Back to school season is fast approaching, and even though we’re not sure what’s going to happen, we have to get ready for anything. Back to school season happens to be my favorite season, so today I wanted to help you ‘’learn’’ how to prepare for college!
As I’ve done 2 studies and went to uni for a total of 6 years, I thought I’d be pretty qualified to help you prepare for college by now. It has been a while, but my love for back to school season is as strong as ever, so let me help you prepare for college, or prepare for university!
Here are my top tips on how to prepare for college:
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The first tip to prepare for college is to get organized. You want to be off to the best start you can, and the easiest way to do that is to get organized in advance.
The first must-have is a planner system. Whether you prefer it digital or on paper, get something that works for you. I used to have everything on paper, but have now switched to a mostly digital system because I like that it sends me reminders.
Get into your digital environment and download all the course material you can. Get the course guide, and put any deadlines you already have into your planner. This helps you stay on top of things, especially if you review it daily/weekly and/or have those reminders set up. It’s easy to lose points because you forgot to hand in an assignment, and it’s so easy to avoid.
If you’re willing to go the extra mile, take a look at the section that tells you what you’re learning in the class, or what they expect you to know by the end. This is great information to start making your study guide.
I also used to make a little spreadsheet with the reading and assignments I had to do per week so I could easily check it off and make sure I didn’t miss anything. I liked having it on one sheet of paper that I could just stick on the wall.
Get your dorm ready
Your environment has the biggest impact on you, whether you realize it or not. So to prepare for college, make sure it’s comfortable and inviting! You want to feel at home in your dorm, and the best way to do that is to decorate it to your liking.
I think it depends on your dorm, university and personal preference what you want to bring to your dorm. I’ve only stayed in dorms on an exchange program, and all the furniture and bedding were there already.
Regardless of the basic furniture situation, there are so many things to personalize a dorm room with! For example, the items I mentioned in my 5 must-haves for a home office are really good to use for your desk area.
Aside from that, blankets and extra pillow or pillow cases are always nice, as well as fairy lights to make it really cozy, a reading light if you’re sharing a room and wall decor are easy to use, easy to remove at the end of the year, and will really personalize your room.
As for the practical things, I’d always take an extension cord (or 2), flip flops, a shower caddy, command hooks and an over-the-door organizer for easy storage.
Self care in college
Even though life in college might seem like one big party, there are plenty of things that add stress and pressure to your life such as social life, academic pressure, finances, being away from home, and so many other things. You can always take a look at my other posts on self care, but here are the top college tips.
Self care isn’t optional anymore, it’s a necessity.
Have a self care routine, or pamper day by yourself or with your friends!
Take care of your mental health. Find a way to fully relax and get your mind off your school work. Whether that is writing, painting, coloring, working out or cooking is up to you. There are so many ways to relieve stress, it’s only a matter of finding the right one. An easy way to find them is to think of what you loved doing as a child, these things are usually relaxing to you.
Make use of counselors if your university offers them. They’re there for a reason, and there is no shame in using them if you feel like you need some support.
Have regular days to get your life together. Here is how I do mine.
Have a good support system. At home, and at university. Talk about things with your friends, and never think you’re alone in your feelings or your stress.
Accept that done is better than flawless. I’ll be writing about letting go of perfectionism soon, so keep an eye out for that.
Create a self care box for days you really need it.
SLEEP. Need I say more?
Stay healthy tips
A massive part of self care is to stay healthy. It’s easy and tempting to live off junk food if there is no one to tell you not to, but your body will not be happy. So to take really good care of yourself, here are my best tips:
Try to stay active by walking as much as you can, going to the gym if that’s accessible (and fun) to you, try an at-home workout if you have the space, or take the stairs more often. Being active is often more about the little every day habits than about going to the gym 3 days a week.
Stay healthy by paying attention to what you eat. You’re definitely going to be eating junk food and that is absolutely fine! Just make sure you don’t eat it every day. Try to snack on healthier options like fruit or crackers with hummus. I got myself a popcorn machine in college and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made. If you make it yourself, it’s actually quite a healthy snack with a lot of fiber. Plus, it’s perfect for mindless snacking, as it is nice and crunchy.
Focus on feeling good and feeling happy. That is what’s most important after all.
