11 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your Freshman Year of College

11 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your Freshman Year of College

Written by: Pavita Singh

If you’re getting ready to attend college, congratulations! You’ve reached a significant milestone in your life, and you’re in for a great adventure—intellectually, personally, and socially. Part of getting the most out of this adventure is making sure that you start preparing beforehand. As we’ve discussed in numerous previous blogs, college comes with a unique set of challenges. For many first-year students, college will be their first time away from home. Getting used to the academic and social aspects of college without your parents or guardians on your side 24/7 is no easy task. Whatever fear or anxiety you’re feeling is totally normal. Mental preparation before starting your first year will go a long way in helping to make your college experience what you want it to be.

This past weekend, Konversai participated in a Twitter chat with Black Girls Smile and author Najya Williams on mentally preparing for college. Below we share some insights from that chat as well as some of our own. Preparing for college can seem daunting, but don’t you worry—you’ve so got this! Follow the tips that we talk about below, and you’ll be good to go for freshman year and beyond.

1. Talk to current students and/or alumni. Looking at college websites, guidebooks, and other marketing material can be a helpful first step, especially when you’re deciding which colleges to apply to. But remember that a lot of these materials are designed to get you to apply. Once you’re already in, they’re not going to provide you with that much useful information about all aspects of campus life that might be important to you. The best way to learn about all the ins and outs of campus life is by talking to other people who have walked the same steps that you’re about to walk, namely current students and alumni. Ask them questions about classes, dorms, extracurricular activities, campus resources, things to do off campus, and their overall experiences—both the good and the not-so-good ones.

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Chat with alumni on Konversai

If you’re looking for a platform to connect with college students and alumni, check out Konversai—the first-ever personalized knowledge platform that allows you to connect with anyone, anywhere, about anything, all via live video. To date, it’s the only platform where you have easy access to real people with whom you can connect and get personalized information on exactly what you want to know about any topic. College students and alumni can share their experiences and can even make money doing so. Other platforms for connecting with students and alumni include college Facebook groups and LinkedIn.

2. Plan an overnight visit. Familiarity is one of the best forms of preparation. So now that you’ve talked to some people on campus, get a feel for it yourself before classes start. See if you can stay with a current student in their dorm or apartment. This will give you a great idea of what life outside the classroom is like and will help you feel more comfortable on campus before the semester or quarter starts. This will be your chance to learn where all the important campus landmarks are and to practice living the student life without the pressure of being a student just yet.

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Connect with your professor before classes start

3. Connect with professors. There are fewer things that professors love more than students who show an interest and take initiative. If you already have your first-semester or first-quarter schedule, send personalized emails to your professors (you should be able to easily find their email addresses on the college’s website). Tell them how excited you are about their classes and ask if you can meet with them briefly before classes start. It is best to come prepared to these meetings with some questions. Read their bios (which you can also find on the college’s website) ahead of time, as that will help you formulate good questions to ask. Some questions might include how they ended up where they are, what they like about the college, if they are looking for research assistants, and what advice they have for you for getting the most out of your college experience.

If you don’t yet have your schedule, that’s okay too. Research some of the classes you might be interested in eventually taking and see who’s teaching them. Reach out to those professors and express your interest in their work and their classes. If school is in session and they’re teaching a class, ask them if you can sit in on one of their classes. This is a great way to familiarize yourself with life inside the classroom.

If you need some help drafting emails to professors or want another set of eyes to look over what you’ve written, you can find someone on Konversai who can coach you through it.

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Meet with your soon-to-be roomie ahead of time

4. Connect with your roommates. College might be your first time living with people you don’t know. If you’ll be living with roommates and you don’t already know each other, it’s a good idea to get in touch with them before move-in day. This way you can learn more about each other and coordinate who’s going to bring what. It also can’t hurt to come up with a roommate agreement and set expectations early on so that your time living together will be as smooth as possible. You and your roomies don’t have to be besties, but being able to cohabitate peacefully will make things so much easier for everyone involved.

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Find a way to stay on top of your tasks

5. Become more self-reliant. Most likely you’ve been living with a parent or a guardian your whole life, and college might be your first time away from home for more than a few weeks. While you don’t by any means have to have it all figured out by college, you will have to start relying on yourself more than you might be used to. You can start building self-reliance while you’re still living at home by assuming more responsibilities and attempting to solve problems on your own before asking for help. Also remember that in college, your parents probably won’t be around to remind you to do your homework or clean your room. While you might be thinking that you won’t miss that, remembering to do everything that you need to is your responsibility. Keeping a daily or weekly schedule and using time management and productivity apps such as Evernote and Focus Booster can help you stay on top of everything. You can also find people on Konversai who can help you develop some of these important life skills.

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Start managing your money

6. Create a budget. Being on your own means managing at least some of your own money. If you already have some experience with this, awesome! If not, no worries at all. Sit down with your parents or guardians and come up with a plan together on how you’re going to handle your financial resources. Your most likely expenses will include books, food, transportation, and of course fun. Decide how you much money you think is reasonable to allocate to each of these areas, and try to stay within this budget. Once you’re feeling settled into your academic and extracurricular routine, you can explore getting a job while you’re in school as well. Keep in mind that when you join Konversai, you can make as much money as you want from the comfort of your room simply by sharing your knowledge, skills, and experiences whenever and as often as you want.

