume. Talk to your RA to find out what kinds of clubs, religious groups, service organizations, and other activities you can get involved with on or near campus, and give a few of them a shot.
And remember–be active when it comes to meeting new people. Even the simple act of leaving your door open when you’re in your room can help you get to know the other students on your floor.
5. Have a Little Faith. Maybe it sounds cheesy, but have a little faith in yourself. College is a big, exciting, and often overwhelming experience, so give yourself time to adjust. The campus may seem huge, but you will learn your way around. The same applies for new roommates, classes, and friendships: give yourself time to learn and adjust, and be patient! All your freshman peers are feeling the pressure, too.
October 11th, 2010
Already in college? Share your tips and I’ll post them & link back to you! Email me at [jamie(at)survivingcollegelife(dot)com]!
Here’s a little more “first-weeks” advice for you. (Check out the first installment here.)
Map it Out
Freaking about getting lost on your way to your first class? Take this opportunity to explore your campus a little. Sample the dining hall foods–we had two cafs that were far superior to the rest–check out the art collection or weird buildings, find the best coffee cart, visit the library, and learn a little about the layout of your school. It may feel like you’ll never remember where everything is, but after a few weeks you’ll feel much more at home.
…and if you’re really nervous, map out your classes and head out to find them a day or two before. It’s better than showing up a half an hour late for your first-ever college class. (But if you are lost the first day, most profs are pretty understanding–after all, you’ve never done this college thing before!)
Open Door Policy
Want to meet your floormates ASAP? Don’t lock yourself in your room! If you’re just hanging out, leave your door open so you can talk to people walking by, and say hi to your neighbors when you’re headed off to the caf (and if you’re feeling brave, invite that cute guy or girl in the elevator to join you).
While you’ve still got Mom & Dad (and their credit cards) around, you may as well hit the grocery store for some healthy–or at least yummy–snacks for the inevitable late-night hunger pangs. (Unlike your parents’ kitchen, school cafs have a closing time!)
Grab a good selection non-perishables like ramen noodles or Easy Mac, granola bars, or other favorite snacks to last you through the first semester!
photo: Tongji by sinoreport
August 24th, 2009
Feeling a little freaked about your first day(s) of college? I don’t want you to feel like you’re in the dark, so I’ll be doing a few posts about making the most of your college experience.
Already in college? Share your words of wisdom by leaving a comment or sending me an email at [jamie(at)survivingcollegelife(dot)com]. I’ll compile your ideas and link back to you!
First things first. If this is you–What if I hate my roommate? And I have no friends? And my classes are too hard? And I can’t find my car in the parking lot or I walk into the wrong classroom or I lose my key and can’t get back into my room in the middle of the night???–relax.
Everybody else is feeling like this, too. I’m serious. No matter how cool and confident your fellow freshmen may seem, they honestly have no idea what they’re doing.
So calm down, take a deep breath, and turn on your best 100-watt grin. Because as you may remember, confidence and laughter can get you through even the most embarrassing moments.
RA. RA. RA!
If you’re living in the dorms or on-campus apartments, you’ll have a Resident Advisor (RA) or living on your floor. Usually they’re 3rd or 4th year students, and except in the most extreme cases, they typically fall into the category of “people person.” Otherwise why would they want a job working with brand new college kids?
RAs are trained to help you deal with pretty much anything–from roommate trouble to finding your classes, and beyond. My RAs were amazing, helping some of my floormates figure out how to cope with issues like having an anorexic roommate to finding a ride to the airport. They were our go-to people for help and for fun, and there was usually a good group hanging out on a couch in the RAs’ rooms.
So when you are totally freaked out by something brand new and collegiate, head to your RA’s room and just ask.
Your first week of college is the ultimate time to socialize. Campuses, dorms, clubs, and Greek organizations have all kinds of parties and activities, so you should be able to find at least a couple things you want to do.
If you’re not into the late-night party scene, check out the daytime activities. My first week UCSD offered activities like kayaking, a sunset bonfire, a spirit rally.
And you guys, please say “Hi,” to a bunch of people. Chances are most of the people around you don’t know very many people, so the more people you chat with, the more likely you are to find your new BFF at school.
August 19th, 2009
So Wednesday was the “big day” for me and my sweetie–we finally moved in to our new place, which means I am now writing to you from beautiful North Carolina!
To be a little more specific, I am writing to you from the floor of our new apartment, because our furniture–which was supposed to arrive yesterday–will not be here until next week.
What You Need (The Bare Necessities)
So clearly we had to run a few emergency errands to get the necessities that we hadn’t packed in the car. I wrote a post a while back about what you’d need your first night in the dorms, but I’ve amended the list and added where to go if you forget to pack it anyway.
- Wallet, cash, driver’s license & school ID
- Medication (if applicable)
- Clothes for 3 days (so you don’t have to do laundry), including underwear, socks, a bathing suit, and a sweatshirt
- Buy: Ross, Walmart, or if you’re feeling adventurous, a thrift store
- Good walking shoes (in case you do a tour of campus or a hike or something)
- Toilet paper
- Screwdriver (for putting furniture & etc. together) & scissors
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, & shampoo
- Buy: Dollar store or Walmart (soap was even cheaper than the dollar store!)
- Towel & washcloth
- Buy: Walmart, Kohl’s (sale), Target
- Basic Eating Utensils (fork, spoon, bowl, cup, plate)
- Buy: Dollar store (metal utensils for 50 cents each!) or thrift store
- Cell phone, laptop, & chargers (thanks, Christina, for adding this to the list!)
