So here’s the thing. I have a daughter going to college this Fall. She is finishing up her senior year and making plans for her future. She plans to attend a university about a hundred miles away and stay in a dorm on campus. To some, that may not sound that far away but I have to be honest, I’m a little nervous. There are so many things I want her to know and so many things I already have the wisdom of knowing from experience that I wish I could just install into her brain.
With some of these nuggets of wisdom below, I hope to help ease the fear and uncertainty that both parents and young adults heading off to college for the first time may be dealing with. I know my daughter has expressed concerns about being on her own for the first time. Use this list over the Spring and Summer to really get ready for the first year of college.
HOW TO DO YOUR LAUNDRY
This is a basic necessity to living on your own. If you haven’t had to do laundry up to this point, now is the time to get into the habit. Have your parents teach you about color separation, water temperatures, and load size. You can also teach yourself from this really straight forward laundry guide. Start doing your own laundry now so you have the basics down. Make sure you have laundry detergent packed with her dorm belongings.
HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR CAR
Knowing how to take care of your vehicle is super important because you are going to need to have reliable transportation to get to work, the store, and home to see your parents occasionally. Learn how to change a tire and the proper safety measures to take on the side of the road before you even begin to switch the tires out. Have your parents show you how to read your car gauges and what each one means. You will also need to know how often to have your oil changed, and how to check your various fluid levels. Make sure to have a freshly tuned up vehicle before you leave for college.
Do something new and exciting that maybe isn’t “you”. Don’t worry about what others may think because maybe they have an idea of who you are or who you should be. Define yourself, grow, evolve, change. College is when you grow into who you are meant to be and that may not be who you are today. If it doesn’t hurt anyone else, it isn’t against the law, and isn’t dangerous, then try it!
Forgive Yourself, MISTAKES HAPPEN
You’re going to mess up sometimes in one way or another and you are probably going to feel pretty bad about it. Learn from your mistake and do better next time. Ask anyone you may have hurt in the process for their forgiveness. Forgive yourself and move on. There is no sense in dwelling on what cannot be changed. Whats done is done, so let it go. “It’s never too late to do the next right thing”
TIME TO SEE YOUR GYNECOLOGIST
If you haven’t already gone to a gynecologist for your first examination or to get on a form of birth control, you need to take care of both of these things before you leave for college. You will likely still be on your parents health insurance, so it’s easier to have your Mom go with you the first time to get everything set up. Plus, having your Mom there for moral support the first time can help you feel less vulnerable.
These appointments usually end with you setting up your next appointment ahead of time. If they don’t offer to set up your next appointment, request to have it set up so it’s already on the books. That way all you have to do is show up to your scheduled appointment. Make sure you take your health insurance card with you to your college dorm so you have it for your routine appointments or an unforeseen medical emergency.
There are going to be times where you want to put something important off until tomorrow. Usually because you are too tired or you just don’t feel like doing it at the moment. Avoid getting into this habit. Life is unpredictable so your plan to do something tomorrow that should be done today could end up backfiring. Life has a way of throwing curve balls like emergencies, sudden sickness, your car breaks down, etc. If something comes up when you were supposed to work on your project that you put off until the last minute, you will kick yourself.
Priorities: WORK BEFORE LOVE
I know, love can be addictive and fun. However, it isn’t the first priority you need to be focusing on while at college. You are paying a massive amount of money to get your degree. Don’t squander your grades and education (or your money!) to hang out with a cute guy or girl instead of working towards your future.
Think of dating as your reward for a job well done and use it as motivation to finish studying or completing that paper that is due.
SPEAKING OF RELATIONSHIPS…
It’s important to know your self-worth. There will be times people will treat you as disposable when you deserve so much more. Don’t let someone put you on the back burner or use you for what you can give them, until something better comes along. You teach people how to treat you, so if you let people disrespect you, you are teaching them that you aren’t worth respecting. Move on. That person doesn’t have the kind of character you deserve in your life. This applies to both romantic relationships and friendships.
DON’T SADDLE YOURSELF WITH COLLEGE DEBT
- Avoid student loans at all costs if you can! Sometimes you don’t have a choice. In those situations, opt for the subsidized loans before the unsubsidized if your financial situation allows. The government pays any interest accrued on a subsidized loan as long as you are still in school but the loan is based on financial need. An unsubsidized loan is not based on financial need but interest does accrue. If you have to take out a student loan, pay it off as soon as you can.