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Be open to meeting new people and unique experiences

7. Be open to new opportunities and points of view. When you get to college, you’ll be exposed to a wealth of opportunities and will be meeting people from all over the world. This means that you will be exposed to points of view and ways of living that you may not have been exposed to before, including ones that you don’t agree with. Remember to keep an open mind, to appreciate everyone’s uniqueness, and try to find commonalities among all the differences. You never know what you might learn by opening yourself up to a world of possibilities. You can start broadening your horizons by reading books on topics you don’t know a lot about, trying a new restaurant or trying a new dish at your favorite restaurant, talking to people you might see regularly but have not talked to before, going somewhere you’ve never been (whether it’s in your home state or across the world), and of course, taking new classes. If there’s a subject that interests you, in addition to including it in your college schedule, you’re sure to find someone on Konversai who can teach you anything you’d like to know about it.

What’s also important to keep in mind is that while you should certainly take advantage of new opportunities that come your way, you do not want to overcommit yourself. Committing to too much at one time can result in giving each project less attention than it deserves, burnout, and taking the fun out of what should be a fun experience. If there’s a lot that you want to try, a good rule of thumb is to commit yourself to only one or two major activities outside of your classes per semester or quarter. College is 4 years, so that gives you plenty of time to explore everything you want to. And if it’s still not enough, remember that the learning and opportunities don’t end when you graduate. You have your whole life ahead of you to take on different projects and activities. College is just the beginning.

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Know your limits and recognize when you need a break academically, professionally, or personally

8. Set boundaries. Setting boundaries is important for all areas of life—academic, professional, extracurricular, and interpersonal. Know what your personal boundaries are, and be comfortable communicating them with others. Also know that your boundaries are not set in stone—they can change over time, and that’s okay. Make sure you communicate those as well. Remember that “No.” is a complete sentence. You don’t owe anyone any explanations. Before you leave for college, have a conversation with your family about boundaries and about what you might need from them to support you. This can include designating a regular time to catch up. Communicating your boundaries with your family is good practice for setting boundaries when you get to school. Boundaries are important for your mental health, as they ensure that you don’t bite off more than you can chew and that you feel safe and comfortable in your interpersonal interactions.

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A picture doesn’t tell the whole story

9. Take what you see on social media with a grain of salt. Social media is amazing. It’s a great way to help you stay connected with your friends and family and to show the world what you’re up to. But social media use has also been associated with mental health issues, as it can make people feel like they’re missing out or somehow not measuring up to certain standards. If you ever feel this way when you see your friends’ posts, take a minute to analyze your own social media behavior. Do you post every single thing that goes on in your life on social media? Or just what you want others to see? Most likely, it’s the latter, right? And if this is what you’re doing, others on social media are probably doing the exact same thing. You never know the full story when it comes to social media posts. Someone who looks like they’re having a great time based on their posts might have their own struggles that no one else knows about and has any way of knowing about. In this sense, social media takes away much of the authenticity in our interpersonal interactions. Konversai aims to put that missing authenticity back into these interactions.

Based on what you see on social media, you might have a notion of what your college experience should look like. In reality, there is no “should.” Everybody’s experience is different, and it’s up to you to follow the path that’s right for you.

Relatedly, be careful what you post on social media. Remember that once you put something online, it’s out there forever, and there’s no going back. You never know who might be able to find your posts down the road. If you’re thinking of posting something that you wouldn’t want your professors, future employers, or your parents to see, it’s probably not a good idea to post it. Think about how you would feel if someone else posted what you’re going to post, and keep in mind how your post will make others feel. Use the power of social media for good—to inspire others and bring people together.

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You have the strength to get through it

10. Accept that you can’t prepare for everything. No matter how well-prepared you are, life will occasionally throw you some curveballs. Not everything will go your way, and that’s okay. There are some things that are just out of your control that you couldn’t have prevented. If you can honestly say that there’s nothing you could have done differently in order for the outcome to have been better, then the only way you can move is forward. Know that whatever curveballs life throws at you, you have the strength, the intelligence, and the resources to deal with them. And you will.

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Find resources on Konversai

11. Remember that you’re not alone. You are surrounded by a wealth of resources in college, and a great way to prepare is to know what those resources are and how to access them. Your peers can be some of your greatest resources. Your peers are likely in the same boat that you’re in, so don’t be afraid to share with them how you’re feeling and how they might be able to support you. If you’re struggling in a class, you can talk to your classmates, the professor, your TA, a tutor at your college’s tutoring center, or a provider on Konversai. If you’re having roommate issues, your RA will be an incredible resource. For health issues, including mental health issues, many colleges have student health centers that are filled with excellent resources for students. If you prefer a more anonymous resource, you can text into the Crisis Text Line. Simply text “HELLO” to 741-741, and you will be connected within minutes to a trained crisis counselor who can talk through any issue with you and brainstorm tools with you to help you cope. Also remember that just because you might not be living with your family, they’re still there for you. You can always communicate with them by phone, Skype, FaceTime, or Google hangout as often as you need to and want to. And of course, you can connect with providers on Konversai—your go-to resource for anything under the sun. The only limit is your imagination.

So go out there and enjoy college! You’ve worked so hard, and you really are more prepared than you think. Once you’ve settled in, share your experiences with others on Konversai.

Have other tips for preparing for college? Share them in the comments below, or better yet, share them on Konversai. We look forward to hearing from you!

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One Reply to “11 Ways to Mentally Prepare for Your Freshman Year of College”

  1. Approaching my senior year of college has me reflecting and this post is a great encouragement for any soon to be first year students! I would agree and say that my most important things I wish I would have known is, it’s alright to have nothing figured out, you’re never alone, utilize your campus resources by first finding out what they are and then using them and lastly know your self worth and don’t let anyone take away from it or make you believe any less of it.

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