We all fondly remember the day at the end of each summer when our parents would take us back-to-school-shopping. It was the one day a year that they would look the other way as we all threw packs of gel pens and Lisa Frank folders into the cart. Walking into school with a decked-out pencil pouch and shiny new backpack would make us feel like kings and queens. Now that it’s time for your freshman year at a university, get ready for that experience times a thousand.
For a complete list of dorm-room needs, check out and download the free printable, below! You can find the original content used for this list at Big Future’s website.
Of all the things I stressed about my freshman year of college, the notion of independence was always a lingering fear. The cultural-norm-meets-culture-shock that is leaving home behind at the ripe young age of 17-18 can be a roller-coaster of emotions. Below are a few intangible tips/freshman-year necessities that will help you survive (and even enjoy!) your first year of college:
Becoming Independent (Basically Overnight)
This is number one, primarily for the late-teens who are moving cross-country for their scholastic endeavors. If you’re travelling far for college this year, do these things:
Prepare for the climate: Life in Missouri is basically a puddle of humidity all year round. It’s one of those things you tend to get used to after living here for so long. What about all of the other climates the US has to offer, though? If you’re moving somewhere with a higher altitude, for example, make note of the increased sun exposure and dryer air you’ll be exposed to. Do some research about your destination. Are the temperatures different? What do the locals wear? Are there any lifestyle changes you should prepare for in advance?
Make connections: If you have friends or family already located in your college town, reach out to them. Even if they are distant relatives or acquaintances, it will be comforting to know that there are people around if you need them. If you can’t think of anyone off the top of your head, go to Facebook! You might find that a highschool alumni or old camp bunk buddy has taken up residence there. It’s never too early to build that social network. After all, life is less about what you know than it is who you know.
Plan to talk to your family: It’s almost here—that break away from curfews and “under my roof” speeches. You’re counting down your days to freedom, but there’s a problem. You don’t really know what that freedom feels like until you have it. And you don’t really know how much about your family you take for granted until you no longer live at home. Life transitions of all kinds take a period of adjustment. Making friends overnight happens all the time in movies and only sometimes in life. You’re going to need a support system of people who love you unconditionally to remind you how capable you are. Depending on how far away you’re going, planning contact time with your family could be a process. Take some time to plan weekly chats with parents, siblings, and whomever else will help you through your first year.
Studying First. Partying if There’s Time (Which There Won’t Be)
…At least not right away. If your only ideas of college life come from the big screen, understand that movies paint a backwards picture of universities. They are essentially two-hour montages of bad decisions and probable expulsion. Regardless of whom or what is funding your furthered education, try not to let that ridiculously high number of dollars go to waste. The first week of school, I recommend becoming intimately familiar with the library. Campus libraries tend to become silent oases as dorm floors become 24-hour party zones. There are typically several nooks and various sitting areas that appeal to every type of studier. Scheduling blocks of time every week to be at the library will essentially force you into study mode. Who knows? You might even have time afterward for a social life!
Trying New Things
Even if you’re staying local for college, this next chapter of life is intended for personal transformation. Yes, academically, but also culturally. The thing about high school is, you’re all basically the same. You grew up together, and you all come from the same place. Apart from the one foreign exchange student everyone wanted to be friends with, there was a general lack of diversity. Enter college. Now you are the foreign exchange student, and so is everyone else. This is your chance to learn about the world through another’s eyes and to find things out about yourself that you never knew. Make this opportunity worthwhile.
Taking Advantage of Free Resources
College is kind of about honing a unique set of skills, but first there’s a lot of forced sampling within all of the specialties. You know what I’m talking about: GenEds. The broccoli of education. Take the advice of someone who tried to specialize too quickly and give every class the same amount of attention and effort. Future employers won’t care that history wasn’t your strong suit or math gave you migraines. All they’ll see is that overall GPA. Most campuses offer free resources to students who need or want some additional support. See if your campus has a tutoring center and learn how it works. Make appointments to get acquainted with the process before you hit a wall, that way you won’t be overwhelmed and anxious in a new place later in the semester. The people who work there are likely students your age, so you may even make a friend.
The thing about getting your first taste of freedom is, there are a lot of chances to mess things up.College can be an incredible experience, but you have to keep yourself in line. Gone are the days of parental authority and raising your hand to use the restroom. You are in complete control of how well you do. And nobody knows you better than you do, so play to your strengths. If you know you’re not a morning person, don’t schedule 8:00am classes. If you are on a tight budget, take advantage of the dining halls. (Even if you live off-campus, the price-per-meal is pretty low for a buffet-style meal.) Make it a point to meet new people. Any situation can become a networking opportunity, and you’ll be surprised how many lifelong friends you make along the way!
And finally, don’t forget to contact your agent about this life-change to see how it affects your policy!