So You’re Going (Far) Away to College?

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Determining where you will spend your next four years of academic life is a stressful task. If you’ve chosen a college far from home, you clearly have an adventurous spirit and strong attachment to your new school and location. But there are also challenges you will face, especially in your first year away. As you prepare to leave, keep in mind these words of advice for a successful transition.

Pack very carefully.

This does NOT mean pack everything. Flying to school means taking as little as possible, while still having everything you need. Pack only the essentials. Like most students on move-in weekend, you will be buying a ton of last-minute items at the local Target or Wal-Mart. Also, think about the change in climate: you may have to pack for seasons you’ve not yet experienced. Look into shipping a box or two in advance for bulky items like sheets, blankets, and winter wear that you would rather not buy again.

Plan your breaks in advance.

Chances are your family is a little bitter about your long-distance choice. Before you leave for school, sit down with a calendar and map out times when you will be coming home. This will ensure there are no surprises down the road, when your parents think you’re coming home for Thanksgiving, and you assumed they would agree it’s way too short of a break. Knowing your return times will also give you both something to look forward to during this first year. Keep in mind your budget, as flying back and forth will probably be costly.

Find a good friend. Quickly.

Long weekends and short breaks are going to be far different for you than your local friends. If the idea of hanging out on a deserted campus bums you out, you’ll probably want to get close with your roommate or other friend, and occasionally join them on breaks. It will give you a dose of family life and stave off long-distance depression.

Have a good cell phone plan.

In the first year, especially, you will be using a lot of minutes. Make sure your plan makes sense for this change in lifestyle, and consider one with unlimited talk time, or at least free evening and weekend minutes.

Remember why you’re there.

There will be difficulties, as it isn’t easy living far from home for the first time. But the reasons you chose your school were strong enough to make you pack up your life and move thousands of miles away. College is a rare opportunity to see another part of the world and experience life independent of your family. It’s an admirable thing to be able to step so far outside your comfort zone, and such a trait will serve you well in life.

This is a time for you to enjoy a new city, discover what it is you’re passionate about, and form lasting friendships. There will assuredly be setbacks, but if you plan what you can in advance and call your mom every week, the next four years will be among your very best.

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