Navigating Life Away from Home: First Year College Students

7 tips from a college mom

Navigating Life Away from Home: First Year College Students

You are a college freshman, 18 years old (or even 17, like I was!). Away from home. No parents around. A roommate (or roommates, if you are in a triple) with unknown living habits. Questions running through your head: does he or she snore? Will we be the odd couple—one messy, one clean? Will this room still look and smell fresh by October? Is she a chipper morning person to my slow-rising, “I need coffee before I speak,” mood? How much laundry detergent do I put in the machine? I have to wake up on my own?!

With two students in college, I had to dig back in the archives of my mind to my experience. Yes, it was over 20 years ago, but could still be helpful. I sat and thought about the conversations I had with them as they entered their last year of high school So I decided to make a simple list of what I wish I knew then, that I know now:

1. Have a meeting with your roommate(s).

Share likes, dislikes, pet peeves, etc. (Even if you were matched up using some phenomenal school program). It’s best to get as much out in the open as possible. The relationship won’t be perfect, but it can be respectful.

2. Ask questions in class and out of class.

It seems simple, but I was scared to death of looking dumb and realized that most everyone else thought the same thing.

3. Contact your professor when you miss a class.

It may seem lame, especially when the syllabus gives you an allotted amount of absences. BUT the professor will remember you if ever need that extra credit boost for your grade, or have unforeseen circumstances that causes you to exceed the allowable amount of absences.

4. Stay in touch with family weekly.

For some who have been bursting at the seems to be FREE from your parents, you may be reading this thinking I am crazy. BUT, a text or 10 minute phone call goes a long way. Let them know you are ALIVE! For first generation college students, your parents are living vicariously through you. Give them just a little taste of the experience. Plus, you don’t want family showing up unexpectedly as my husband has threatened to do!

5. Get involved.

Find one activity or organization, just one, to participate in or become a member of. You will thank yourself in the end. Many lifelong friendships develop during your college years.

6. Watch your time.

It’s easy to stay up all hours of the night or sleep in all day. I did that every once in a while, but realized very quickly not to make it a habit. Time can quickly pass and next thing you know, that 15 page paper is due along with 100 pages of reading. Pace yourself and you will have plenty of time to “veg out” on other days.

7. Miss home.

Yes, I said it! It’s okay to be a little homesick. But, don’t give in to it and leave school. Give yourself a chance to be independent and learn a new environment. Ask family and friends to send you a little piece of home if you need. In this social media age, it is much easier than it was for me. Before you know it, the holiday break will be here.

As parents, we don’t expect perfection. We just want you to live to your potential whatever that is. Your main goal is to learn, but not just that. Live in each moment, even the tough ones. It’s more than just a degree, it’s an experience. The years will go by before you know it, so my biggest tip of all: ENJOY!

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Read next: The Unconventional College Life