- Avoid credit cards. Your parents might want you to have one in their name just in case of emergencies but don’t get one on your own. It isn’t free money and the purchases can add up and get away from you quite quickly. The smart rule is, if you don’t have the cash to pay for something, then you can’t afford it. This motto will keep you out of heaps of trouble.
- Save for emergencies. It is always smart to have a savings account because as I said before, life happens. In those cases, it’s comforting to know you can handle things if the need arises. Try to put at least $10-$20 away per week.
LIFE OF THE PARTY
College and parties go hand in hand. They just do. The important thing is to be smart and safe while you are out and about.
- Never accept a drink from someone unless you watched them prepare it.
- Don’t leave your drink unattended to prevent someone from slipping something into it.
- Drink a tall glass of water in between each alcoholic drink. Women have a lower alcohol tolerance than men for various reasons. That means the alcohol will affect you faster. Plus, who want’s to be remembered as the sloppy drunk at the party?
- If the party is not within walking distance of home, make sure you have a designated driver or the number and money for a cab. Don’t get in a car with a driver who has been drinking or doing drugs. If you did walk, make sure you don’t leave alone. Stay with a group of people for safety.
- Don’t do drugs. No, seriously. One of my previous jobs was working at a women’s rehabilitation facility. I can’t count the number of clients that spoke of how they just wanted to try one drug or another to see what it was all about, and before they knew what had happened, they were addicted. Their lives spiraled down and they lost everything because all that mattered anymore was chasing that next high. By everything, I mean they sometimes lost their lives. Don’t do it.
Have you ever been in a situation, place, or around a person who was kind of sketchy and the hair on the back of your neck stood up? Those are your survival instincts. Don’t shrug them off as silly paranoia, listen to them. They are called survival instincts for a reason. They are meant to keep us safe from danger, and they are trying to tell you something important.
If you find yourself in a situation that you need to get out of,
- Stay calm so you can think logically.
- Get to a well-lit, public place fast.
- Pretend you just received a text message from someone. Use that opportunity to “text them back” but instead text an SOS to a friend telling them where you are and who you are with for reference. Have them come get you.
- Make an excuse for why you have to go with them or can’t do whatever they want you to do and get out of there.
- If a stranger stops you on the street, make an excuse about being in a hurry and keep walking.
- If a car is following you, turn and go in the opposite direction. They will have to maneuver the car around and it will give you time to get further away. If you aren’t near a public place, scream and knock on someones door so the person following you is more likely to leave you alone so as not to be witnessed.
LITTLE BLACK DRESS
Keep a classic little black dress on hand. A black dress is a versatile classic for just about any event imaginable. It’s nice to have in the closet for things like a job interview, a funeral, a meeting of the parents, a night out with the girls, a cocktail party, or an academic ceremony.
TATTOOS AND PIERCINGS
There isn’t much to this one except, if you are going to get a permanent body modification, make sure it means something and is something you are going to still want 5 or 10 years from now. Maybe you are thinking you could get it lasered off. Laser treatment is expensive and painful. It takes multiple visits to completely remove the tattoo. You should also consider your tattoo and piercing placements. Some places of employment do not allow visible body modification, especially professional environments.
The JOB INTERVIEW
Learn the appropriate attire to wear to a job interview. The little black dress mentioned above might be a suitable option, *wink, wink*.
Depending on the type of job you are applying to, your interview attire should range from business casual to traditional business. You should never show up in jeans. Your hair and makeup should always be simple and neat. Shake hands with your interviewer upon meeting them. Have your resume in hand, even if you have already turned one in when you applied. Wait to be asked to sit. Have questions ready to ask about the company. Have answers prepared for some the more typical interview questions, like why you want to work for the company and what you would say was your best or worst quality as a person. When the interview is over, thank them and shake their hand again.
YOU ARE SO LOVED
No matter what happens, or how bad you mess up, you have to understand how much your parents absolutely love you. They love you more than they love anything else in this world and are so proud of you. If you need them, they are only a phone call away. That doesn’t mean they might not be upset with you if you’ve done something questionable, but you can bet on everything that they will be there to help you.
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This is an exciting time in your life and the very first step of becoming an adult. Enjoy the milestones but also take it seriously and learn the lessons along the way.
If you found this post helpful, then send or share this article with your friends to help them prepare for their new transition, or send or share this post with your parents to open a dialogue about handling some of the things on this list.