Conversations to have before College (Part 1)

An important time in the life of a young person is when they head off to college.  The years between 18-25 have been called “critical years” because during this time many life-forming decisions will be made. Students attending college have more questions than answers and can benefit from a clear sense of what to expect before they get there.   Conversations like the following can help alleviate anxiety caused by this transition.

We’ve done a little research on some important conversations that a young person needs to have before they head off to college.  And we’ve added a few more from our own experience:

Have a conversation with yourself.  Take a look at yourself in the mirror and ask hard personal questions about the next four years.  Being on your own is a challenge unto itself. Never mind the studying with which you’ll be responsible for initiating and keeping up.  You will be responsible for your free time, too.  How are you going to spend that?  What kind of person are you going to be while in college?  Are you going to be so different than what you have been up until now?  What character traits are most important to you?  Chances are you’ll need to remind yourself of these from time to time.  While you are technically considered an adult, your brain is still developing so you’re not quite there.  The part of your brain that is still developing is the one that can discern situations and make decisions.  You may not make the best of decisions every time, but how you recover from those situations is what will help strengthen your character.  You may get hurt from your decisions, but that will cultivate a fortitude which will eventually make you stronger.

Speaking of the whole reason you’re at college, remember to keep academics at the center of your college experience.  What do you hope to accomplish through the area of study you’ve chosen?  What do you hope to accomplish through the individual classes you’ve chosen?  Get to know your professors beyond an emailing/texting relationship; they want to get to know you and they want to genuinely help.  Pay attention to your study habits and find what suits you best.  Develop those study habits early and they will carry you through the four (or more) years successfully.

Have a conversation with your parents.  You’ll be changing a lot while you’re in college!  It will be productive for you on the home front to know your parents’ thoughts and hopes for you while you’re in college.  And, maybe, what their plans are while you’re away.  When you’re back home for a “visit,” what are some of their expectations of you?  Will you have a curfew?  Will you be expected to have family time?  Can you bring home a mound of laundry?

Seek advice from someone you know and trust who is 20 years removed from college.  And it would be best if this person isn’t one of your parents.  Hearing from someone who has “gone before” will help you to make the most of your own college experience.  Ask him or her a few questions:  What did you value most and least about your college experience? What would you have done differently?  What were the most important things you learned while in college?  What were the biggest challenges you faced?  Also, ask him or her what they have observed in your life and based on that, what are their concerns for you?  What does he or she think are your strengths and weaknesses?

Check back in with us next week to read the second half of the blog and learn about a few more conversations you should have before starting college.