It’s an exciting word, but also a terrifying one. After months of endless applications, emotional acceptances and rejections, and difficult decisions, you’re finally ready to pack your bags and go. Or are you?
As your departure date draws closer, you’re probably suffering from some serious pre-college anxiety. You’ll have to make new friends, adjust to new academic expectations, and learn how to live away from home. That’s a lot of new—no wonder you’re nervous! But never fear: we’ve compiled a list of some tried-and-true ways to calm down and get excited about the next four years of your life.
1. Talk to current college students
When you’re nervous about something, the best way to feel better is to talk to someone who’s been through it and survived—and no matter where you live, there are sure to be tons of college students home for the summer.
“I talked to a very good friend of mine who was a rising junior,” says Laura, an HC campus correspondent from Virginia Tech. “Listening to her tell me about her freshman year and everything she went through really put things into perspective that it isn’t as bad as you think and you CAN get through it.”
Even if you don’t have close friends who are in college, there are still plenty of people you can talk to—friends of your older siblings, people who were in the school musical with you or played on the same sports team, etc. If you work a summer job, there are probably college kids lurking around somewhere—see if you can start up a conversation with them while you’re scooping ice cream or on break.
These students are your most reliable resource for what college is really like, from schoolwork to clubs to dining to parties. Remember, though, that every college is different, and that traditions and customs at your friends’ schools won’t necessarily apply to your experience. Just because your friend’s entire school participates in a naked midnight run doesn’t mean you’ll have to do the same!
2. Use your nerves for good
You’re nervous, and that anxious energy can manifest in all kinds of unhealthy ways—overeating, not eating, crying, etc. Instead of letting yourself get worked up into a nervous wreck, put your energy into something constructive, like scouring the web for funky dorm furniture or doing research into your school’s student organizations on your school’s website under the “Student Life” tab.
“I moved across the country on my own to go to college, so I was getting very nervous,” says Dylan, an HC Campus Correspondent from William and Mary. “I put all my nervous energy into packing—researching packing list recommendations, frequently visiting Bed Bath & Beyond, and looking around online for dorm decorating ideas. It made me feel like I had a better handle on the whole transition.”
Doing research into your school will not only make you feel more prepared, but will also help you get excited about college. You might even learn something you never knew about your school, like that they have an amazing kickboxing club or that one of their professors wrote your high school history textbook!
Looking for other great ways to channel your nerves? Work on a project you’ve been meaning to get to for a while, like organizing your DVD collection or starting a blog. If your school requires summer work, try to focus on that, and do it to the best of your ability. Exercise is also a great way to get rid of nerves, so channel your anxiety into finding a cool new workout and giving it a try!
3. Make a plan
Make some concrete plans for the first week of school. Your school is sure to have a huge activities fair, so plan to ask your roommate to go with you. Make a promise to yourself to sign up for as many organizations as possible so that you’ll immediately have plenty of things to do and people to meet around campus.
“If you and your friends are bored one night, maybe you WILL decide to go to that Rugby Club party or Mock Trial Cookout,” says Ashley Millhouse, a campus correspondent from Wake Forest University. “College is all about meeting all kinds of people and you won't find them unless you force yourself to get out of your room and try as many things as possible.”
(For info about some cool and weird college clubs, check out this HC article.)
4. Actively get back into “school mode”
You may be totally fine with the social aspect of college, but freaking out about academics. Will the classes be too hard? Will the professors be nice? Will I even remember how to do school? HC Contributing writer Ben Kassoy, who recently graduated from Emory University, suggests reviewing old high school notes or textbooks before leaving for college, especially for subjects you know you’ll be taking freshman year. It’ll get you back into a “school” frame of mind, remind you how to study and take notes, and make you glad that you’re not headed back to high school come fall!
5. Attend orientation and other school-related events
Go to orientation, even if it isn’t required. At orientation you can get a feel for campus, see all the great organizations that your school offers and make some new friends, all before the scary sophomores, juniors and seniors get there! Many schools also offer a chance to meet with an adviser, so if you’re worrying about what classes to take, they’ll be there to help you figure out what classes best fit your interests and aspirations.
Some schools also plan other summer events, like meet-ups and picnics in specific cities. If possible, attend one of these. You’ll get to meet some of your future classmates, and these events are full of alumni and current students just waiting to tell you how amazing your new school is! You’ll usually receive an email or card if one of these events is happening near you, but you can also search for your school’s alumni association and contact them.
6. “Meet” your future friends
If it’s not possible to meet your classmates in person, go on your school’s Facebook group and add to the conversation. You’re not really “meeting” these people through Facebook, but it’ll make you feel like a part of your college class. And through reading the posts you’ll realize that the other students are just as nervous as you are!
These groups are also a great place to ask and answer questions about your school. Freaking out about the online Spanish placement exam? I was (I thought I had missed my chance to take it completely) until I asked on my school’s Facebook group and found out it wouldn’t even be online for another week! To learn more about being a social-media-savvy pre-collegiette™, check out this HC article on Facebook etiquette.
7. Learn the skills for living away from home
Another way to turn your nerves into productivity is to bond while still getting ready for college. Nervous about those housekeeping tasks you’ll have to do for yourself once you get to school? Ask your mom to help you wash and fold a load of laundry, or get some friends together to cook a simple meal. You’ll be much better educated in those living-on-your-own chores, and you may have some great quality bonding time!
8. Figure out what you’re nervous about and answer each fear
Though it may just feel like an overwhelming wave of panic, there are some specific parts of college life that you’re worried about—and in reality, most of your fears probably don’t make much sense. Maybe you’re an absolute pro at introducing yourself to complete strangers, but you’re still freaking out about the college party scene. Or maybe you’ve always been at the top of the class, and you’re worried college classes will make your grades drop. Pin down these specific fears and refute them. For example:
- Fear: I’m afraid that I’ll be awkward with the other people in my dorm, and they won’t want to be friends with me.
- Answer: Last year at my summer job I made tons of new friends, and I’m still in touch with them! I’m awesome!
(Check out this list for more inspiration.)
9. Find the humor
Remember in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban when the students got rid of a Boggart (which would take the shape of the thing the student most feared) by turning what they found scary into something hilarious? Humor is a great way to get past something that freaks you out because it forces you to look at the situation in a whole new way. Watch funny college movies, talk to relatives and friends about their funniest college experiences, even make stupid jokes about the size of your suitcase—I guarantee you’ll be feeling less doom-and-gloom in no time.
10. Put it all in perspective
You may not feel like you’re ready, but you are. You’re a smart, savvy collegiette™ who’s ready to take on the world. And remember, you go to college to get an education—not just from books but also from friends, experiences, and yes, even mistakes. It’s normal to feel nervous, but know that you’re going to be just fine. If you don’t believe it, take this advice from former HC campus correspondent Jenna Hoops, who attends the University of Maine:
“I think some of the best advice I ever received was that although it seems like everything is changing when you leave for college, in no time at all you will feel at home there and a new 'norm' will be in place. Change is hard because it takes time to feel comfortable and adjusted into a new routine but everyone in college is going through the same transition and is looking for friends and study buddies so there is no need to feel out of place. As I go into my senior year I am just as nervous for the new norm of post-college life as I was going into college. Your jitters will go away once you realize you are about to have the best four years of your life!’