5 Tips If You Are Nervous About College

By Brandi Lucey · June 25, 2024 · 7 minute read

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5 Tips If You Are Nervous About College

Big life changes can mean both excitement and nervousness. It’s normal to feel both happy and anxious about starting college. New experiences can introduce a lot of pressure. And it may be the first time that many students leave home and are surrounded by new people.

Not only is feeling nervous about college normal, it’s also manageable. For high school students still getting ready for college, here are five tips that may help ease the nerves.

1. Make a List and Pack Early

To lessen anxiety, preparation for college is key. For students who are planning to live on campus, packing can feel like a monumental task. It’s already stressful to imagine living away from home, and on top of that students don’t want to forget anything important.

One of the best ways to help ensure a smooth transition is to make a list early and start packing ahead of time. When dealing with a large task, it helps to break it down into smaller pieces that are easier to tackle.

For example, students who are nervous for college could break up their packing list into sections like clothing, school supplies, and living essentials. Even just taking the small step of making the lists could ease some of the worries.

Some schools will provide guidelines for packing and lists of items that are prohibited on campus, so it can be worth checking the website or contacting a rep from Residential Life, a program that helps students with on- and off-campus housing. Once students know what they’ll need to purchase, they can go through the items they already have and make a list of which of these are coming with them, and which items are staying behind with Mom and Dad.

Depending on the weather where students are moving to, they can start by packing the clothing they know they won’t need to wear for the next few weeks. If it’s currently warm, start packing up those winter clothes!

This is one task that high school students not ready for college can tackle early on to build some confidence and feelings of preparedness.

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2. Learn About Independent Living

Students who are planning to go away for college should spend time before they go learning what they can about living independently. This can cover a wide range of tasks, such as learning how to cook, how to make a doctor’s appointment, and how to use public transportation. It can help students to work with their parents to make a list of tasks that the students need to get familiar with.

Some ways to get ready for college and living on their own can include:

•   Gathering a list of important phone numbers and addresses and entering them into their phones (doctor’s office, school counselor, roommate, etc.).

•   Making a few simple meals so they feel confident in the kitchen.

•   Practicing household chores like doing laundry and dishes if they don’t already.

If students are nervous about finding their way around campus, it may be helpful to explore the campus before classes start and find their classes.

For students who will be attending online classes, they will need to develop extra self-discipline and get familiar with online programs like Zoom. Doing this ahead of time can help minimize the stress of trying to log on the first time.

Recommended: 11 Strategies for Paying for College and Other Expenses

3. Develop Coping Skills

Students who are feeling nervous or anxious about beginning college can take the time before classes start to develop coping skills that will help them manage those feelings. Setting up a self-care routine that includes taking care of physical and mental health can help students manage the stress of college more easily.

Parents can also get involved in this process by sharing the coping skills that work for them and providing emotional support. Teens who know their parents are supportive are more likely to open up and actually use that support.

Recommended: College Planning Guide for Parents of High School Students

4. Ask Questions

Sometimes, not knowing what to expect can contribute to feelings of anxiety, but this can be minimized by asking questions. Students who have family members that went to college or are currently in college may want to set aside time to chat with them about their experiences.

High school guidance counselors can also be helpful in preparing students for college and easing their nerves.

There may also be an opportunity to go on a campus tour and ask questions there. High school students nervous about college may also benefit from attending their college’s orientation, so they show up on their first week prepared. Asking questions from others who’ve been to college will take away some of the scary mystery of the experience and may increase feelings of preparedness for high schoolers.

5. Focus on the Positives

Is college going to be tough? Of course! The classes will be more intense than high school level classes, and there will certainly be an adjustment period. In addition to these things, though, there are also numerous positives. College will give students opportunities to meet new people, learn about themselves, and have fun!

Some students may be overwhelmed at first at the prospect of making friends on a large campus, but there are many clubs and organizations that students can join. Getting involved in extracurricular activities can help students to form friendships and build a support system that may make their college experience more positive.

It may be a challenging four years, with adjusting to adult life and tackling finals every semester, but college can also be fun. High schoolers can help ease their nerves by embracing this aspect of college as well. Having a more realistic and balanced view of the experience may help them enter into it with less apprehension.

💡 Quick Tip: Need a private student loan to cover your school bills? Because approval for a private student loan is based on creditworthiness, a cosigner may help a student get loan approval and a lower rate.

Paying For College

Another source of anxiety when it comes to preparing for college is the finances. College can be expensive, and figuring out how to pay for tuition, books, and living expenses is a confusing process. Luckily, there are multiple options that students can utilize to help cover the cost of their education.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) allows students to apply for federal student aid. This aid can come in the form of scholarships, grants, work-study, or federal student loans. Grants from the government usually do not need to be repaid, whereas loans do need to be repaid.

Students who are eligible to take out federal loans may benefit from doing so before looking into private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits, such as deferment and income-based repayment plans, that private loans may not.

If students are not eligible for federal aid or the aid isn’t enough to cover their costs, applying for additional scholarships is one option. Scholarships are widely available and the eligibility criteria varies for each scholarship. Some scholarships are need-based, whereas some are merit-based. Scholarships are offered by schools, private corporations, community organizations, religious groups, and more.

Taking out private student loans is another option for helping to fund a college education. The eligibility for private loans will usually depend on a student’s (or cosigner’s) credit history and income. When considering private student loans, students should remember that each institution will have its own terms for the loans.

The Takeaway

It’s normal to be nervous about attending college. To help settle your nerves, you can make a list of all the essentials you’ll need, learn about living independently, develop coping skills, ask questions, and focus on the positive aspects of attending college.

If finances are stressing you out, you have options, too. You can work a part-time job to help cover expenses, apply for grants and scholarships, and rely on federal and private student loans. It’s recommended to take out federal loans first, as they come with borrower protections that private student loans do not.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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