Big life changes can mean a lot of excitement and also a lot of nervousness. It’s normal to feel both happy and anxious about starting college. Students should know that they’re not alone in these feelings, in 2018, the American College Health Associate found that 63% of college students felt anxiety in the past year. They also found that the biggest increase in feelings of anxiety were during the first year of college. It’s a new experience and there can be a lot of pressure involved. It may be the first time that many students leave home and are surrounded by new people.
So, not only is feeling nervous about college normal, it’s also manageable. For high school students still getting ready for college, here are 5 tips that may help ease the nerves.
Making a List and Packing Early
To lessen anxiety, preparation is key! For students that 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.
Students that are expecting to move to college in August or September may want to start making their list at the beginning of summer. This gives them plenty of time to research what they need and order anything they don’t have.
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 residential life. 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.
There will be some items that students can’t pack early, it would be inconvenient to have to get the toothbrush out of the suitcase every morning, but there are still plenty of things they can begin packing a few weeks in advance.
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.
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 could 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. (Doctors 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 an online school, they will need to develop extra self-discipline and get familiar with online programs like Zoom, if they’re not already. Doing this ahead of time could help minimize the stress of trying to log on the first time.
Developing 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.
Knowing that their parents had similar struggles will help students to feel less alone as well. If parents have coping skills that they use, this could be a good time to educate their children on those and encourage them to practice using them before school starts.
Sometimes, not knowing what to expect can contribute to feelings of anxiety, but this can be minimized by asking questions. One way that students can potentially combat this fear is 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.
Focusing 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 a lot of 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 a lot of 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 blanched view of the experience may help them enter into it with less apprehension.
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. There are multiple options that students can utilize to help cover the cost of their education though.
The FAFSA®, which is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, allows students to apply for federal student aid. This aid can come in the form of grants 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 take out federal grants and loans may benefit from doing so before looking into private student loans. Federal loans come with certain benefits, such as deferment, that private loans do not.
If students are not eligible for federal aid or the aid isn’t enough to cover their costs, applying for scholarships is another option. Scholarships are widely available and the eligibility criteria varies for each scholarship. Some scholarships are need-based whereas some are merit-based. There are usually many scholarships available, offered from a wide variety of sources such as 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 students credit history and income. When considering private student loans, students should remember that each institution will have its own terms for the loans.
It’s recommended to research and compare before choosing an institution. Learning about student loans can be really confusing but SoFi has information made just for high schoolers, so they can start preparing early on.
Whether it’s anxiety about finals, making friends, or paying for tuition, students should keep in mind that these feelings are both normal and manageable. College can be a great life experience as long as students prepare well and ask for help when they need it.
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