You’re going off to college soon, and there’s still so much to learn. In celebration of Mother’s Day, we thought it’d be fun to write an advice column from the perspective of a mom. For current KD students, we hope this inspires you to ask your mom, grandmother, or someone who has been like a mom to you for their list of tips and tricks before you head off to college. Make memories while you can because high school won’t last forever!
Advice From Mom: 15 Things to Know When Heading Off to College
1. Laundry isn’t rocket science
Not all washing machines are created equal, especially those found in a laundromat. Soon you will lose access to the top-of-the-line appliances. Make sure you wash everything inside out. Flipping your clothes inside out will prevent dryer holes from the rough tumble of 30-year-old university machines. And don’t forget to separate your lights and darks. Yes, it really does matter!
Since you’ve never done your own laundry, you might want to start with a small “trial” load that doesn’t contain any of your favorite t-shirts. You might shrink a few sweaters and dye a few of your whites, but you’ll get the hang of it.
2. Savor your shower time
Your days of 30-minute showers and using all the hot water are numbered. In fact, good luck if you get a hot shower even once in college. If you thought sharing a bathroom with your siblings was bad, just wait until you’re sharing a bathroom with dorm mates. Using shower steamers and essential oils may help make the communal shower system a little more glamorous. And remember, you’ll always have a long, hot shower waiting when you come home. (You will visit, right?)
3. Always keep peanut butter and bread on standby
In college, you might think the food hall will be enough to satisfy your unending appetite. But eventually there will be a week when you get tired of pizza or meatloaf. Or worse, you get to the cafeteria after dinner hours have ended. That’s why it’s always a good idea to keep some peanut butter, jelly, and a loaf of bread in your dorm for “emergencies,” the days you don’t feel like going out and the nights you need a midnight snack. College will be stressful enough without adding an empty stomach to the mix.
4. You’re not invincible
While I understand that your young immune system can endure a lot, it’s not bulletproof. Make sure you keep yourself hydrated and healthy. Take something for a headache when you need it, put a bandage on your cuts, and keep yourself rested. College dorms can be a cesspool for germs, so just try and take care of yourself, okay?
5. Learn how to make your favorite meals
The secret ingredient is mustard. You know grandma’s notorious pasta recipe—the parmesan rigatoni with spinach, chicken, and sun dried tomatoes that’s been in our family for generations? It’s always been your favorite. I think it’s time that I tell you the secret ingredient. It’s dijon mustard. When you’re melting down the parmesan, throw in a spoonful of dijon mustard – not too much, but not too little. Add just a dollop. If you share this family secret with anyone I’ll write you out of the will.
As you count down the days until you leave, remember that now’s the time to learn how to cook your favorites. If there’s anything you want to learn how to make, just ask.
6. Make lists!
Now that you’ll be responsible for buying your own groceries, always make a list. Never go to the store hungry—you’ll spend your monthly budget in one trip. And remember, you like the bread with the brown label, not the yellow. If you’re making your own meals, be sure to keep eggs, milk and fruit on your grocery list every single week. And keep an eye out for what’s on sale!
Lists will also come in handy when it comes to keeping things clean and organized. School comes first, but when you have a free couple of hours, add tidying up to your to-do list. Remember to wash your sheets and towels, dust your desk, and sweep/vacuum your room. Keeping things clean and organized will help you feel accomplished.
7. Step outside your comfort zone
College is going to be a big change for you. You won’t have your usual friends to lean on, but you will be surrounded by people who will become your friends. But don’t wait for them to find you—go find them. Join every club and student organization that you can. Go to every dormitory social and say ”Hi” to the kids you sit next to in lectures. Know that everybody your age feels the exact same way. Everyone’s a little bit scared, and everyone could use a friend. Be a friend and you’ll find friends.
8. Build connections
It’s both what you know and who you know. College is a crucial time in paving your career. You and your peers will be future change-makers. Build your connections now. Connect with professors who believe in you and have existing networks in the professional world. Bond with your peers. You never know who you might be working with (and for) someday. The relationships you build in college can serve you well for the rest of your life.
If you want teachers or classmates to remember you, one of the best things you can do is participate in class. And by the way—go to class! Do your best to make it to every class, then participate. Most importantly, pull your weight in group projects! Trust me—this is a big one!
9. Your best will always be good enough
You are going to have hard days. You’re going to have days when you don’t want to go to class, you don’t want to study, or you don’t want to do homework. I understand. Take a breather, ground yourself, and get back up and try again. Your best is going to look different every day. Sometimes your best is going to be acing a test, and sometimes it’s going to be squeezing by with a passing grade. No matter what your best looks like, just remember to never give up on your dreams.
10. Your heart is your compass
Not everyone has had the same blessings you’ve been given. If you see someone struggling, is there anything you can do to help? Give when you have more than is needed. Show compassion to those who are hurting. And volunteer for the causes you care about. Explore the goodness in you and let your heart help you find your purpose.
11. Remember your roots
College is going to be fun. You’re going to have a ton of new friends, your schedule will be jam packed, and your life is going to be very exciting. You’ll learn about the world and hear different perspectives that will sharpen your own opinions. But while you’re caught up in the exciting parts of the experience, don’t forget the people who helped you get there. Keep in contact with old friends, check in with your grandparents, call your mother, and remember who you are. You’re in a pivotal moment in life, so change is inevitable. Just make sure you change for the better.
12. Failure is the key to success
You’re not perfect, and you don’t have to be perfect. Embrace your failures—it’s the only way to get better. You must experience the lows so you can appreciate the highs. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes—fear will only hold you back. Learn to laugh at yourself. And if you approach every situation as a learning opportunity, you’ll never truly fail.
13. Time is a treasure
Life only gets more busy from here, so learn how to use your time wisely. Procrastination is the enemy. It will steal your peace of mind and bring chaos to your life. Be smart. Plan ahead. Invest in a calendar or school planner. Study when you can and find ways to reward yourself. Put school before your social life—Okay, I know you’ve heard this all before. Just promise me that you’ll try to find a healthy balance between the two.
14. Pick up the phone
Even if it’s just a simple text, remember that short updates go a long way. I’m your mom. I’m supposed to worry about you. It’s my job. Check in with me when you can. I love you, I care about you, and I want to know how you’re doing. Call me when you need help, when you’re excited about something good, or when you just need someone to talk to. I’m always here for you.
15. You always have a home
You’re going to have bad days. Sometimes things are going to be hard. You’re going to have fights with your roommate. You might do poorly on a test. And sometimes, you’re going to want to quit. On your worst day, find comfort in knowing that you always have a place to call home. And that you’re loved and are never alone. The door is always open.
A special shoutout to all the hardworking moms out there shaping our future generations! Your love, acts of service, and life lessons have a tremendous impact. And for those who are remembering Mom today, find joy as you reflect on her memory and ongoing influence in your life.