Are you college-ready? 

Transitioning from high school to university is about more than just moving to a new academic environment in pursuit of higher education. It also involves new levels of independence and responsibility that can present some very real challenges if you aren’t expecting them! Mastering a few skills before leaving home will make transitioning easier to manage and serve you well for years to come. 

We have narrowed down the following list to seven core skills you should develop before heading off to your freshman year: 

1. Managing your finances.

For some students, college is the first time that you will be entirely responsible for your finances. If you have never managed a bank account, budgeted your money, and handled expenses such as rent, college life may feel like you are jumping into the financial deep end. Before leaving home, practice budgeting your money by keeping an Excel tracker of your spending habits. How much are you spending on food? Transportation? Entertainment? Set yourself little goals, for example saving a certain amount of your money each week over a period of time. Ask a trusted adult to help you set up a bank account and guide you through the process of paying certain bills. These experiences will go a long way to helping you manage your finances when you are on your own!

2. Doing laundry.

It is easy to assume that laundry is a mundane task that requires zero skill and prior knowledge. After all, machines can be programmed to wash at different temperatures and settings, right?  Well, picture that comedic scene on TV where one red sock turns an entire load of laundry an appalling shade of Barbie pink — it’s funny until it actually happens to you and your wardrobe is ruined!

When you look at the labels on some of your clothes, you will realize that there is more to maintaining your clothing properly than you may have initially thought. Practice doing your laundry with guidance a few times before going to college. Also, determine if any of your clothes are hand-wash only or dry-clean only, and how to manage them. The washing machines in your dorm will be different, but the skills needed to understand the labels and avoid walking around like a wrinkled pink marshmallow in a shrunken outfit are the same! 

3. Sharing your living space.

Many colleges require freshmen to stay in campus housing and that often includes at least one roommate. If you are lucky, you may get to know this person before arriving at your dorm, but in many cases your new roommate and their living habits are going to be a complete surprise. Learning to share, clean, and maintain your space is critical to making this relationship work and a lot of that includes honest communication. Before you get to college, think about your personal boundaries. For example, how do you feel about sharing your personal belongings? What is your policy on sleepovers? You should be able to define your boundaries clearly while being aware and respectful of your roommate’s too.

4. Managing your time/Combating distractions.

Most of us know how easy it is to disappear down the rabbit hole that is the Internet. Before we realize it, an evening has passed in a flurry of kitten videos. In high school, it is easy to rely on a parent or sibling to pull us away from the screen, possibly confiscate our devices and push us to get our work done. In college, no one will be monitoring you. As a young adult, you will have the full responsibility of ensuring you get the work done, focus on your physical and mental health, and get enough sleep. Luckily, there are loads of applications, such as Rize and Notion, that can help you better manage your time, and Digital Detox, that will help you control your screen time effectively.

Similarly, college is a time where you will be meeting all kinds of new people with plenty of opportunities to socialize. It is important to find a good balance between your social life and your academic responsibilities, which can be tricky especially during your first year. Learning how to manage your time is a practice you can start in preparation for college. Experiment with the best ways that work for you – whether that is using a physical or digital calendar, creating to-do lists, or setting weekly goals and social limits. 

5. Maintaining a Master Template Resume.

Many high school students fill their days with extracurricular activities. While we work with our students to create a resume, it is important to continue to update your main resume with all additional achievements and skills you gain through college, from education, jobs, extracurriculars, interests, skills, to ensure you don’t forget any of the finer points of your experiences. From this document, you will be able to extract the most relevant points related to whatever position you are applying for. Be sure to save the document in several places such as your email account and your storage cloud, regularly updating each copy with every new work or educational experience.

6. Being mindful of your overall mental and physical health

College can be a difficult transition for some people, especially if you are far from family and friends. The pressure of academics can also be a real challenge. You will need to understand and assess your mental wellbeing to determine if you require extra support. Do not hesitate to utilize your college’s mental health resources, from talking to a counselor to joining meditation groups and finding support on campus. 

Similarly, maintaining your physical fitness can be challenging, since most colleges will not require you to take PE. There will be sports teams you can join, but ultimately, your fitness and physical well-being are your responsibility. Look into campus gyms and fitness centers, and find other students that will help support your goals.  It will also be your responsibility to ensure you eat regular, balanced meals to support your overall wellbeing. Most college campuses will have a variety of meal options for you to choose, ranging from healthy options to junk food but before leaving home, practice preparing a few simple, healthy snacks and meals for yourself to avoid regular late night junk food binges.

7. Packing, unpacking, and storing

On average, most students need to pack and unpack all their belongings at least twice a year, when they check in and out of their dorm room. Throw in every trip, vacation, weekend away, etc you will need to pack and manage your belongings a lot more often than you realize. Without an organized approach, it is all too easy to lose track of your valuables and end up having to spend money on essentials multiple times. 

At the end of the school year, you will likely also have to put some of your heavier and larger items in storage for the summer, rather than taking everything home with you (hello, excess baggage fees!). Knowing how to plan and pack, both for short trips and summer storage, is an essential life skill!

8. Making safety a priority.

College campuses are often a hive of activity 24 hours a day, which means it is easy to get lax about your safety. Before you get fully immersed into campus life, get into the habit of prioritizing your security. Here are few steps you can take to keep yourself safe:

  • Make sure you have campus security’s contact information on your phone. Find out if they have any special services –  i.e. most have escort services for their students to get back to their dorms late at night – and know how to access them.
  • When going out, especially at night, tell someone where you are headed and what time you are expected back. 
  • When you are walking around, even during the day, remain fully aware of your environment. Take off your headphones, keep your phone and keys in your hands, and pay attention to what is happening around you. 
  • Do not leave your personal belongings unattended. 
  • If you enjoy going out for drinks, do not accept a beverage you haven’t seen being poured for you and never leave your drink unattended, even for a moment. 
  • Avoid announcing your exact whereabouts on social media. If a thief knows you aren’t home, they can view this as an opportunity to target your belongings. 

College is an exciting time and with these few skills in your back pocket, transitioning from high school to university will hopefully be just a little bit easier!

Image credit: Image by mdjaff on Freepik