Intersection of Life and Faith

7 Things Students MUST Know before College

  • Liberty University Sponsored Article
  • 2015 31 Aug
7 Things Students MUST Know before College

The day has finally come. 

The minivan is loaded and there's a bare room in your house where once dwelt a messy teenager. It's time for college. And whether it's your oldest or the very last one to kick out of the nest, moving to college is a huge and daunting change!

According to Dr. Emily Heady, Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education at Liberty University, there are several tips your freshman needs to know before you give him or her the last tearful goodbye and part ways ‘til Thanksgiving break.

1. Know How to Eat Properly

Just because you've signed little Johnny up for the cafeteria meal plan doesn't mean he's prepared to nourish himself like an adult. Here is some training to give any child leaving home for the first time:

  • Make sure your teen knows the life-giving power of fruits & veggies. Opting for burgers and cereal might be fun for a few days, but eventually, vitamin deficiency will lead to poor performance in class and low energy levels!
  • More isn’t always better. You've heard of the Freshman 15, right? Eat when you’re hungry, not because you’re bored.
  • Basic cooking skills won't hurt. This is especially true for students living off-campus or in dorms with kitchens. Shopping & cooking for yourself for the first time can be challenging, but even a basic knowledge of how to make pasta, a simple stir fry, or a fruit smoothie will take a hungry student a long way.
  • Always have a back-up plan. Many campus cafeterias and cafes close at certain hours, and it can be hard to keep track. For late nights of homework or hanging out, make sure to keep granola bars or fruit in your dorm or backpack. Don’t get caught with a growling stomach at midnight wandering around campus desperate for something to eat!

2. Know How to Clean

On move-in day, most freshman are giddy with newfound freedom and friends. Their parents may have shoved a bottle of Clorox or Mr. Clean under the sink, but we all know those will go untouched. That is, at least, until that dreaded time... room inspection. But instead of waiting until the last minute to try and eliminate dirty laundry and rings in the tub, get in good cleaning habits now. 

And inspection isn’t the only reason to cultivate good habits. Proper food storage is necessary to avoid spoilage and waste. Good hygiene and doing laundry is about health and sanitation. According to Dr. Heady, “A clean space is usually also an organized space—which contributes to all sorts of good things, like an easier time meeting deadlines.”

3. Know the Rules of the School

This might seem like a no-brainer, but freshman fail to consider this one time and time again. Parents, if you and your student have decided on a particular college, be aware that each one has unique Laws of the Land by which your precious darling must abide, or risk fines and even expulsion. This is especially the case if the school in question is a private or Christian university, where there are often rules on chapel attendance, student relationships, dress code, curfew, and behavior.

A good way to get a start on the right foot is to look over the handbook before even setting foot on campus (most are accessible online or can be emailed to students). Are certain objects forbidden from dorm rooms? Don’t bring them on move-in day. Is your attendance required certain days of the week for convocation, chapel, or another mandatory meeting? Put alarms on your phone to make sure you don’t miss it.

Dr. Heady explains it this way: “Rules are a basic way that we have of living together in community...this is our way of living together peacefully and without having to spend a lot of time negotiating how we should interact.”

4. Money: Budgets and Priorities are Essential

Money is the easiest way to chart our priorities. I've seen way too many college friends flounder financially because they never learned that - or even the simple values of spending, saving, and budgeting. Here are a few moneywise tips you'll want to drill into your student before handing her a credit card.

  • Set a practical budget to follow. How much can you afford to spend on food, gas, etc every week? 
  • Set a FUN budget too! Your teen is definitely going to have impulse nights of mini-golf adventures, cookie-binging, and other shenanigans. So go ahead and set aside a weekly “blow it” category in the budget. 
  • Get a job! If your student needs or wants to hold an outside job in college, usually universities and nearby businesses have plenty of open positions. Whether it’s the library, the admissions office, or the local Chick-Fil-A, employment will teach your student a ton about time management and personal responsibility.

Finally, keep in mind - what is your budget saying about your values? Are you making space for generosity in your budget, giving to church or charities? When you take a hard look at your last month's spending as compared to your goals and moral values, you may find a readjustment is in order! 

5.  Roommates are Hard Work

Even if you instantly hit it off with your new roommate, or you're already friends before moving in, living with someone is really challenging no matter what. So be prepared. Talk about chores, responsibilities, and expectations right off the bat. Talk about how to resolve conflict before conflict arises. Talk about sharing, asking, morning alarms, bedtimes, guest policies, and shower schedules. But most of all? Have grace and be considerate. A little kindness goes a long way.

6. Community is Important - Stay Plugged In!

It can be so easy to get caught up in the college whirlwind and neglect community. For some students, this will mean partying or hanging out with new friends so much that they neglect to find a strong church or small group. Some teens will become so overwhelmed with homework and projects that they retreat to their room, hardly ever to be seen by a single soul outside of class. Neither extreme is healthy!

Talk with your teen before school starts about their community goals. Every student will have built-in community, like students on their hall and classmates, and every student will have the opportunity to create a chosen community. It’s important to work at getting along with your built-in community, and just as important to create a chosen community that makes you a better, more capable person.

This will look different for every student and every family, and that's okay. There shouldn’t be anything cookie-cutter about the college experience. Every student should, however, have friendship, fellowship, and accountability as they start this new chapter of their lives. 

7. Don’t Give Up!

Freshmen quickly realize that the first year of college is one of the most difficult transitions anyone will have to go through. It’s normal to feel homesick and regretful, and it’s normal to have really terrible days when you don’t want to get out of bed. "Stick it out," Dr. Heady encourages. "If you make it a year, you'll have a much clearer head on your shoulders, and you'll have given yourself a chance to adapt naturally to all the newness."

This also applies to parents who have already farewell’d their freshman. Don't stress out! Be strong from afar, love them like crazy, and be on hand to give advice on homework, laundry emergencies, and relationship blues. Your continued support means the world to them!

Written by Debbie Holloway, who writes, creates, searches and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Sponsored by Liberty University, training champions for Christ since 1971; and Liberty University Online, the largest Christian university in the world with over 200 online programs.


Publication date: August 31, 2015