If you’re heading to college for the first time, there’s probably a kaleidoscope of emotions you’re experiencing. You may be scared and nervous one moment, and excited and anxious the next. Try not to worry or stress yourself out. I know that’s easier said than done but trust me when I say that it’s completely normal to feel a range of emotions when you’re leaving the comforts of home, especially for the first time. But like all new experiences, there’s an adjustment period that won’t last forever. Before you know it, college life will be as comfortable as your favorite pair of pajamas. In the meantime, we’ve got some tips to help you as you embark on your college journey.

Bring a Piece of Home with You

Your dorm room or apartment will be your new home, so be sure to fill it with all the comforts you had while living with mom and dad.

Did you have a special blanket or pillow at home that you couldn’t sleep without? Bring it along! I’m an avid reader and found it comforting to bring all my favorite books with me. It was a great way to leave my stresses behind and temporarily escape. Pack knick-knacks that hold special meaning or uplifting memories. Most importantly, bring pictures of family and friends to have familiar faces greeting you every day. Speaking of family and friends, whether it’s by phone, video chat, or even in person, set aside some time to talk to the ones you love. It’ll make you feel more at ease, plus, your parents and friends will be grateful to hear from you. 

You may need a little extra time to pack up before your big move to college, but in the long run, your new dorm or apartment will feel more like home.

Get to Know Your Roommate

If you’re going to have a new roommate at college, there’s a very good chance you’ve never met them before. Having a roommate can be a big adjustment, especially if you’ve never had to share a space with someone before. To ensure the transition goes smoothly, take the time to get to know one another. You may be able to reach out to them through social media and introduce yourself and get familiar with each before move-in day. Be upfront about your expectations on the new living arrangement. Remember that this new relationship is a two-way street, so be receptive to their needs as well.

When you’re all moved in and your busy schedule starts, remember to communicate directly with your new roomie. Texting and leaving notes for them are fine to an extent, but written communication tends to leave too much space for things to get lost in translation. When you can’t see someone’s body language or hear their tone of voice, you may interpret things incorrectly, which can lead to conflict or a negative environment down the line.

Keep communication open and honest with them throughout the semester. And who knows, you could wind up making a new best friend.

Get Involved

Being in a new environment where you may not know anyone can be lonely. The best way to chase away the blues is by making friends and building relationships that will last throughout your college career and quite possibly, a lifetime.

Check out college activities and events on campus that interest you and join in on the fun. Consider attending various sporting events, sign up for a club, or join a fraternity or sorority. The options are endless! And by choosing something that you’re already interested in, you’ve positioned yourself to be surrounded by peers that you share common ground with.

Find Your Rhythm

No matter how big or small your campus is, finding the buildings where your classes are can be overwhelming and confusing, especially for first-time students. Don’t wait until your first day of class to find your class locations. Instead, take a stroll around campus beforehand to familiarize yourself with the lay of the land. Plus, a twenty-minute walk can help improve your mood and reduce anxiety. You can even expand your explorations to places nearby, either in person or online. If you’re feeling brave, ask others in your dorm or apartment complex where they like to go to eat or study. Not only is that kind of information helpful, but it’s a great icebreaker when meeting other students around campus.  
Once you’ve found a place to study that works for you, learn to manage your time efficiently. College coursework is much more demanding than what you were used to in high school. Plus, unlike high school, you won’t have teachers holding your hand through classes and reminding you of deadlines. That doesn’t mean that your professors aren’t there for you, but you’ll have to be mindful of their office hours if you need to schedule time with them for help. 

Help Wanted    

Let’s face it, you’re going to need money while you’re away at school. And I know you’re probably thinking, “but I want to soak up every minute of college life and enjoy my newfound independence!” Don’t worry, you still can! But now that you are out on your own for the first time, you’re stepping into a whole new world of responsibility, and your finances will play a huge factor in that.

Nothing is cheap anymore and everything costs money. So, why not get a job for all your spending and saving needs? While it might be challenging to balance school, work, and your social life, working, even part-time, is something that will pay off (and your future self will thank you!). Working while attending college is a great step in learning the value of money and ensuring a financially stable future. You’ll get a jumpstart on building the skillsets that employers look for after graduation. Plus, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment when you get your own hard-earned money.   

Once you’re at college, it’d be a good idea to look into your school’s job opportunities or look for jobs off campus. Find something that fits into your course schedule before you get on campus. Even if you’re only working 10-15 hours a week, it’s still better than nothing.

Set and Stick to a Budget

Now that you’ve got a part-time job and are making money, open a savings and checking account with a debit card and apply for a credit card to start building good credit (Hint, hint: a GOLD Share Savings account, GOLD Checking account, and GOLD Debit and Credit Card are my faves). If you’ve never had a bank account before or had your own freedom or access to money, you may find that it’s tempting to splurge like there’s no tomorrow but try to avoid letting your spending get out of hand.

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to create a budget. Make an electronic spreadsheet or use good old-fashioned pen and paper to keep track of all your expenses. Include your expenses for school and your daily necessities such as food and transportation. You’ll probably also want to set aside a little for fun, but keep the bulk of your funds in savings, and only leave your budgeted amount in checking. This will help you stick to your budget by only spending what you have available in your checking account.

Another good practice is saving money whenever and wherever possible. For instance, eating out is a fun way to socialize, but it gets pricey, so try not to make it an everyday occurrence. Check out the dining hall or on-campus activities that are inexpensive, or better yet, free! 

Also, take advantage of your student ID and bring it with you everywhere you go. Many retailers, restaurants, and movie theaters offer student discounts. These savings may seem trivial at the time, but when stretched over four years of schooling, the savings can be significant and give you a healthy head-start on your future finances.    

As you get the hang of your budget, you may find that you need to make some tweaks to it along the way, and that’s okay. Just try not to stray too far from it and keep your spending lower than your income.

Plan for the Future

Graduation is probably the furthest thought from your mind when you’re starting your college journey, but what you may not realize is that the financial choices you make from here on out will affect your financial future. Graduating with a lot of debt and no savings is a dangerous combination. Your part-time job may not allow you to fill your savings as quickly as you’d like, but it will help you avoid racking up credit card debt and taking on more student debt than you can handle.   

Your college years will be challenging at times, but the more effort you put in, the more rewarding it will be. I hope these tips on adjusting to your new college life have been helpful. Remember to cut yourself some slack. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, you’ll need time to acclimate to your new college life. Be patient with yourself and try not to stress. Keep in mind that the reason you’re in this new environment in the first place is to pursue something that you love.

From all of us at GOLD, we wish you the best in college. And remember, we’re here for you whenever you need us!  

Jenn Gora

Jenn Gora

Jenn is the Chief Communications Officer at GOLD. In her role, she directs the marketing and communication activities that assist in GOLD’s Membership growth. Jenn believes wholeheartedly in GOLD’s mission and is extremely proud to be part of a team that exists to help the community and change people’s lives. 

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