College planning is undeniably an exciting time. But it’s also a stressful time. It’s easy to feel uncertain. So many choices, so many decisions. Then there’s living on your own for the first time. How do you know if you’re really ready for all of it?
Katie was a pretty typical high school student and her story is common. She had good friends, got good grades, participated in extra-curricular activities and held a part time job. She knew she wanted to go to college but felt very uncertain about living on campus.
With the encouragement of her parents, Katie finally selected a university about four hours from home. All went according to plan until about three months in, when she found herself overwhelmed and homesick.
She was having a hard time managing the work load and balancing it with her sorority commitments. The confidence she had in high school seemed to have evaporated and she felt like she was letting everyone, including herself, down.
At the end of the semester, she barely had a 2.0 GPA and decided to transfer to a school closer to home. This turned out to be a better arrangement and Katie realized that she left home without being prepared for such a big change in her life’s structure.
By staying true to what she knew was best for her, Katie found more success and happiness without the pressure the extra pressure she felt living on her own.
Despite success as a high school student, the truth was that Katie knew all along she wasn’t ready to live on her own – even though she was responsible and ready to be a college student.
Here are five things you need to know to be certain you’re ready to live on campus.
- You know how to manage your time. Of course you’ll have to decide whether to skip the big Thursday night party to stay in and study for a big test on Friday. But you’ll also need to be able to plan ahead to stay on top of your classes. The biggest difference between college and high school is the amount of self-managed learning that takes place outside the classroom. You’ll have much more latitude than ever before as to how you plan your time. It sounds like it will be easy to fit it all in. However, it will be easier than ever before to procrastinate, even if you’ve never been a procrastinator in the past. If you don’t already have one, try setting up a weekly study schedule for yourself and stick to it. Note when you abandon a responsibility you scheduled, such as getting ahead in one of your classes, in favor of something more fun, such as a social outing.
- You understand how to solve problems. If you get sick while you’re away at school, will you know how to determine whether you should see a doctor and where you’ll go without calling your mom? What about how to know what your health insurance covers? This is just one of the problems you’ll face when you’re on your own. Try listing out all of the daily life problems your parents help you with and see if you can figure out what you’d do when you’re on your own at college. Hint, calling home to ask Mom or Dad isn’t the first answer! Review with your parents to see if you’ve come up with viable solutions.
- You feel confident standing up for yourself. Sometimes even simple things like telling a friend you don’t want to hang out because you’re tired can feel awkward. Peer pressure will be even bigger in college than in high school and without the safety of falling back on your parents’ rules, you’ll be more susceptible to agree to things like sex, drugs and alcohol. It’s critical to become comfortable asserting loyalty to yourself before going away to college. Try listing out your values, the things you stand for. Then list out situations that might be in conflict with those values. Write out “no” responses to assert yourself and then practice saying those responses with authority until you’re fully confident that you can respond if you’re put on the spot.
- You hold yourself accountable. You can’t be successful with numbers one through four unless you take responsibility for making good choices and taking positive action without being told or reminded. You’ll get much more out of college if you take advantage of all it offers. Although seeking out resources will come easier as time goes on, you may need to push yourself at first.
- You know how to manage money. Being a college student and living on a tight budget go hand-in-hand. Knowing how to create a budget is as important as knowing how to stick to a budget. Try it out by setting up a budget and sticking to it for 3-6 months prior to leaving for school.
It’s okay to feel ready for college but be not ready to go away. It’s a very individual decision. You know yourself best.
If you’re still not sure what you want, consider getting some help deciding. Too often, teens know they need help but aren’t sure what to ask. The decision making process doesn’t have to be complex. You just need a simple, proven process.
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