As a high school student, thinking about heading into your first year of college can be both exciting and scary all at once. You’re used to living at home with your family. You’ve probably had most things taken care of for you, and you’ve lived a certain way with specific household rules your entire life.
College changes all of that in an instant.
When you transition from a high school senior to a college freshman, you go from being a “kid” to an adult. More responsibilities rest in your lap than ever before, from doing your own laundry to taking care of your own finances. Though dorm life may not be a completely accurate representation of what it’s like to own your own home or apartment, it gives teenagers a taste of what the real world is really like.
It’s your first step into adulthood, and it’s okay to be nervous. But, the transition doesn’t have to scare you. By preparing ahead of time for college and knowing what to expect, you will have an easier time “leaving the nest” at home and moving forward into the next chapter of your life. Let’s look at some lessons that can help you along the way.
Managing Your Finances
One of the biggest hurdles college students have to face is managing their money. And in many cases, they’re having to do this for the first time. While some students continue to get money from their parents, about 75% of students have jobs while they’re in school, and the average yearly income for a college student is about $13,000. Finding a successful balance between work and attending classes isn’t always easy, especially as a freshman.
If you need to get a job while you’re in school, make sure you:
- Set your priorities
- Have goals in mind
- Handle your free time safely and wisely
- Don’t let yourself burn out
Talk to your professors about your job, even if it’s only part-time. You don’t want to end up missing a class for work, especially if your teachers don’t know that you’re employed. Most professors are willing to be a bit flexible and understanding if you’re upfront with them about your job and why you need to work. If you end up with too many unexcused absences and they don’t know why, it could reflect poorly on your grade, or you may not even pass the class.
Even if you do find work while you’re at school, it’s important to maintain a budget. You can do this ahead of time, before you find a job, to determine how much you will need to earn to pay for things like food, or even rent if you’re living in an apartment. The cost of living is different depending on which part of the country you’re in, and so is the minimum wage. Be sure to do your research on the state where you’re attending college as you build your budget to determine your monthly financial needs.
One of the best things you can do to make your high school to college transition easier is to stay connected with the people you’re closest to. Now, more than ever, it’s important to feel a connection with loved ones. You might be attending a school that is doing distance learning in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. For a new college student, that can increase feelings of isolation, which can lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression.
Thankfully, technology makes it easier than ever to remain in contact with the people you care about. Work out a schedule that fits your needs when it comes to talking to the people that are important in your life. That might include a weekly Zoom call with your friends from home, or calling your parents each night.
If you’re traveling abroad for a semester, make sure you have the right phone plan set up before you go, and instant messaging apps like Skype, WhatsApp, and Messenger so you can stay in touch with friends and family back home. Staying connected with the people you’re used to can help you to not feel so alone in a new place, especially during these times of uncertainty.
With that said, it’s also important not to depend on those people to manage your stress or keep you happy. If you spend all of your time connecting with people back home, you could be missing out on new friendships that could last a lifetime. So, while you might spend your first few weeks of school staying in touch with friends and family, eventually you should work to strike a healthy balance between communicating with those at home and spending time with new friends and roommates.
Making the Transition Easier
Feeling overwhelmed yet? You don’t need to. About 20 million families send their kids off to college every year, and everyone has to work through that initial transition period. While it can be a nerve-wracking time, it’s also the first step on your journey to the next chapter of your life.
While it’s important to be organized and fully-prepared, there are other things you can do to make the transition from high school to college easier on yourself, including:
- Having realistic expectations about the college experience
- Taking care of yourself by exercising, eating right, and getting enough sleep
- Managing your stress levels
- Finding groups/clubs you’re interested in
- Being assertive when necessary
- Learning to problem-solve
One of the biggest roadblocks many new college students face is procrastination. When everything is new and exciting, things like homework and studying can quickly be put on the back burner. Unfortunately, that kind of attitude will eventually lead to excess stress. Make sure your dorm space is set up for productivity by eliminating distractions, having good lighting, and keeping it neat and organized.
College can end up being one of the most unforgettable experiences of your life. You’ll be able to share stories about your time there for years to come. While the initial transition might be scary, you will learn to ease into it quickly, and make lasting memories along the way.
BIO: Dan Matthews is a writer with a degree in English from Boise State University. He has extensive experience writing online at the intersection of business, finance, marketing, and culture.