Heading to College? 3 Pieces of Advice

Heading to College? 3 Pieces of Advice

Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.

Frederick Buechner

Dorm supplies have been purchased.

Good-byes have been said.

Dr. Seuss has been quoted (and re-quoted) in cards and in person.

You’re off to college, kid!

Now what?

(NOTE: The following suggestions also apply to those heading back to college, those living at home, and those working/traveling after high school. If that’s you, adapt as you like to fit your situation!)

Read on for the next installment in our Back to School series…

3 things to keep in mind as you’re heading to college:

Plan for the practical stuff

The older I get the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Chances are, “the practical stuff” is what you’ve been focusing on in the months and weeks before heading to college.

You’ve bought all the gear.

Packed up the essentials.

Made contact with the roommate(s).

What else can there be?

In the rush of excitement and anticipation leading up to the start of college, it’s easy to overlook the truly basic considerations that form the foundation of so many other aspects of college life.

Do yourself a favor: Don’t skip these.


  • Plan for safety. Depending where you’re living, college life can quickly start to feel relaxed and familiar. But, the unexpected can still happen. Keep yourself as safe as possible by noting the emergency resources on campus and in the surrounding area, keeping the phone numbers of some trusted nearby contacts (e.g., your dorm RA, your next door neighbors) on speed dial, and taking all the precautions you would in any new city.
  • Mind your finances. Whatever your financial situation, you can’t go wrong with a solid budget to guide your spending. College is a great time to gain some practice! (Get started with a free budgeting tool like Mint, EveryDollar, or YNAB.)
  • Take your meds. Unless you’ve made a plan in consultation with your health care provider, college is not the time to experiment with your medication routine. Set a reminder, store everything in a safe place, and plan ahead to secure refills before you need them.
  • Figure out the food. Allergies? Sensitivities? Likes and dislikes? You’re the boss of your own eating now, so get to know the lay of the land, and plan accordingly!

Prioritize your emotional wellness

How do you define ‘taking care of yourself’? Create a new self-care practice today. Observe your comfort level when it comes to being good to yourself. Discomfort is a wise teacher.

Caroline Myss & Peter Occhiogrosso

Heading to college may feel overwhelming and terrifying.

Or it may represent the culmination of everything you’ve been working for and planning on for years now.

(Or both.)

Either way, if you don’t make it a point to proactively prioritize your emotional wellness, you can easily find yourself crashing into finals week burned out, exhausted, and resenting the whole college experience.


Tending to your self-care at college isn’t as hard as you might think.


  • Get some rest. (Ideally, before you’re already tired.) College presents an ever-changing sampler platter of fun distractions. Trust that you’ll have time for all of it. For now, start by pulling up your class schedule, work schedule, and any other schedule of commitments, and figure out when you’re going to sleep. Especially during the first semester of school, plan to get more sleep than you think you need. This may mean initiating a potentially awkward conversation with your roommate. It’ll definitely mean saying No to a thing or two. But the payoff is worth it: When you get enough good quality sleep, everything else becomes easier.
  • Move your body. Maybe you have a team or club sport built right into your college schedule. (If so, lucky you!) But for many of us, the transition to college presents the challenge of creating new physical activity habits in an unfamiliar setting. Try to reframe the experience as an adventure: Visit the campus recreation facilities, explore the area on bicycle or foot, or grab your roommate and scout out a local, free class. Have fun!
  • Quiet your mind. Homesickness, academic demands, relationship strain, and social comparison are all common stressors that will sap your emotional energy if you let them. Identify the coping strategies that work best for you, and develop a routine that incorporates them. (Check out mediation apps for mindfulness resources you can take on the go. Headspace even has a playlist designed specifically for college students!)
  • Seek support. Maybe something big has happened and you could use some help navigating it all. Or maybe you simply want to make contact with a therapist to establish a relationship and talk through the transition to college. Your college counseling center is a great place to start (and you can usually find their info right on your school’s website). And if you’re currently connected to a therapist at home, they can help refer you to some local options near your college, so you can land on campus with a support plan already in place.

Stay connected and open

Life is a balance of holding on and letting go.


Whether you’re moving away for school or living right at home, college presents a unique challenge:

How do you open yourself up to life-changing experiences while remaining true to who you are? 


  • Make time for what makes you happy. Figuring out what beings you joy is a great way to get to know yourself, and you’ll attract new experiences and friends in the process.
  • Nurture existing relationships. Some friendships will evolve and deepen as you do; others, you’ll outgrow. (This can be bittersweet, but it’s totally normal and an important part of “adulting” we don’t talk about enough!) Make time to stay connected to friends and family you care about. These are the relationships that will ground and sustain you no matter what unfolds at school.
  • Be intentional about your learning. Regardless of your specific major, college is an opportunity to gain experiences that are uniquely yours. What do you want to learn during this time? The ability to treat yourself with compassion? Healthy boundaries? Gratitude for and connection to the world around you?

Enjoy this post? You might also like:

Back to School: 3 Keys to Preparing as a Family
Seasonal Depression Treatment
How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Not Feeling Particularly Grateful


Heading to college? Could you use some extra support?