How to Prepare for College and Your First Time Away from Home
By Jen Carlevatti | Last Updated: Jul 15, 2022
The countdown to your first semester at college is on, and chances are you’re having some feelings. Are you excited, nervous, terrified? All three? Don’t fret. Take a deep breath and follow our tips on how to prepare for college and your first time away from home.
Visit Campus Before You Move In
If you haven’t set foot on your campus yet, try to pencil in a visit. Even if you have visited, be sure to attend orientation, and spend some time getting the lay of the land. It can help you feel more comfortable and confident finding your way around after the big move.
Get Organized for Success
Adulting can be tough at times, but planning for your fabulous new college life can set you up for success. Before leaving the nest, you should:
Decide How to Manage Your Time
Whether it’s a smartphone app or an old-fashioned day planner, pick a method to manage your classes, projects, activities, work schedule, and other responsibilities. Developing a system now will help you stay on top of your obligations without getting overwhelmed and missing deadlines (or your shift at work).
Create a Budget
Managing your money is crucial to avoiding overspending and empty pockets at the end of the month. Ask your family to help you build a budget, taking into account fixed expenses such as tuition, room and board, plus discretionary expenses such as entertainment and social activities. Budgeting is a lifelong skill that will serve you now and well into the future.
Learn Important Life Skills Before Leaving Home
Want to avoid staring into a washing machine and wondering why your favorite white shirt turned pink? Learning how to do laundry now can help you avoid unpleasant surprises in the residence hall laundry room. Trust us, Mom and Dad are better laundry coaches than your fellow students.
Learning how to cook some basic items is a great idea, too. In addition to an in-room microwave, many residence halls now offer full-fledged kitchens. When you tire of dining hall fare or need a quick breakfast, knowing how to prepare some easy comfort foods (think mac and cheese) can be a lifesaver.
Use Your Newfound Freedom Wisely
Let’s be honest. One of the best parts of heading off to college is liberation from parental supervision. No one will be enforcing a curfew or nagging you to finish your homework. However, with independence comes responsibility.
Limit the Late Nights
It can be tempting to treat college as a 24/7 party, but try to save the all-nighters for special occasions such as a concert with friends. Most students find college classes more challenging than high school, and staying on top of coursework is hard to do if you don’t get enough sleep.
Have a Salad (or Two)
In addition to making you feel sluggish, eating french fries and ice cream every day is a surefire way to gain the dreaded “freshmen 15.” Keep your weight in check and your head in the game by throwing a few salads and other good-for-you foods into the mix.
Prepare for the Inevitable Homesickness
You may think it won’t happen to you, but 70 percent of freshmen report that they “occasionally” or “frequently” feel lonely or homesick. It’s a completely normal part of adjusting to college and living on your own for the first time. The good news is, there are ways to prepare for, and cope with, missing home.
- Bring reminders of home to campus, such as family pictures or favorite books.
- Schedule weekly calls home so you’ll have a dedicated time to catch up with family other than quick texts.
- Schedule trips home or time for your parents to visit campus (many colleges host a parents’ weekend).
- Research ways to get involved on campus, meet new people, and develop a new social network.
It’s also important to recognize when homesickness develops into something more serious. If homesickness is interfering with your day-to-day activities, reach out to your campus counseling center.
Know When and Where to Go for Help
From academic tutoring to health and wellness, colleges offer a multitude of support services to ensure your success. Here are just a few of the common services offered on most college campuses:
- Academic success centers – Get tutoring in difficult subjects, help writing a paper, study skills workshops, and more.
- Student health services – From dealing with the flu to family planning, health centers help meet students’ medical needs right on campus.
- Counseling centers – Mental health counselors can help students cope with everyday stress and more serious issues such as depression and anxiety.
- Career services – From finding your best-fit major to securing internships to developing a résumé, career counselors can help you prepare for what comes next.
Services vary from campus to campus. Check out what’s available at your university so you’ll know where to turn if you need assistance.
Have questions about preparing for college and your first time away from home? Contact the Office of Admissions online or by phone at 813-974-3350.
About Jen Carlevatti
Jen Carlevatti is the former Associate Director of Communications for USF’s Office of Admissions. Currently, she is a freelance Content Developer for USF’s Office of Innovative Education. She enjoys writing blog articles that empower students and their families to successfully navigate the college admissions and financial aid processes.