Photo: Element5 Digital on Unsplash
If you’re about to start your first year of college, you have a lot of changes in store. It can be a bit overwhelming trying to get everything in order during the few months you have left, especially when you don’t know exactly what to expect. Having just finished of my freshman year of college, I have a few tips for how to calmly prep and make the transition smoother.
At this point in the summer, it might seem too early to start thinking about what you have to do. Procrastinating seems like a good idea, because, after all, you have months to get it all together. What will happen, though, is that in the weeks leading up to move-in day, you will be in an all-out emotional panic trying to gather everything while also anxiously anticipating the big change.
Start early! Start looking at requirements and guidelines now. It’s likely that your college has already sent you things to take care of before you arrive, like roommate selection or medical forms. If you have homework, whether it be general first-year work or for a specific class, don’t wait until the last minute -- don’t start a pattern of procrastination before you even arrive! These things seem like no-brainers, but I know a lot of people who waited to deal with the requirements and ended up having complications. The jump from high school to college is already hard enough without dealing with setbacks from forms or paperwork.
I also would say that there is no time that is too early to start buying stuff for your dorm room. My mom and I started picking up things here and there over the course of a year before moving in, and were able to get good deals and avoid trying to cram in all the shopping at the end. If you haven’t started looking -- do it. It will be much easier to pick up something that you almost forgot in July or August than it will be when you’re trying to settle in.
With that being said, it can be hard to come up with a proper “packing list” when every website tells you something different. Needs for a packing list vary by person, but there are two things I wouldn’t suggest: real dining items or any fancy laundry-related items. It is highly unlikely that you are going to be washing dishes in the communal bathroom sink; some paper plates and plastic utensils would be a much better idea for the few times that you eat a meal in your room. A lot of packing lists suggest an iron or a drying rack, but the reality is that you’ll barely want to go through the trouble of washing your clothes, let alone ironing them, and there’s really no space for a drying rack in an average dorm room.
Another tip: pack snacks and breakfast foods. You never know what if the dining hall hours will coincide with when you are hungry, and some days it is harder to get out of bed than others. Having breakfast foods on hand will save you from leaving your room on lazy mornings and will help you to arrive to class on time if you are running behind. No matter what, do not be stranded without snacks, especially at a small school without many dining options or if you want to have any dining dollars left by the end of the semester.
While there are many more practical things that I could mention in terms of preparation, the most important thing to do is to prepare mentally. Going away to college is a scary transition for most people, but that doesn’t mean that you should spend all summer worrying about it! Instead of having an “I don’t know if I can make it” attitude, have an “I can conquer anything, no matter how hard it is” attitude. There’s no point in optimistically telling yourself that you won’t encounter any problems, but there is a point in telling yourself that no matter what obstacles come your way, you have the power to face them. Consider going to college an exciting challenge, not a dreaded hurdle.
Stephanie is an undergraduate student at Washington College. She is an English major with minors in Journalism, Editing, and Publishing, and Justice, Law, and Society. When not writing, you can find her either at a concert, reading a book, or petting a cat.