The 35 Things You Need to Know Before You Leave for College

  1. You got this. I have had a front-row seat in your life, and I know with every fiber of my being that you are ready for this moment.
  2. When I cry as I walk away, know those are good tears, the tears we shed when life has given us a gift. You have been a true gift.
  3. Seek help when you need it. Academic, psychological, and medical. There is no shame in asking for what you need. College is a new challenge, and you might need new resources.
  4. There will never be another time like the first weeks in college; (if you don’t believe me, read this ) do not squander this opportunity to meet new people. This is an effort you will be glad you made.
  5. It is okay to call us when you are sad. It’s just not okay to call us only when you are sad.
  6. College is hard, add a social life, sports, and activities, and it can seem like you have very little time. But don’t give up what you love. Run, listen to music, and watch good movies. It is what keeps you sane.
  7. You will be homesick. It would be a sad commentary on the last 18 years if you weren’t. Call us, and we will remind you that it will pass. Better yet, go get pizza with your new friends.
  8. Pregnancy, STDs…Condoms. There is a reason they call it protection.
  9. Take one small class every semester if you can. Research confirms it will improve your college experience.
  10. I am here, I will always be here.
  11. Meet your professor, and if you can’t or won’t do that, get to know your TA. This, too, will improve your college experience.
  12. When something you are learning excites and interests you, pay attention, you are going to college to find just that.
  13. Take at least one computer science class. It is an almost inescapable aspect of modern life. Ditto AI. 
  14. The only way to have good friends is to be a good friend. There is no shortcut.
  15. If your siblings are some of your very best friends, everything about the rest of your life will be better. They are the longest relationship of your life. Don’t ignore them just because you left home.
  16. Saving money is a habit. Start now.
  17. If you treat your body badly, it will return the favor. It’s not hard. Eat healthfully, exercise often, and worship at the altar of a good night’s sleep.
  18. Time management is one of the most important skills you learn in college. It is a skill you will need every day for the rest of your life.
  19. But the most important thing you will learn is the ability to think critically and deeply. Intellectually, do not skate on the surface for four years. Dig deep.
  20. You will never need to be able to fold a fitted sheet. Never.
  21. College is not happening on your phone. As you travel the campus, look up.
  22. If something seems like a bad idea sober but then later, after a few drinks, seems like a better idea, it was always a bad idea.
  23. Go to things. Never will you have so many talks, performances, games, and activities right at your doorstep. Explore.
  24. Study one thing you have never heard of. You are going to colleges to explore.
  25. Know where the closest Urgent Care Center and Emergency Room are. When you need this information, it will be 2 am, your phone will be dead, and the Student Health Center will be closed.
  26. Join. Something. Anything. But, join.
  27. You will feel scared and anxious and even defeated at times. Everybody does. Everybody. How you deal with these feelings is all that matters.
  28. You are at that unique moment in life where you can stretch your arms in one direction and already feel your adult life and stretch them in another and still feel your childhood. Enjoy this moment, it comes but once.
  29. Over-the-counter medications are still medicine, so read the label. Or call me.
  30. Do your laundry while you still have two pairs of clean underwear. Don’t back yourself into a corner.
  31. Have $10 you can lay your hands on. Credit cards get denied.
  32. Remember how high school seemed to go on forever. College is not like that.
  33. Manners matter and always will.
  34. Your grandparents have adored you and your siblings since you took your first breath. Pick up the phone and call them. Give them glimpses into your college life.
  35. Your dog saw you through your childhood and will be there as we pack up the car to drive you to college. Hug him tight before you go.

You Might Also Want to Read: 

17 Items to Take Care of Before Your Student Leaves for College

About Lisa Endlich Heffernan

Lisa (Endlich) Heffernan is the co-founder of Grown and Flown, the #1 site for parents of teens, college students and young adults, reaching millions of parents every month. Lisa is a New York Times bestselling author.
She started the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook Group and is co-author of Grown and Flown: How to Support Your Teen, Stay Close as a Family, and Raise Independent Adults (Flatiron Books) now in paperback.

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