Monday, May 19, 2014

College: The Scariest Thing Since High School

Whether you're going 'away' to school or not, here are some things you might be worrying about as you get ready to begin college:

You're going to worry about the money it takes to go to college, and you're right: it's a big deal. Just be prepared to have no money for the next few years while you're a student. Learn to appreciate any offers of free food, and the joys of shopping at thrift shops. You can live comfortably on a lot less money than you might think, and the good thing is, almost all your fellow students are in the same boat.

Be aware of your loans and what they're going to be like once you graduate. Remember, with loans offered through FAFSA, you will have six months after you graduate to start repayment.

I'm going to be homesick.
Maybe, but that's why you take a first-year experience class or an orientation class. You need to meet a few other students who are also new. Join some kind of a club, or several, even if you don't go to  every single meeting. You'll meet people that way, and it will make you feel less alone.

Keep this in mind: you are by far not the only one who's missing home.

You might think in order to get past your homesickness, going home on weekends will help. It won't. It just reinforces the idea that you don't belong on campus. Stay on campus, and go home rarely. There are always activities going on, whether on campus or off. You'll never be independent if you keep going home.

We also advise you come to an understanding with a boyfriend or girlfriend if you are parting ways: a true friend will want you to be happy and spread your wings. You don't have to abandon this person as a friend, just so the two of you realize that now things are going to be different.

This is important: Give it time! By the end of your first semester, you'll be fine.

I won't like being on my own.
You can be on your own as much or as little as you prefer. This is where your new friends come into play: find a good spot to study together, or something you like to do outside together. Conversely, if you study better alone, then do it that way. But spend time with new friends in order to keep them.

You may make a great contact with someone who has been at your campus for a semester, or a year, already. This person can tell you how he or she managed and show you that, with some time, it got better.

You'll probably find that others on campus are more than willing to give you directions or explain things to you. Just ask.

What if I don't like my roommate?
Start with a positive attitude: This is going to be great! I can't wait to find out about this person. Give him or her a chance. Be patient, be fair, talk out any concerns you have. You'll probably find your roommate has some of the same worries as you do. Many times, college roommates become best friends and stay best friends long after graduation.

Be aware that if you have serious problems in your dorm you can always speak to your resident advisor.

I don't know how to do any basic housekeeping or basic cooking.
Now's the time to have somebody show you what you don't know. See how you change sheets on a bed, do laundry, clean a bathroom, or operate the vacuum. Here are some great tips for cleaning/washing/what if your phone gets wet:

                                      ...but you know where everything is, right?

I'm afraid of the 'Freshman Fifteen.'
The reason a lot of people gain some weight at first is that they're eating junk food, and more of it, than they have before. You may be part of a meal plan on campus, but you may want to cook something yourself from time to time. Limit how often you eat pizza or something else that's not the greatest (see calorie and fat counts in the Triogenius blog of March 24). Here are some ideas for food you can make in your dorm:  and

Worst case scenario: you have to work off those extra few pounds before they turn into 15 or more. Get outside and burn some calories-walk, run, play a game, or check out your on-campus facilities. Workout equipment and gyms are many times available for students, possibly even in your dorm building.

I'm scared of professors. Aren't they going to be strict and give bad grades? What if they're really old and don't understand young people?
Don't be afraid of people you never met! Most instructors have office hours when you can stop by and speak with them.

Yes, it is possible that you'll have one or two that are difficult. I'm willing to bet that not every teacher you have ever had, has been outstanding. Do your best, but don't be afraid of them.

As far as age is concerned, remember this: if you have an instructor who seems old to you, remember how many students he has taught: this instructor is likely still teaching because he loves it. At the same time, be aware that in many cases, a masters degree is all that's required for college level instructing, thus your instructor could conceivably be 25 years old or younger, you never know.

I'm afraid I'll be 'disconnected' from my religion, which is important to me.
Your college community will likely have many religious affiliations available to you, including on-campus groups. Look for signs or ask other students where they go. Possibly your 'home' place of worship can refer you to another in the vicinity of your college.

I'm afraid I will not be safe on campus.
You are, for all intents and purposes, an adult. You now have to be capable of taking care of yourself. This means being sensible: always have a friend walk around campus with you, especially at night. If no one is available, go to campus security and ask for an escort. Tell someone where you're going, and when you'll be back. Get to know a potential date before being alone with him or her. If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, leave. Be careful if you choose to drink or use.  Know where the on-campus emergency phones are, and if you feel you need to, use them. Here are some basics:

I'm afraid there will be too much stress on me.
Your job as a college student is (1) to do well in your classes and (2) enjoy your entire experience--becoming more independent, having new experiences, learning about other people. If you do your best in both instances, that's all you can do. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself to be the best at Every. Single. Thing. You. Do. Remember, it's about the journey as well as the destination.

I don't know what to choose as a major. I'm afraid this will mess everything up.
You are wise not to choose too early. In your first year of college, notice what subjects really interest you the most-is there something that really gets you fired up, something you might make into your career? You may need to visit your advising center and take a career choice test to help you decide. Meanwhile, you can take basics that you'll need no matter what your major is. Be aware, too, that people change their majors all the time---if you need to change yours, it will be OK.


This should be a fun time, a time of discovery, learning, and new experiences. Remember how quickly your high school years went by. Don't be afraid: you can do this, and do it well. Enjoy!

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