1. Get ready to fend for yourself. Most of you that are going off to college are more than likely going to be living on-campus for freshman year. For many, it’s going to be the first time being out in the world without the comforts of home. Some of you may be only an hour away from your family, but for others (like myself) you’ll be thousands of miles away from the comforts of home.
Some of you are over-the-moon at the idea of being able to stretch your feet and taste the sweet, sweet air of freedom, but there are many who freeze up at the prospect.
However, before you even pack up your bags for the move, there is one important and very overlooked piece of advice you need to know: learn to be independent. Don’t assume that once you’re out of the house you’ll know how to be your own person immediately. The last thing you want is to be miles from home and realize you’re in over your head.
Begin doing things on your own. It could be small things, like calling to book your own appointments or beginning your own savings account. Begin observing your parents when they pay their bills or sort through taxes. This is your first step into adulthood and they’ve been doing this much longer than you — watch, learn and mimic. You’ll save yourself a lot of stress and anxiety later on.
2. Learn how to cook. We all know about the phenomenon called the Freshman 15. It is terrifying, and very, very real. You may think you’re not going to be victim to it, but surely enough those pounds come creeping up on you. Rushing between classes makes fast-food a cheap and easy commodity; not to mention very limited healthy options of on-campus vendors.
Stress (and trust me, you will begin to stress out when your grades take a surprising drop compared to high school) also contributes to binge eating high-sugar and high-sodium foods. Some residences don’t have a stove, so freshly cooked meals become a dream.
However, if you’re one of the lucky stove-owning students, ask your parents and grandparents to write down their signature dish. If you’re up for it, treat yourself (and maybe your roommates) to a Sunday night dinner.
Know how to cook the basics. Know how to cook eggs and whip up an omelette. Baked chicken is a great, easy, and healthy option. Rice acts as a simple backbone for a meal and tastes better the second day around! Walmart also carries large containers of prepared salads.
3. Start working out prior to leaving home. Seriously. It might be tempting to put off getting into a workout routine until after leaving home, but it’s much better to begin before. The school gym is most likely going to be packed with other students thinking the same thing. Plus, if you’re not accustomed to working out, the crowded gym may be very intimidating.
Get into a workout routine you can stick to. Whether it’s running outside or on the treadmill, or yoga in the comfort of your own home. Perhaps, if you’re able to afford it, join a local gym a month or two before leaving town — it’ll get you accustomed to the gym setting and build your confidence. If you’re not one for dragging your lazy bum to the gym, Cassey Ho of Blogilates has a number of at-home fitness videos and her website features workout calendars that you can print out. Getting into the habit of working out on a daily basis before leaving will give you the confidence to approach the gym with a good mindset, as well as prevent you from dropping the ball.
4. Change your wardrobe. Minimals and build-able pieces are your friend. You’re entering a new stage in your life, and you may want to start a new wardrobe for it. Basic pieces are versatile and can be used year-round in countless styles. I’d recommend staying to a few black, grey, white and muted colours. Investing in good-quality classic pieces saves you money when it comes to changing style trends. One month firetruck red is in, the next it’s cobalt blue — save yourself from breaking your bank account by pairingaccessories with these basic pieces. It’s cheaper to buy and easier to style a cheap pair of firetruck red flats than a $40 firetruck red blouse.
5. Invest in a quality computer or tablet. I would highly recommend buying a Macbook. I have owned a PC before, and I have probably spent more money in repairs and replacement PCs than my Mac’s worth. With the new Macbook models being released, a 13″ Macbook Pro with Retina display runs about $1299, minus your student discount. A 13” Macbook Air stands at $999. However, if you already have a laptop, desktop, or simply want to treat yo-self, a tablet is a great addition to your gadget collection. A tablet is much easier to carry around in your bag than a 4lb laptop, but I certainly don’t recommend relying on it as you would a computer when it comes to assignments. If you’re not buying a Microsoft Surface Pro, and getting an iPad instead, you’ll need a great keyboard to keep up.
6. Get your supplies and textbooks beforehand. The first week of class is the bookstore’s busiest days. I’ve seen that line begin to snake out the door as students rush to get their textbooks for their next class. Most people suggest buying textbooks after your first class so that you get your professor’s take on whether or not you should dish out those hundreds for that shiny new edition. This is a good idea, especially if your first week of class is just introductions.
Look up online the current course outline for your classes, and wager if the textbook is a must-have or just a supplimentary addition. If you’ve got a booklist, look up the required books on Amazon to see if you could get a digital copy for half the price.
And if you’re like me and want to go over course materials a few weeks before class begins, do so with courses that already have their outlines posted. That way you know what sections you should be reading and you don’t waste your time reading an entire textbook.
Besides textbooks, I highly recommend getting a few notebooks or a large binder for notes and lectures. Even if you don’t handwrite your notes (which I also recommend doing), you may want to print them out.
Highlighters, coloured pens and note-tabs are your best friend! Go crazy!
7. Pick courses that interest you. First year, for most programs, acts sort of like college kindergarten. It’s made for you to dip your toes into various fields and see what you like. Take a class on astronomy, a writing class would only improve your language skills, and I’d definitely suggest taking a sociology course (it’s made me see the world in a new light)!
However, make sure you check out what requirements you may need to pursue any degree you have your eyes set on! If you’re thinking about going after a degree in Psychology, make sure you’ve got the required Psychology classes.
8. Avoid early morning or late night classes if you know you won’t be alive enough to handle them. Sometimes it’s unavoidable to get stuck with that one unreasonably early 8am class, and sometimes you’re dragging yourself to an 8pm class in the height of November. But sometimes the angels of schedule heaven descend upon us with the ability to choose our own class times.
A morning class might seem like a good way to kick you into the habit of sleeping early and waking up early, but trust me — it’ll be kicking your ass instead. The last thing anyone wants is to be knee-deep in the semester and pulling an all-nighter just to realize at 4am that their 9am Chemistry class has a quiz. If you know you’re a night owl, avoid morning classes like the black plague.
9. Try to get Mondays and Fridays free. Sometimes we all just need a long weekend. If you’re able to choose when you have classes, do your best to keep a Monday or a Friday free. Take an online course if you must, but it comes in handy to have an extra day to complete any assignments or just sleep in.
10. Join a club. Most universities and colleges have an online list of clubs, and during the first weeks of school most of these clubs partake in club preview days. Do you like writing? Join the Creative Writing club! Join a club related to where you come from (eg. the caribbean students club). Not only will you expand your friend group and have people with a common interest, it’ll look good on a resume.
11. Add your roommates on Facebook. If you know who your roommate is before moving into residence, add them on social media. You might hit it off, and you’ll know what to expect when you move in. Plus, you’ll be able to settle some ground rules.
12. Look up your university on social media. I’ve met a bunch of great people by looking up my university on Tumblr. You might find a few gems that you may not have met on your own. They might be heading into their first year too, and they’re probably going to be posting about it.
13. Invest in a good alarm clock with a dock. It’s never good to sleep through a class, and even worse if its an exam. I’d also suggest getting a clock with a dock that both plays music and charges your phone. Kill two birds with one clock: your phone will always be charged, and your room will always feel like a dance party.
14. Buy a quality pair of noise-cancelling earphones. You may be surprised by how thin walls can be or how noisy the library or other study spaces are. If you’re someone who wants to splurge on a stylish, high-quality pair, Frends’ Taylor earphones are my go-tos. Their caps are changeable, so you can reward yourself after a great exam or drop a hint to your family for your birthday.