5 Essential Skills for Going Off to College

As those of us in the senior class get ready to go off to college, I have been reflecting on my high school days and how I have prepared to move on to this next phase of my life.  Of course there is doing well in your classes at school and making sure you take the right type of classes so you are prepared for the school work. However, going off to college entails a lot more than just moving on to the next level of classes.

College is a chance to start to be independent and be an adult.  You have to be fully responsible for yourself and do not have the safety net of your parents to wake you up if you oversleep or remind you to do your homework.  It brings to mind many things that my parents have said to me or taught me over the past few years. I might have just rolled my eyes at them when they told me but I am starting to realize that there may be some truth to some of what they have been telling me.

For all those going off to college next year, here are my thoughts on five essential skills every new college student should keep and mind and develop as they get ready to spread their wings and venture off on their own.


  1. Discipline and Responsibility

Everyone knows they need to be responsible for themselves and be disciplined in their approach to college but actually practicing it can be quite difficult for many new college students.  There is no one there to make sure you are doing what you are supposed to do and that new found freedom can sometimes be more than college freshmen can handle. Make sure you set a class schedule that you can support and make sure you get to class.  It can be really tempting to just skip class and sleep because you stayed out late the night before because you could stay out as late as you wanted. No one is taking attendance anyway right? A lack of discipline and taking responsibility for yourself is one of the biggest reasons students that go away to college end up failing in their first year.  Time management and stress management will be essential to surviving college. Being willing to ask for help and getting to know your professors are also assertiveness skills that you must take responsibility for yourself. With no parents to help this can be intimidating. I have heard stories from my siblings about how much this can help.

  1. Know How to Use Public Transportation

When you go off to college it is always good to learn how to utilize the public transportation system at and around your college.  Parking can be expensive and quite frankly if you are living on or near campus a car really is not required for most college experiences.  Get familiar with the buses and trains in the area and learn how to get around using them. You never know when you might need to use them or when it simply might be the best way to get where you need to go.  It is simply a good life skill to have as well and one that many kids don’t learn when growing up.

  1. Cooking Skills

When you go away to college you do not need to know how to be a gourmet cook, however, you should know how to do more than simply boil water and make mac n cheese!  I always hear about starving college students. After talking to my older brother and sister I know I will have to be creative at times to get some variety in my meals.  While I like Top Ramen, I think there can be too much of a good thing. I took Chef Ahina’s culinary class and my mom make me cook occasionally growing up so I feel like I will do okay when it comes to cooking.  While my first year may be more about the cafeteria at the dorm and how to use a microwave, later in my college life when I maybe have an apartment I know I can find some creative and inexpensive meals to eat.

  1. Laundry

My mom made all of us start doing our own laundry as soon as we started high school.  While I admittedly don’t understand all the ins and outs of the different types of fabrics, I do know how to sort colors and whites so I am not at risk of turning white t-shirts and underwear pink.  Knowing how much laundry detergent to use, how to use fabric softener and what goes in the dryer and what doesn’t are all valuable skills when on a limited budget at college. I remember complaining about having to do my own laundry but I now have 4 years of practice and know I won’t have any fashion emergencies resulting from a lack of laundry skills.

  1. Balance

While college is first and foremost about furthering your education and preparing yourself for a career, college is also about growing up, finding yourself, becoming independent and having fun.  With the right balance, I am told college will reward me with some of the best memories of my life, enduring lifelong friendships and a lot of life lessons to go with my education. There are an overwhelming number of clubs and activities on campus and figuring out how many and which activities to be involved in can be challenging, which makes finding a good balance challenging.  With an older sister that was in a sorority and an older brother playing NCAA sports I know they both had struggles with balance at times and had to find ways to better manage their time and had to sacrifice other activities they may have like to participate in. Taking on too much with all the other changes can be overwhelming so make your decisions carefully.

I feel like I am pretty well prepared to go off to college and am excited to be off on my own and figure it all out.   Time will tell if I will handle it successfully but I am ready to “give it the old college try”. To all you seniors out there going on to college next year, I wish you good luck and success on your new adventure!


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