Money saving tips
If there is one big thing to prepare for college is to prepare financially and learn to deal with your finances. They might be quite different in college than at home, so this is important. You can also read my 5 tips to save money, with more tips on how I saved money while studying.
Do not buy books. I repeat, do not buy your books. This might be a controversial one, and maybe you really do need a book for a class. I’ve certainly had professors not allow people in because they didn’t have the book. But in my 6 years of studying I think I’ve bought books for only 5 classes, and I was absolutely fine. I think I have saved over €5000 in those 6 years by not buying books, and I’ve not regretted it once.
Books are the most expensive thing in college, and often they’re completely useless. You can usually find the book in your library, get it online for a lot less or sometimes even for free, or your professor has put all the relevant information on the slides anyway. Don’t get the book unless you feel it’s absolutely necessary.
If you don’t have a meal plan, try to make as much of your own food as possible. Even if you only have a microwave, a lot of veggies can be steamed in a microwave, and with cooked rice or steamed potatoes and beans or lentils they make a good meal. The dorm building I stayed in on exchange had ‘event rooms’ with a little kitchen that we could rent, so if your dorm has that as well, rent it a day a month with a friend and make some healthy meals and snacks for the next few weeks. Especially things like bliss balls keep very well.
If you get pre-made anything, make sure it’s as natural as possible.
Pay attention to sales on foods, learn how to coupon, or make use of websites like ebates or honey to save money on those necessary purchases. You can usually save yourself some money with a simple 5 minutes of preparation.
For any non-essential purchases, practice patience and get them on black friday, boxing day or any other sale day.
Unsubscribe from any brands’ email lists, and unfollow on instagram if you find yourself browsing a lot.
Sign up for any program that gives you student discount.
For studying, the most important thing is to understand how you learn. You are really the only person who can know that, so try a couple of things if you’re not sure yet. Understand whether you study better in a group, with one friend or by yourself. By writing, listening or explaining it to someone else?
My preferred way of studying was flashcards, so I downloaded an app that I could sync with my computer, and I could study anywhere, even in line for grocery checkout.
Get a focusing app like a pomodoro timer, the forest app, or the plant app. Apps are a great way to gamify your study experience and set some challenges for yourself.
Understand that you’re not the only one who doesn’t know anyone. For most people this is a completely new experience where they don’t know anyone else, so get some comfort from that.
Fake it till you make it. This is truly the best situation to start working on faking confidence. I don’t mean you have to be arrogant or pretend you’re the best thing that ever happened there, but if you see someone who seems like a nice person you might want to be friends with, start talking to them. Find common ground.
Smile! Smiling at others makes you feel better, will usually make other people smile back, and makes you seem friendlier and more approachable.
Other nuggets of wisdom
Use that student card. Now that I’m not eligible for student discounts anymore I understand what a blessing that card is. Bring it everywhere with you, you never know which places might have student discounts, especially on holidays.
Use your free time. If you have three or 4 day weekends and you can spare the time, make extra trips. The freedom you have in college is like nothing else, and it is usually over when you start working a 9-5.
Relax. Unless you want to continue onto your PhD, no one really cares about your grades after college. At least, not in Europe. I have not been asked about my college grades once, so a passing grade is a good grade. Like I said, you don’t have to only turn in flawless papers, sometimes it’s good enough to hand something in that’s at least finished.
You’re not going to like everything and everyone, they’re not all going to like you, and that is okay. College is about finding yourself, not making yourself into the person everyone expects you to be.
No one is forcing you to go out and party every night. It is your choice, and you can say no. If you’re just not the partying type or if you just need a good night sleep, choose you. There will be another party tomorrow.
That being said, if you’re not usually the partying type, go out every now and then. I didn’t really engage in anything in my first study, and I wish I did. It might have made it more enjoyable for me. So even if you think you don’t really like parties, get your best friend and go out. You can always go home if you really don’t enjoy yourself.
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Those were my main tips to prepare for college! College prep is really important to make sure you’re off to the best start, and it’s great to do some research before you get going. I realy hope this post has helped you prepare for college.
Learn from people who’ve been to college or are going right now through reading articles or watching youtube videos, and let their experience help you prepare for college.
If you liked this post, you might be interested in learning to reinvent yourself or be your best self for college, love reading personal development books, need some motivational quotes, or any other personal development inspiration.
If you have any other tips to help others prepare for college, leave them in the comments so we can help each other out!