The back-to-school advertisements are in full swing. Store displays portray envy-worthy dorm room setups. With August around the corner, so many of us are preparing for the new school year.
However, a portion of us are also preparing for big changes with the upcoming year: college. Whether you’re a recent high school graduate, a student returning to college after a gap year, or the parent of a soon-to-be college student, the transition to the world of higher education can be both exciting and formidable.
Talk of the freshman fifteen and finals is enough to scare even the most steadfast, focused student. The combination of moving to a new home, meeting new people, and facing rigorous academics is a daunting pursuit for anyone. Still, as a high school teacher, I’ve seen many students make the shift and have helped prepare students for the upcoming journey.
Along the way of both my own college journey and preparing others for theirs, I’ve come to learn a thing or two about the most valuable reminders everyone should take with them to their first dorm room. So whether you’re a student preparing for a year of change or the parent of one, check out five reminders you should keep close this upcoming school year.
1. Be your own advocate.
As a teacher, this is something I work tenaciously to instill in my students. In the real world, there isn’t always someone looking out for your learning or your well-being. You need to learn to take a stand and value yourself as well as your journey. Learn to be self-aware and understand your needs.
Then, most importantly, know how to get what you need. This means you need to be willing to accept help when needed and stand up for yourself when necessary. Ask for assistance when you aren’t understanding a concept in your classes. Reach out to the different services on campus when something is bothering you. Being an adult and being responsible for your future means you need to recognize your own needs and advocate for them.
2. You are preparing for your future. Own it.
These are the years that could potentially define the rest of your life. Know your dreams, and own them. Take charge of your future.
Do not settle for average when it comes to your goals.
When I started college, my dad gave me excellent advice. He said that while many students would try to just squeak by with the bare minimum grades in college, I needed to strive to be the best I could be. When taking classes related to your dream career, learn as much as you can. Soak up all of the knowledge of your professor, and gain all of the skills you can.
Walk into college with the attitude that you are chasing your dreams and you will excel. Furthermore, never let a difficult challenge get in the way of your goals. If you want it badly enough, don’t let anyone, yourself included, tell you that you can’t accomplish it.
3. Family is most important.
In this stage of life, it can be easy to put physical and metaphorical distance between yourself and your family. You’re meeting new people and venturing out on your own. You want to stand on your two feet, which is understandable.
However, don’t forget what your family means to you, biological or chosen. They are the ones who helped you find your way to this point in your life. They are the ones who will be there when your journey gets tough—which it will, trust me—and when you’ve accomplished your dreams. They will be your cheerleaders, your grounding in reality when you need it, and your reminder of what got you here.
Don’t ignore the phone calls from Mom, even if you are busy. Don’t avoid trips home or forget about the people who mattered to you all those years. Whether biological family or family you chose, these are the people who truly will be important for the rest of your life.
4. Explore and be adventurous, but never forget your roots, morals, beliefs, or values.
College is a time to reinvent yourself, to explore, and to try new things. However, it can be easy to lose sight of who you are and what you want along the way. Don’t be afraid to be adventurous. Try new hobbies and take exciting classes. Meet new people and experience everything you can.
Even though it’s tough sometimes, stay in-touch with your beliefs, values, morals, and roots. Don’t completely lose sight of who you are or what you want. Let your inner gut be your guide, not peer pressure or the need to live wildly. At the end of your college years, you want to look back with a smile, not regrets that you weren’t yourself.
5. The years fly by, so soak in every moment.
During finals and all-night study sessions, it won’t feel like the time is going fast. There will be days of tears, days of “I can’t do this,” and days you wonder if you’ll ever be out of student loan hell.
I assure you, though, the years go so fast. You’ll see. Before you know it, you’ll be wearing another graduation cap and saying goodbye to another chapter of your life. These years will be the foundation your adult life is built upon. Take every picture. Soak in every experience, and never take your new friends for granted. These are the years your dreams start to take root and you find yourself. Enjoy every second you can, even when things feel impossible.
So college freshmen, I wish you a year of discovery, adventure, and dreams. Good luck, and know you can handle this.
Lindsay Detwiler is a high school English teacher and a published contemporary romance author with Hot Tree Publishing. Learn more about her seven novels on her blog.