Going to college is one of the big steps in life – and preparing for that next chapter can be exciting, but also nervewracking and stressful. After all, for many students, they’re used to living at home, going to a school that’s nearby, knowing almost all of the people in their classes and talking with the same group of friends.
However, college is very different. For starters, many students go to a school that’s not close to home and they live on campus, both of which are big changes. However, for everyone – even if you’re going to a nearby college and commuting to school – there are a lot of other changes.
For example, you won’t know almost everyone that goes to your school, there are a lot more people to know (and, for some colleges, A LOT more people) and there are many more buildings for classes and other activities. Furthermore, that’s all in addition to the normal change of taking new classes with new professors.
However, there are a lot of positive differences too. You have more freedom (in planning your classes, in picking your clubs, in making a lot more of your own decisions and just overall in general), you’re encouraged to try new things and have new experiences to figure yourself out, you get to meet new people and make new friends, and you can take classes that interest you and are preparing you for your future.
With all of those differences and the significant transition that is college, there are some main basic skills that you should know how to do before you get to college. Of course, there are some college-specific things, like knowing how to use public transport if you’re going to a college in a city or one that has a bus system, but the following skills work for anyone going to any college.
Knowing how to do laundry before going to college is key. The clothes that you’re wearing will eventually get dirty (obviously) and you’ll have to know how to clean them – don’t let them just pile up in your laundry basket.
(And you shouldn’t bring them home every weekend for your parents to wash – your parents will probably be glad to see you, but not the laundry basket of dirty clothes.)
It’s important to know what to wash together (separate whites from colors), how to wash them (delicate vs. normal vs. heavy duty) and what to not wash (clothes that are dry clean or hand wash only). You also want to know how much laundry detergent to use – laundry pods can be helpful if you don’t want to have to worry about that.
It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it. Plus, it’s a great way to productively procrastinate!
2. Cook basic meals
You don’t have to be whipping up gourmet meals, but you should know how to make a few basics before going to college. For example, scrambled eggs, simple pasta dishes and easy vegetable sides are not hard to make once you learn how.
Having this skill might not be useful until you have a kitchen as an upperclassman or at least access to a shared dorm building kitchen, but it will come in handy. Knowing how to make some straightforward dishes will help you when you get tired of dining hall food, run out of/get tired of boxed mac and cheese, ramen and cereal, or just don’t feel like leaving your dorm.
However, before you cook your food, you have to have the right ingredients – so another skill that naturally goes along with this one is knowing how to shop for groceries. For example, you should know how to pick the right produce, read product labels, look for sales and use coupons.
This is one of the basic skills that everyone needs to know how to do. You don’t have to clean every surface until it’s sparkling like it’s never been used before, but you (and your roommate) will appreciate it if your side of the room doesn’t look like a mess!
While this includes making sure your stuff – clothes, school supplies, and other items – isn’t all over the floor, that’s not the only thing. However, that is important – plus, when school gets stressful, it’s nice to come back to a clean space.
Yet, you also have to know how to clean common spaces and items effectively. This includes knowing how to sweep (and mop, if needed) the floors, wipe down the tables and other surfaces, wash the dishes and other cooking utensils, and clean the bathroom, among other things.
Some of these cleaning tasks may be taken care of for you, especially freshman year and/or when you live in a dorm building, but you’ll probably have to do them later when you become an upperclassman. Plus, knowing how to clean things is just a good life skill to have in general.
Being organized – in all senses of the word – is another important lifelong skill to have. This includes making sure all of your physical items are arranged in some sort of organized system, but it also means organizing your money and time well.
The first goes hand-in-hand with knowing how to clean your space. Again, you don’t need to go to the extreme; your clothes don’t need to be color-coded and your textbooks don’t have to alphabetized – unless you want to and that works for you! – you just need to have some system in place. Find a kind of organization that works for you, both so your space doesn’t look messy and so you can find things easily – you don’t want to be late for class because you couldn’t find your notebook.
Another aspect of the organization is figuring and planning out your money and time. For the former, you don’t have to have an airtight budget in place, but you should have an idea of how much money you can and want to spend on things like textbooks, groceries and cleaning supplies – as well as fun things to do!
As for time, you want to make sure you use it well – both for work and play. You don’t need to have a rigid schedule, but you should have an idea of how much time you need for classes, homework, meals, and sleep, and then work in what clubs and other activities you can do with the time remaining. Planning well and in advance comes in handy here.
5. Handle medical needs
It’s very likely that at some point during college, you’ll have to deal with something medical. This may mean visiting your college’s health center when you get sick, or refilling a regular prescription.
There’s a very good chance that during your four years (or more) in college, you will get sick with something minor, at least. You’re studying, eating, playing and living in a relatively confined area with a variety of students who all have different germs and bacteria – it’s bound to happen.
So, when you get sick, you’ll need to know a number of things: is it worth going to the doctor for (although it’s always better to be safe than sorry), how to book a doctor’s appointment, what kind of insurance and payment plan you have (especially if you’re going to an off-campus doctor) and how to pick up medication from the local pharmacy.
Now, if you have something where you need a regular prescription or need to do something else medical regularly, you should definitely know how to refill that or do that before leaving for college. You don’t want to run out of something you need or get sick because you didn’t know how to do something.
On a somewhat related note, you should know about any and all allergies that you have – food (and other dietary restrictions), medication, seasonal, etc. – so you know how to handle and/or work around those. All of these medical things that you need to know are just so you can be safe and healthy while away from home.
Of course, there are other things you should know how to do before you go to college, but these are among the most important. What you’ll individually need to know depends on your specific situation – what college you’re going to, your experiences (or lack thereof) of being away from home and who you are as a person (such as how you handle new situations).
All in all, congratulations on getting into college and best of luck in the next chapter of your life!