5 Things To Figure Out Before You Go Away to College

Deciding to go away to college is a big decision—one that comes with almost a year (minimum!) of applications and preparation.

You studied for your SAT and strengthened your personal essay so that your college applications were on point, took a tour of your future home and maybe even bought a sweatshirt or two to seal the deal. One thing you may not have considered, though, is the ways in which you can prepare yourself for college that have nothing to do with getting into the school in the first place—or even what you're studying.

As a new college student, you're likely away from home for the first time, or at least, away from home for the first time with more freedom than ever. And with great freedom, comes great responsibility—to do your laundry. Below are all the things you need to learn before you go away to college—if only to make your life a lot easier.


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1. How to Do Laundry

This is the big one. While plenty of soon-to-be college freshmen grew up doing their own laundry, plenty still have no clue how to work a washing machine. If this is you, change this, stat. While the buttons may seem self-explanatory on the machine, you'll be kicking yourself if you ruin a sweater that's supposed to be dry clean only, or turn all your whites pink because you didn't properly separate loads.


2. How to Get to Class On Time

If you struggled to wake up for high school, but always made it on time because you had a parent or sibling dragging you out of bed, well, sorry, but they're no longer here—and your new roommate will absolutely be annoyed if you keep hitting the snooze before your 8 a.m. Find what works for you that will actually get you out of bed, be it hitting the hay an hour earlier when you know you have an early morning ahead, or an alarm clock that also brews you a pot of coffee. (Hey, it exists!)


3. How to Manage Your Free Time

High school was a solid eight hours of studying a day, plus homework and extracurricular activities. College isn't like that. You may have some days where you only have one class, and then ample free time to study—or slack off, if you're not careful. While it's great to enjoy time to relax, one thing you must learn before going away to college is how to manage your free time properly. For you, that could mean keeping all your schoolwork organized with a planner or app, or blocking out time each week to hit the library for uninterrupted study time.


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4. How to Speak Up For Yourself

In high school, you likely had a lot of people on your team: Your parents, longtime friends, and even teachers and counselors who have gotten to know you over the years. While there are some built-in support systems in college—your RA for dorm drama and your advisors for academic stuff, for example—it's not quite the same, as you'll still have to take the initiative to talk to them if there's a pressing issue at hand. That's why it's important to make sure you know how to handle your own stuff by speaking up for yourself. If you're struggling in class, talk to the professor. If you suspect your roommate is doing something sketchy in your dorm room, confide in your RA. No one will offer help unless you ask for it—so make sure you're confident enough to ask!


5. How to Make Simple Meals in a Small Space

Your dorm likely won't come with a full kitchen, and sometimes, you're studying late into the night without access to the dining hall. That's why it's important to figure out mini meals you can make for yourself that are filling enough so you're not forced to wait until morning for breakfast. Whether that's a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or Kraft mac n' cheese, you'll be grateful you figured it out at 1 am before a huge midterm.


Want to read more about post-high school plans? Click HERE to read about why it might be a good idea to take a leap year.