When you finally reach your senior year in high school everything seems to really speed up. One minute you are immersed in your school events and activities, like clubs and prom, and then suddenly you are taking college entrance exams and selecting universities. Once you’ve filled out the lengthy college applications you find yourself eagerly awaiting acceptance letters from your top choice schools. Then, finally, one day you get the notice from your favorite college and you are in!
It’s exciting to be heading off to a great school, where so many new experiences await. You’ll likely have great football games, new friends to hang out with and courses that will challenge you in many ways. There will also be fellow students from across the country and around the world so you will get to meet others with very different backgrounds to your own. To be successful in college you’ll need to tackle the new challenges and develop the skills you need to survive and thrive for the next four years.
1. Selecting the Right College Housing
One of the first choices you will have to make is where you will live. In the past students often decided to live in the residence halls for the first couple of years. With everything going on in the world now, though, more and more new enrollees are choosing student off campus apartments instead.
Unlike the dorms, you get your own private bedroom and bathroom when you lease an apartment. There’s also a washer and dryer in the unit so you won’t have to spend time in a crowded laundry room. It’s much safer to have your own space instead of having to share a bedroom and use communal bathrooms in the dorm.
2. Time Management
One of the biggest differences between college and high school is the amount of free time that you have. In high school you have classes most of the day and everything is pretty structured. When you get to college, you only go to class for twelve and a half hours a week if you are carrying fifteen credits.
The class workload, with long papers to write and big exams throughout the year, is also more intense than what you have faced before. While the amount of time you spend in class is less you’ll have to carefully manage your time so you can handle the increased academic requirements.
When you lived at home you were in a sheltered environment where so many things were done for you. Now, as a college student, you are going to have to learn to manage money and keep financially afloat. Every month you will have to decide how much you pay for food, rent, utilities and other expenses.
You’ll also have to decide whether you can work part-time during the school year. The money coming in from a side job can really help when the budget is tight. It’s also great if you can get a summer paid internship or other position so you can build up a financial nest egg then.
4. Getting Along with Your Roommates
If you want to have a lot of fun in college you’ll want to have some great roommates. Even though each of you may have different class schedules you are all going to be spending a lot of time together. There is a lot of pressure in college and it’s really tense during exam time, so hopefully you will share the apartment with others who are chill and don’t have a lot of drama.
When things come up that need to be resolved it’s important that all of you can talk things through. If you don’t get along with your roommates your living situation will really stress you out. If something is bothering someone it’s best to bring it up so it can be worked through right away.
5. Being Safe During the Pandemic
Just a year ago, no one needed this skill. Now it’s really important to take precautions and keep yourself safe. You should follow your university health guidelines and always wear a mask when you are indoors or outside and in close proximity to others.
If you are attending in-person classes you’ll want to maintain social distancing. Social events, like big parties and other indoor events, are definitely not a good idea at this time. You may also want to limit in-person study groups and get-togethers and meet up virtually instead.
6. Cooking Great Meals for Yourself
If you are going to be living in an off-campus apartment, you’ll want to learn how to cook. There are some great videos on the Internet that can show you how to create incredible dishes and great ethnic food. If you buy the right ingredients up front you can even try to learn a new ethnic cuisine each month.
By cooking your own meals you are going to be getting great nutrition and you will save a lot of money too. It’s so much less expensive when you cook from scratch instead of spending money on take-out every night.
7. Saving Money Whenever You Can
Money is always tight when you are a college student. You can save a lot of money each month by being a smart shopper and buying sales items at the grocery store. It’s also important to shop the outer aisles in the store and stock up on fresh produce instead of buying far more expensive packaged items.
Another way to save is to spend time researching the best textbook deals. Books for class are outrageously expensive but you can cut your costs by checking out the major Internet sites that cater to textbook sales. You can also rent your books or find deals on specialized Facebook groups.
8. Learning How to De-Stress
The intensity and demands of a university course load can really stress you out. Often you’ll have multiple papers and exams scheduled in the same week. When you take the end of semester finals you will find that the whole campus is stressed out, not just you.
Fortunately, there are ways that you can de-stress. Spending time out in nature restores your rhythms and lets you relax again. Walking, hiking or just sitting by a beautiful body of water really helps. There are also online guided meditations or breathing exercises that can help keep you calm.
If you want to thrive and have a great experience at your university, you’ll have to learn new skills that help you navigate the college world. Once you’ve mastered these skills you’ll find that you can truly enjoy all the special times at school and balance your academic and fun activities.