This is the time of year when college freshmen are buying dorm supplies and getting ready to go off to their respective campuses. I am reprinting two of my blogs from last year (July 26 and Aug. 2). The information is timely and still relevant:
I recently read an article that gave advice on what students should know before going off to college. A few of the suggestions rang true but some were not really college related. I thought there was more to be said, so I asked my own children, some of my former students and their parents and some children of friends what they were glad they knew when they went to college or wish they had known.
What I Wish I had Known:
Money: by far, this topic generated the most responses. College students and parents said students needed better “money sense”. This included:
- How to write a check
- How to balance a checkbook
- How to manage your banking online
- How to budget your money
- Get in the habit of deducting ATM withdrawals and Debit uses immediately
- Understanding how bank fees work and how to avoid them
- Credit Cards: I heard different things about them–one family said the best thing is to have your child have a credit card that is tied to your account so she won’t buy anything she doesn’t want you to see but will still have a card for emergencies. Another family said to get the student his own card with a low credit limit so he can learn to use credit wisely and have a card for emergency use.
Academics: Second to managing money, I heard from many about managing time. This quote from a former client sums it up nicely, “I found time management to be especially important. It is so easy to go out/hang out with friends every night. I had to learn how to say no to going out at times. It took me a while to understand that the majority of time should be spent studying and hanging out with friends should be reserved as a reward for having completed necessary work. Once I understood that, my grades improved dramatically.”
A college senior also talked about time management. She said she wished she knew that “there are so many things to do at college and you can’t do all of them”. She also said that high school students think that there is so much free time at college. She found that all of her days are very full.
Another suggestion is to take advantage of the tutoring services at college.
- Take new computers out of the box and set up and try and get the bugs out before you get to the dorm. Most colleges have students who can help with set up but they are usually very busy at move-in time.
- If your college doesn’t have their own virus protection, buy protection.
- A student told me that many, many kids he knew ended up getting damage to laptops from coffee or other drinks spilling on them.
- How to do laundry–in a commercial machine that uses coins (increasingly that translates to swipe cards in college)
- How to make your bed–including how to change your sheets and how often to wash them.
- How to clean a bathroom. This becomes necessary in many suites (even at the expensive colleges).
- How to dust and clean your room
- How to do some basic sewing
- How to iron
- Get in the habit of checking your mailbox, which may not be in your own dorm area (one student told me that a friend at college didn’t check his mailbox for months and then found that a letter he sent had been returned by the USPS.)
- If you are going to college in a city–how to read a transit map for buses, subways etc.
- How much to tip–for restaurants, taxis, hairdressers, nail salons
- Update your passport so you will be ready for study abroad
What to Bring and What to Leave Home:
- Bring a suit or a nice outfit for formal occasions or a job interview
- Bring plastic containers for certain foods like cereal–older dorms may have mice or bugs (even at the expensive colleges).
- Bring a plastic zip bag with uncooked white rice in case your phone gets wet. Take it apart and dry off and then put in the bag with rice for a few hours. The rice will absorb the moisture. (I actually used this method in a hotel when soda splashed my Blackberry and it died. The rice solution worked!)
- If you know who your roommate is going to be, contact him or her and figure out who is bringing what so you don’t end up two televisions and no refrigerator.
- Do not buy a refrigerator or microwave before finding out what your dorm allows. There may be size limitations or some colleges require students to purchase a ‘micro-fridge’. Most of this info can be found on the residence hall websites.
- Desk Lamp or Clamp Lamp
- Fan–an oscillating fan that can sit on a desk or dresser is a must for most students. A few colleges even allow students to bring a window air conditioner unit.
- Extension cords
- Surge protectors
- Basic tool kit (suggested by an engineering student who said it came in handy quite often)
- Basic first aid kit (suggested by a nursing student who said everyone came to her anyway once they heard she was studying nursing)
- Duct tape
- Postage Stamps
- Leave expensive jewelry home (one student had some jewelry stolen)
- Take one season of clothes at a time–dorm closets are small
And for all around good advice, from my friend Marty: Adjust, accept, adapt and don’t forget why you are there.