By KATIE HOPSICKER
It’s that time of year again. Back to school signs and commercials are everywhere, the fall season is slowly approaching, and you are flooded with memories of your first day of school. But what happens if school now means college and you are not living at home? Here is some advice for every college freshman that I wish I knew.
Travel, shipping & packing
Traveling to school can be very daunting. Whether you are getting there by car, train, or plane the packing process is stressful. No matter how you arrive to school, make sure to pack light. Dorm rooms are tiny and have much less room to store clothes than one would expect. To help with packing, I would suggest waiting to buy room supplies and shower supplies, makeup, medicine and personal hygiene products until you get to school. That way, you have one set at school and one set at home, and it will save you time and space while packing.
Pro Tip: If your school allows, ship things that you order online (like textbooks, bedding etc.) straight to your school. This also saves room while packing.
Room supplies & storage
Use the layout of your room wisely. Stores like Target, Walmart, Ikea and the Container Store sell multitudes of containers, bins, boxes and gadgets to maximize the space of your room. In the closet, take advantage of shoe racks or hanging storage. Place your dresser or additional bins underneath your bed.
Pro Tip: If your bed is lofted, invest in a storage ottoman. You can put things inside and the ottoman will double as a seat and a way to hop onto your bed.
Shower, laundry supplies
Beware, community bathrooms can be gross. Learning to share bathrooms with a hall of people is certainly an experience— an experience that you must share with your trusty “shower shoes.” In my opinion, shower shoes are non-negotiable.
Additionally, do some research about laundry before you move in. Sometimes laundry machines will be in a different building. Sometimes you have to pay for laundry with individual quarters. Be prepared so you can accommodate.
Pro Tip: Bring a mini-steamer. I use this every day to get wrinkles out of my clothes and it saves so much more time and space than using an iron and ironing board.
Now that you are moved in, focus on your classes. When buying textbooks, think twice before spending extra money at the bookstore. There are dozens of sites where you can price match or find cheaper options to rent or buy your books. Check out services like Chegg, SlugBooks, Amazon and more to find cheaper books.
Another tip when it comes to classes: go to office hours. Office hours are so important, although it is easy to forget about them. If you put in the effort and take the time to seek help from your professors, often times you will be rewarded with extra information, a better understanding for the class, networking and career advice and even higher grades.
Organization is the key to success
Three words: buy a planner. Keeping your room, assignments and schedule organized is so crucial in college. Without a planner, calendar, or organization of some kind, college can seem overwhelming. You will have class assignments, meetings, practices, social events and more, not to mention you are now responsible for scheduling your meals, laundry, cleaning, etc. Staying on top of your activities and classes will help alleviate stress and enable a healthier and constant lifestyle while away from home.
Pro Tip: Establish a routine. Have a designated laundry or cleaning day, prioritize time to work out, or set an attainable bedtime. Following a routine will help you stay organized and less stressed.
Food: the good and the bad
Dining halls in college can be hit or miss. Sometimes the meals will be delicious, while sometimes your best option will be cereal and toast. Going to college is a huge shift in your lifestyle, and it is totally normal to gain some weight. However, be conscious, because trust me, if you keep snacks in your room, you will eat them.
Pro Tip: Fill a bag up with fruit from the dining hall and keep it in your dorm room. It can serve as a delicious and healthy late-night snack.
Money, money, money
Create a budget before you go to school; in college, money literally flies out of your pocket. While you think that your campus may have everything you need, sometimes it is nice to get off campus to experience the area and cure homesickness. Trying local restaurants, going to events off campus, transportation and tickets all cost money, so save as much as you can. If you will be living in a city, plan to spend more money, as cities can be more expensive than rural areas.
Pro Tip: Many colleges offer on-campus jobs, where you can get paid for working in the libraries, buildings, research labs, or even on off-campus restaurants and shops. Having a paid job or internship helps bring in extra income. Every dollar counts.
In college, you will be exposed to so many new people, places, information and opportunities. Your school will most likely offer things that can help develop your success as a student and in your future career.
Develop relationships with professors and alumni. It is never too early to start networking, and you never know when you will meet someone who can help you form your career. Ask questions, be inquisitive and send handwritten thank you notes.
Colleges also provide a multitude of events that shape you into the person you want to be. Go to sporting events, concerts, food festivals and movie nights. Study abroad, participate in research and join a club or organization. Getting involved not only allows you to have fun and develop skills outside of the classroom, but also allows you to explore different interests and immerse yourself on campus.
Have an open mind
College can be scary, stressful and overwhelming. It can also be the best four years of your life. Remember that everyone is going through the same situation as you. Orientation and your first week will be awkward. Be friendly, smile and meet as many people as you can. You will most likely not meet your best friends during the first week. Do not be afraid to ask for help from teachers, peers and upperclassmen. Most importantly, your time will fly by, so enjoy every moment and grasp every opportunity.