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Preparing for College Life After High School

College friends spending time together

Congratulations to all the recent high school graduates! The moment you tossed your cap into the air signified not only an end but a new chapter for all the newly minted college-bound students. For many of you, it probably felt like you have finally achieved what you worked so diligently towards for the past four years – gaining admission to the college of your choice. However, the real adventure begins as you start to take a deeper look into the vast landscape of your upcoming college life.

This new chapter in the lives of incoming students is full of intriguing opportunities, increased independence, and many unforeseen hurdles to come. Here are some important tips to help students transition smoothly to college life.


Moving into college can be thrilling and nerve-wracking for those leaving their families for the first time. Some students might have unintentionally taken the support and resources their parents provided for granted, which will quickly change when they move out. Detailed planning and foresight are critical to ensure this new journey is not fraught with avoidable hiccups, but allows for a smoother move-in day and a more seamless transition to college life. Here are three things to consider:

New college roommates helping each other move in

1. Packing Strategy

While you prepare a detailed checklist of all the things you will need – remember to check your college’s housing guide or website for specific details and restrictions. You definitely want to consider all the essentials that will be appropriate for you personally, and that fit the climate, academic requirements, room specifications, and other miscellaneous items you will need daily. However, learn to start embracing minimalism! Most students will start in a compact dorm room with one or more roommates. Choose multi-functional items as much as possible and focus more on practicality – this will save you money and make moving around campus easier.

2. Get to Know Your New Living Environment

Most colleges usually provide incoming students with comprehensive information about their student housing and all of its amenities. Make the most of this and learn your dorm’s layout, understand storage options, and familiarize yourself with the common areas and their amenities. The more you know about your new space, the better prepared you will be to pack the right things

3. Roommate Relationships

If you haven’t met your roommate already, start the conversation as early as possible and establish a positive connection ahead of time. This will not only break the ice before you meet in person, but it will also allow for the coordination of shared items that either of you plans to bring. Consider discussing who will bring certain items like a small fridge, microwave, rug, etc. Develop a cooperative relationship with your roommate through open dialogue, transparency, and shared interest. This will open the door to a harmonious living space and possibly become a great friendship.


Harlan Cohen, the author of the New York Times bestseller The Naked Roommate: And 107 Other Issues You Might Run Into in College, described his 3-Ps framework for students transitioning to college as an important foundation for having a fulfilling college experience. Here are his 3-Ps:

College friends enjoying a pep rally

1. People

Find five people on campus who are either living the lives you want to live or are individuals you can lean on. According to Cohen, these people can be individuals that volunteer to help you, they can be ones that you enlist to help, or they can be folks you pay to help. This can be a support network that can include friends, mentors, academic advisors, therapists, teammates, or anyone else on campus. He finally says that you choose at least five people because someone is always there, you will never be alone, and you will always have options.

2. Places

Find three places where you can find true connection and community on campus. Cohen says these places should make you feel like you really belong. They can be areas or organizations where you can play, pray, sweat, learn, work, live, lead, etc. Having at least three places to choose from can always give you the option to go somewhere and do something.

3. Patience

As a student builds a new life on campus, it is important for them to find the people and places that allow them to feel at home. However, this does not happen overnight. It will take some time to find the right people and test out different places and organizations to find the right fit. Harlan Cohen recommends giving it at least two semesters to find the best people and places, but the bottom line is to have patience as you transition into your college life. Just ensure you cultivate a supportive network and places that serve as refuge/recreation to help you feel like you truly belong.


Many students will feel exhilarated by the sense of freedom they will have when they move to college. However, many of them will realize - either the hard way or the easy way - that while they can dictate their own schedule, they will have increased academic demands and responsibilities. For students to navigate the whirlwind of college activities and demands, they will need effective time management skills. Here are a few tips:

college student time management

1. Use a Planner or Digital Tool

Students will quickly feel the responsibilities of college life – from managing classes, keeping track of assignments, and remembering miscellaneous tasks, to balancing social activities. Using a planner or a digital tool like Google Calendar can effectively track all the things on a student’s plate and visually represent their commitments, enabling them to plan more effectively. Students should find whatever works for them and keep it simple enough to use consistently.

2. Set Study Hours

Consistency is critical for effective studying and can be done during a busy schedule. Creating a fixed and constant study plan can help students retain more information over time and avoid the stress of last-minute studying and potentially bad grades. Scheduling specific blocks of time devoted to academic work each day will lay the groundwork for a productive study routine and work ethic.

3. Prioritize

Life in college is filled with optional activities and opportunities, but it is important to remember that a student does not need to seize every opportunity that comes their way. The first important step to managing the abundant opportunities a student has is to recognize one’s limitations. Assessing tasks based on urgency and importance will allow students to focus their time and energy on high-priority and urgent tasks first. Remember that time management is not about doing everything, but about doing the important things at the right time.


1. Mental Health

The unfamiliar nature of college combined with rigorous academic demands, the pressure to fit in socially, financial constraints, and the expectations placed on a student can take a toll on a student’s mental health. The good thing is that most universities are equipped with professional counseling services and various support programs to help students navigate the challenges of college life. If students feel that they are grappling with stress, anxiety, or feeling overwhelmed, they should not hesitate to seek help. It is not a sign of weakness, but a testament to one’s strength to overcome challenges.

Student Mental Health

2. Finances

For many students, college life marks their first time managing personal finances. This independent lifestyle calls for wise budgeting and tracking of one’s expenses. Students should familiarize themselves with the financial resources available on campus, such as the Financial Aid Office and student money management workshops. It is important to cultivate responsible financial habits in college because they more than likely will become the foundation of how a student manages their money after they graduate college.

3. Professional Development

Start exploring career paths as early as possible. Take full advantage of the university’s career services, attend career fairs, seek internships, and network with industry professionals. Doing this can kickstart your professional journey by better understanding the career opportunities available and enhancing your academic experience.

College student professional development

The transition from high school to college is a transformative experience that can either establish a student’s trajectory in college or set them up for failure. It can be challenging to navigate, but with the right mindset of expecting the unexpected and remembering the tips we provided here, any student can learn to embrace the journey and find enjoyment in this next chapter of life.

For more information on how to discover your best-fit college and navigate a strategy that will maximize your chances of admission, please contact Steve Colley at or schedule a free consultation.

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