Graduating high school is an exciting feat on its own, but heading off to college in a new city can be the adventure of a lifetime. It might feel a little intimidating at first (for both parents and students!), but knowing what to look out for and keeping a few helpful tips in mind can make the transition easier on everyone. Before you make the trek to a new city for school, it’s important to weigh out all of your options.
First, decide if college is right for you. It might be tempting to move away and start the next chapter of your life, but ultimately you have to decide what makes you happy, what you’re good at, and where you picture yourself in the future. Think about your answers — do they all require a college degree?
Once you’ve decided on heading off to school, you can prepare yourself in other ways. Become familiar with how college works, from learning how to write better papers to doing more for yourself and expecting less from your parents even before you make the move. The more prepared you are before you head to a new city, the better.
Make a Trip Ahead of Time
If you’re moving away to a new city for school, it’s a good idea to make a “research trip” or two before you actually move there for good.
Learning about the ins and outs of the city ahead of time is a good way to be prepared, too. What are the crime rates? Are there areas you should avoid? Are you going to stay on campus or venture off into different parts of the city? Additionally, what does the city have to offer you? Check out local hot spots, places to eat, and areas you’d like to explore.
Most colleges will also let you plan a trip to their campus before you make your final decision on whether you’ll go there. This can give you some insight into whether you’d want to live on campus or off. If you decide to live off-campus, you’ll need to consider transportation.
Thankfully, most big cities have public transportation readily available, but some people prefer to come and go on their own agenda, so buying a car might be in your future. Weighing out some of the pros and cons of buying a car overtaking the bus or subway can help you to determine which would be more cost-effective and less stressful for you. Some things to consider include the overall cost (including potential add-ons for a car), the interest rates of a title loan, and what will best work for your budget.
Be Aware of the Risks
If you live on campus, it’s important to be aware of things like sexual assault rates. No one wants to think about it, but unfortunately, assault and harassment do happen, and college campuses can get a bad reputation for being hot spots for such things.
Sexual assault is never your fault. The more you educate yourself on some of the facts surrounding it, the better prepared you can be to protect yourself. For example, over half of sexual assaults involving college students also involve alcohol. Drinking and college are often linked together, but be aware of what you’re doing and take it slowly if you’re at a party or a bar.
If you get into a relationship in college, weigh out the risks and rewards. A college relationship can help to improve your communication and commitment skills, and it can help you to realize what you want for the future. But don’t let your relationship completely control or take over your college experience. It’s also important to know your partner’s sexual history. STDs like herpes, HPV, and chlamydia are extremely common among college students, so talk with your partner and each other’s sexual history, and educate yourself on ways to prevent the transmission of diseases.
Finally, be prepared for things you may not have had to worry about in high school or back in your hometown. Colleges all across the country deal with drug issues. In fact, around 23% of college students deal with substance abuse. While marijuana is the most commonly used drug on college campuses, harder drugs like Adderall and prescription painkillers are also frequently abused by students. Students start using for a variety of reasons, from gaining social status to dealing with the stresses of a collegiate career. No matter the reason, though, many drugs and substances can become addictive quickly, so educating yourself on the risks ahead of time can help you to avoid them.
Develop a Routine
Once you move in, whether you have an off-campus apartment or you live in a dorm, one of the best ways to get adjusted is to develop a routine for yourself. Work out a schedule, work out a budget, and you’ll undoubtedly feel less stressed as you start out this new chapter in your life.
Routine brings a sense of comfort and contentment. By doing things like getting up at the same time every morning, having breakfast, catching up on the news, etc., you’ll start to feel more at home in your new city and your new environment.
College can throw you off that routine easily. It’s tempting to pull late-night study sessions or start going to parties on Thursday nights when you have class on Friday. But, the more effort you put into sticking to your routine, the less stressed you’ll feel.
Think About the Possibilities
After you’ve had some time to settle in, meet new friends, and get acquainted with your classes, you should take the opportunity to think about the future. College can offer you so many possibilities that are difficult to find later in life. You can join clubs with like-minded people, have access to high-class facilities — whether you’re interested in art, music, or science — and learn more about different cultures from students all over the world.
Additionally, college can give you the opportunity to see the world for yourself. Most colleges offer study abroad programs to students with specific majors, or for those who have completed certain language courses. How great would it be to learn about art history in Italy or architecture in England?
Studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but it can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for others. Some of the biggest benefits include immersing yourself in new cultures, trying new foods, seeing famous attractions, and learning more about different educational environments. But studying abroad can also take you away from your family and friends for several months at a time. It also requires a lot of correct documentation and paperwork, including a passport, and either a student or tourist visa. Studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but if you’ve got the travel bug, it’s a great way to see the world.
You should never stop thinking about your future once you start attending school. While you might be a little scared at first, especially if your campus is in a big city, keeping yourself well-informed and on your toes, while taking care of your mind and body will make the college experience one you’ll never forget.