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How To Survive College: According to My Mom

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

I’m sure you’ve heard horror stories about a friend or relative’s experience during their freshman year of college, myself included. While you can’t always avoid a lousy roommate or a smelly dorm, I spoke with my mom about learning how to survive college. Her tips may not be 100% foolproof, but hopefully, you’ll be able to learn something!

You’ve had two kids go through college now, so you’re a pro. Following this experience, what is the number one thing you recommend for students to learn before coming to campus?

“Knowing how to do laundry! I wanted you to know how to do laundry so you wouldn’t bring it home for me to do during Thanksgiving break. I also didn’t want you to ruin all the nice clothes I’ve bought for you over the years! Communication is another big thing. Not everyone has shared a room or space with someone before, so learning the right way to communicate with your roommate(s) is a necessity.”

Can you elaborate on the importance of communication?

“Having an open line of communication with your roommate is essential to keeping drama out of your dorm. I like to follow the positive negative positive rule; point out something you like about them or something great that they do, and then bring up what’s bothering you or what you need, to be honest about, and then provide a positive solution so you’re not just coming to them with something negative. I know that being honest can be difficult, but you also have to develop a thicker skin if your roommate is honest with you too.”

I wish I had used the positive-negative-positive rule freshman year! You previously mentioned laundry. Can you expand on that? 

“For those who don’t know where to start when it comes to laundry, learning how to sort your clothes into the right pile and familiarizing yourself with the different settings on a washer and dryer are two of the most important things. Many kids don’t realize that you can overload the washer because a large load being washed all at once can break the washer. Also, the dreaded pink underwear can wreak havoc on your white clothes. Another important tip is making sure you know how to fold clothes. I love you, Claudia, but you’re known for putting clean clothes in a corner and leaving them there for a week.”

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Besides laundry and making fun of me, what are some other tips and tricks that you can offer up?

“Stock your pantry with essentials. I know that buying groceries as a college student can be either fun or daunting; it could be your first time going grocery shopping without your parents, which can be scary, while others are excited because they can buy whatever they want without their parents yelling at them.” 

What are some good pantry and fridge essentials? 

“Please buy real groceries! You don’t have to spend a lot of money on “real groceries.” I’m talking salt, pepper, olive oil and other seasonings you like. From what you told me about the dining hall food, I would carry a little bottle of seasonings. Butter, milk, cereal and a loaf of bread are good essentials too. A little bag of shredded cheese is always nice because you can add it to scrambled eggs. If you have access to more than a mini fridge, having chicken and ground beef are good staples. Then, if you want to get fancy and get some iron, buying a bag of baby spinach is nice for an omelet. I know college kids might still hate vegetables, but buying a bag of spring mix or your favorite fresh fruit is nice, and I’m sure your parents would be thrilled to hear that you’re not just eating ramen.”

BTW: If you want to buy more than just salt and pepper, try Penzey’s Spices in Carytown, my mom LOVES their Sunny Paris seasoning.

Knowing how to do laundry and stock a fridge is cool, but do you have any tips about less obvious things?

“To anyone reading this, Google a tutorial about properly addressing an envelope. Knowing how to address an envelope is necessary if you never know when you might need to send an important document home or if you want to send a thank you note for a birthday or holiday gift.”

I didn’t think you were going to go there! So, in addition to sending proper postage, what’s another *crucial* tip for college students?

“Not everyone is taught how to hand wash dishes properly. Not every dorm/student housing unit has a dishwasher or a kitchen, but knowing how to hand wash dishes is essential to staying tidy. College kids are on a budget, but you can buy some cheap dish soap and a sponge from Dollar Tree. If you’re fortunate enough to have a bathroom sink or stand-alone sink in your dorm room, I highly recommend using that sink to handwash any dishes you bring. Also, please disinfect the bathroom sink before washing dishes to prevent cross-contamination.”

Do you have any final tips for any confused college students reading this?

“Please learn how to remove Command Strips from the wall properly. I remember seeing the large spots on the wall when we moved you out freshman year because you ripped the Command Strips off the wall. Also, please use elevator etiquette. Many people forget elevator etiquette. You lived in GRC freshman year, and those elevators were always full, so knowing the right etiquette for that situation is key. The people getting off the elevator have the right-of-way, so allow them to get off and proceed. Not everyone does this, but it’s nice to ask someone which floor they’re going to, so you can press the button if you’re closest.”

Thank you for answering my FaceTime call so that I could interview you. Do you have any last words of encouragement? 

“I figure that if a kid can do these things, then it’s a good springboard to expand on each category, such as learning how to cook the eggs you just stocked your fridge with or doing multiple loads of laundry on the correct setting each time.”

Claudia Stewart is currently a senior at VCU, majoring in fashion merchandising with a minor in art history. She enjoys watching rom-coms, baking double chocolate chip cookies with her roommate, and finding the best spot for sushi in her free time. Stewart loves writing about pop culture, fashion, and beauty.