College is a drastic, exciting and nerve-wracking change of life for freshman. As our kids get ready to go off on their own we want to set them up for a successful year. We need to help them with their emotions--and ours. We need to handle drop-off day with aplomb as well as the right tools, and we need to make sure they have a good handle on some general life strategies. We also need to give them some well-thought-out advice about college. Here are a few reminders for them that will help.
Talk to your roommate
Make sure you get to know your roommate and establish rules if you need to. My son’s college has them sit down and come up with a contract and I do think things are so much easier when you have an agreement to go back to. You’re living with someone that you don’t know and who has different life circumstances and habits so make sure that you can talk to each other. Sometimes in the beginning it's hard to talk about what works or doesn't for you because it's so new. Is drinking in the room ok? How about a boyfriend/girlfriend sleeping over? Time to tackle the tough stuff if you haven't already.
Don’t go home every weekend
Part of the college experience is living away from home and growing out of your comfort zone. Stay on campus and get to know the rhythm of your new life. Going home a lot can make it harder to commit yourself fully to the college experience.
You may grow apart from some of your high school friends
If you came home and felt a little off or awkward with your high school friends, it's natural. Especially if you went away to college and they stayed local. It happens. We develop new interests, spend time differently and do different things with our lives. One semester into college and you've all probably changed. It doesn't mean you won't stay friends, the friendship may shift a bit though. And it’s ok.
You will make new friends
As great as college can be, it comes with stress--academic and social. Meeting people and making friends who have common interests as you is a great way to relieve stress. As you grow and change and experience life with new people, you will bond together and have a unique, shared experience. Living together for four years completely changes the depth of your friendship.These friendships are new but they often last forever.
Get to know your teachers
Go ahead and start building relationships with your professors, ideally those within your major. In the future you will be applying to internships, jobs and/or graduate schools and they will be able to help you with that. Introduce yourself, go to office hours, talk about your interest in their class and ask them about their research. For the most part, professors want to see you succeed. That's why they are there.
Most schools have older students show the newbies around and answer questions. Keep in touch with them. They can really help your first couple of months in terms of how things work, but also they can be a resource for which teachers are good, what classes have intense homework, etc. And your RA or whatever your floor governor is called, is another resource and it’s good to stay on their good side.
Set some study time
There is a lot going on when you start college and it’s easy to get caught up in the fun and the new friends. That’s good—but that makes it hard to find time to study. Time management is totally different when you only have a class or two a day—and some days with no classes at all. In order to maintain a healthy lifestyle you have to figure out how to balance academics, fitness and a social life. And yes, you do have to actually study for tests!
Your long distance relationship may not last
You may think that he or she is the one, but you’re probably wrong. You’re still growing mentally and emotionally as a person—and college is a time you change a lot. It’s hard to change in the same ways when you are experiencing different things.
This one may be the most important—and also the hardest one. Participate from day 1 because you don’t want to be left behind and feel awkward at meals etc. So go to your sporting events, join a couple of clubs, reach out of your comfort zone to meet people and be open to activities and ideas. And if the ones you joined in first semester didn't gel, try again. College is a huge adjustment for everyone.
And parents, remember to build your trust and startmorphing from "dictator parent" to coach and mentor BEFORE they head off!