- Pen & paper
- First Aid Kit
- Get a compact Johnson & Johnson one at Target for $1
- Cooking stuff (utensils, pots, pans… if you don’t want to eat out)
- Buy: Utensils at the dollar store, pots & pans at a thrift store
- Reading material (magazine, book)
- Buy: Get books for cheap at a thrift store or used book store, or make a friend by borrowing from someone on your floor
- Pillow & blankets/sheets or sleeping bag
I’m happy to say that I took my own advice and had packed a lot of this stuff. But it was the forgotten items (soap, utensils, bathing suit) that had us running errands so much of the first and second days. So plan ahead! :p
July 24th, 2009
Packing up to head home for winter break? This trip might be a little different than spending a weekend there–so here’s your guide to making it through the holidays!
Prepare Your Parents
Your parents are probably still used to you as their high school student, so the transition to the more independent you that you’ve made over the past couple months may be a little shock to their systems. (I remember my dad asking if he needed to wake me up in the morning–I asked him how he thought I’d made it to class everyday if I needed a wakeup call!)
Make a point of discussing with your parents what they expect. Will your curfew be reinstated (and can you get it moved later)? Do they have family time scheduled that you should pencil into your plans? Is Mom going to be okay with you bringing home all your laundry?
Call, chat, text, or email, but just make sure you all know what to expect to make this visit fun & comfortable for everyone.
Schedule Your Fun
These precious weeks off will pass quickly, so be sure you plan out a few days to fit in those things you really want to do at home (don’t get sucked into using up your whole break on extra sleep and back-to-back sessions of Guitar Hero!)
So schedule a lunch meeting with your friends from high school, make time to play soccer with your little brother, and choose a day to get those last minute gifts bought and wrapped!
Make Some Cash
A few years away from home have probably opened your eyes to the expenses of independence, so take advantage of this homework-free time and earn some money! Check out this article I wrote about how to make money over winter break and my boss’s 5 ways to earn cash for college over at our sister site, the Pay for College Blog.
Re-stock for Next Semester
You know how you forgot your Foo Fighters CD, ate all of your Easy Mac, and just realized how badly you need that coat in the back of your closet at home? Well now is the time to re-stock for your next stint of school! Gather everything you need (and ask mom for help with that Easy Mac dilemma–they have a huge case at Costco!) and get packed up to go back well-prepared.
Happy Holidays–enjoy the time off!
photo: Suitcases by bb_matt
December 16th, 2008
Once you move out of the house, your relationship with Mom & Dad takes on a whole new light. Suddenly they’re not there 24/7, either to help or hover. Here’s what you need to know about how (and why!) your parents are behaving differently now that you’re in charge of doing your own laundry:
Your Mom Reads Your Blog.
It’s true, your mom might read your blog. She may have seen your MySpace page, too, and if you’ve chatted, she’s probably clicked any link in your AIM profile. Don’t believe me? Take a peak at this forum thread, where parents discuss how they google their teens. I can also tell you from personal experience that my mom read my blog, and my best friends’ mom read hers, too.
Keep that in mind when you’re posting pics & details about your life (and also remember that your boss could be googling you, too!)
Why: I know it seems nosey, but your mom or dad is used to having you around a lot more. It used to be that your parents could ask about your day after school, at dinner, or really whenever they felt like it. Now that you’re out of the house, they’re probably missing that day-to-day interaction. Try shooting off a couple more emails, and calling home once in a while. And yes, you can ask them not to read your blog if it makes you uncomfortable.
Your Room is Rearranged (or Never Touched).
There are two unsettling extremes you could experience when you go home:
- Your room is left untouched, like some kind of shrine to your high school days.
- Your room is rearranged, your younger sibling has taken it over, and/or your room has become the guest room/dad’s study/the family gym.
Either of these scenarios can be a little uncomfortable. After all, you lived here for years of your life, you probably don’t expect Mom & Dad to start repainting the day you start school, or to leave the door shut all the time like your room is a shrine.
Why: In a sense, your parents are mourning your childhood-you’re off at college learning to be an adult, and that means their lives are going to change big time. Just like with any big change, everybody deals with it differently. If your parents are in denial, your room is probably more like a “you-museum” than a bedroom. If they are trying to move on and let you grow up, you might come home to find a Bowflex Home Gym where your desk used to be. Again, you can always talk it out-parents like that, and it will help you feel more comfortable with the new situation.
Your Parents Have Taken Up Random (for them) New Hobbies.
Maybe your Dad starts taking yoga when he’s more of a hunting-with-the-boys kind of guy. Maybe Mom starts fencing when she was more into crocheting and scrapbooking before. Whatever changes you see in your parents, they’re probably a little unexpected.
Why: Whether or not you remember it, your life took up a lot of your parent’s time. Mom and Dad spent a good portion of their day chauffeuring, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, going to your soccer games, working to put food on the table, and generally being your personal cheerleading squad.
These new hobbies are their reaction to having a whole lot of unexpected free time. They’re probably both missing the time with you, and trying to adjust to-and enjoy-the freedom to try new things again.
So, What’s Going On?
Okay, so your house is different, Mom’s gotten a Facebook account, and your Dad has taken up horseback riding to fill in the time you used to spend golfing together-what’s really going on?
I mean, aren’t you the one who’s going through a huge life change right now?
Well, kind of. What’s going on is that your parents are starting to come to terms with being “empty nesters.” You have basically been the focus of their lives for the past 18-or-so years, so this sudden disconnect can be really hard on them. Even if you have other siblings still at home, watching one of their babies step into adulthood can really shake a parent up!
I hope this unraveled a little bit of the mystery of parental behavior in college. (Hey, you can always get a new blog account if you have to!)
photo: Layoff by xlucas
September 4th, 2008