Congratulations! You’ve taken the SAT, you’ve applied and been accepted to college, and graduated high school. You’ve spent your summer with your friends before everyone goes in different directions. The day has come and you’ve moved into your dorm. Mom and dad are gone and you look around and think, “I’m really on my own now!” This is one of the most liberating feelings you’ll ever know. You can you decide what to eat and when, set your own curfew, and you’re going to be exposed to a whole new environment. However, with this new found freedom comes responsibility, accountability, and decision-making.
Here are some issues you’ll now be facing on your own and a little advice on how to get through them with as much grace as possible without sabotaging college life.
First, let’s talk about eating. You’ve probably heard of the freshman 15, which simply stated is the art of gaining an extra 15 pounds your freshman year. I call it an art because this is something that a majority of freshman master successfully. With so many food choices available, at all hours of the day, it’s easy to forget you’re supposed to have 3-5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. You quickly learn to rely on pizza to cover all four food groups, and complete your daily dairy servings with a milkshake. The limitless food plans doesn’t make it any easier. To avoid this pitfall, stick to the sensible diet your mother taught you. When you go to the food hall, eat balanced meals and keep in mind the snacking you might be doing later in the day during a study group or while you’re socializing with your new friends. Don’t forget to stay active. Whether you stroll around campus, run on the treadmill, or take a few laps in the pool, burning off some calories will help keep the freshman 15 at bay.
Second, you are now completely in charge of when you return to your room. With all the campus activities, parties, Greek organizations, and local events, you will suddenly find yourself with more social options than hours in the day. You will find yourself having to choose between going to the party and writing that paper, going out with the bowling group or to the library with the study group, and snoozing through the alarm at 7:00 am or getting up and going to class. You are now in control of all your decisions. However, keep in mind why you’re there in the first place. Setting goals and boundaries will be extremely helpful. Set a goal to write so many words between classes for that paper, then award yourself with some social time. Go ahead and go bowling, but instead of bowling five games, bowl two and go back and study, or study first and meet up with your friends a little later. Finding what works best for you will be a trial and error, but maintaining a fair balance will help your sanity and your grades.
Finally, you will find yourself in a completely new environment. Instead of meeting a new romantic interest at a high school dance, you might meet him/her at a party. Instead of going on a date with someone you’ve known for years, you’ll now have dates with someone you barely know. The high school friends who were always there to give you advice will be replaced with new friends who have to learn about you over time. With all these differences in environment, you will change too. This is a time to embrace change and take those first liberating steps towards independence, but don’t forget to maintain balance by setting reasonable boundaries, goals, and standards.
I live in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina; which has been named the friendliest city in the US two years in a row. I have a husband and five teenage boys, one of which is in college. I have a bachelor’s degree in management and a master’s degree in psychology. I teach psychology at a community college and have learned as much from my students as they learn from me. I enjoy reading, writing, cooking, and traveling.