Your daughter is going off to college and you’re worried she won’t be prepared to live away from home (though she’d probably beg to differ). The team behind HerCampus.com and The Her Campus Guide to College Life has some simple tips you can offer to help her get the most out of her first dorm experience and have the best freshman year possible.
- Protect your safety and your belongings.
Dorm buildings are usually extremely safe, with security guards and doors that only a student ID can open, but it’s always better to err on the side of caution. Help your daughter look up the numbers of campus escort services and police before she even gets to school, and encourage her not to walk alone after dark. Just in case, have her carry pepper spray, especially at night, and warn her against letting anyone she doesn’t know into her building.
Theft is also pretty common on college campuses, so tell her to be extra careful with her belongings. Have her lock her laptop, phone and any valuables with a passcode, and enable the phone’s geolocation function if it has one. Have her store valuables in a lockbox and be sure to bring her key and ID when she leaves her room.
Dining halls can be overwhelming at first. How do you even handle the endless food options? Many schools have menus online, so have your daughter check them beforehand and get an idea of what she’s going to eat. Planning meals ahead of time will help her avoid getting a little bit of everything. Often, the menus will also include nutrition information so that she can make healthy choices – once she gets sick of pizza, of course.
In college, it’s easy to skip meals or eat at odd times (think late-night study snacks and greasy treats), but ask her to avoid doing so if she can. She should aim to eat a wholesome breakfast every morning and try not to skip meals, which could lead her to snack mindlessly later. Have her stock healthy snacks like trail mix, fresh fruit or Greek yogurt (if she has a mini-fridge) in her dorm room.
Finally, remind her to exercise as regularly as possible. What better time to do this than when she has access to all these complimentary (or super-affordable) facilities? Getting her body moving is also a great way to improve her mood – and her brain function!
Encourage your daughter to reach out to her roommates on social media before school starts, and bond with them once she moves in by hitting the dining hall or welcome week events together. Whether they become best friends or not, they’ll at least have built a positive foundation for living together.
If your daughter has siblings, she already knows that sharing a living space can create friction, however much you love the people with whom you live. The best solution to living in harmony with her roommates is to always communicate. If something is bothering her, encourage her to approach them and explain. They will find a compromise if they work together to fix the problem.
- Be organized so that you can have fun.
A freshman dorm is often a lot of fun, but with so many people around, it can be difficult to get any work done. If your daughter is well organized and gets ahead in her classes, she can join in on that spontaneous hiking trip or dinner on the town without thinking twice about it.
Time management is one of the biggest problems for college students. Once she receives her class syllabi, have her plan out which assignments to do each week so that she can stay on top of her work. Warn her against pulling all-nighters, because they actually make you less productive and will jeopardize her overall health. If she keeps on top of her tasks, she’ll be able to get her work done while staying healthy and having a social life.
- Set a budget.
College students are known for being broke. Make sure your daughter knows exactly how much she can afford to spend, and try to avoid unnecessary expenses such as gourmet coffee (she can brew it herself instead!) or that pair of shoes she can’t walk in, but loves anyway. Set a budget for necessities such as textbooks, living expenses and office supplies, then help her set aside money for vacations, entertainment and shopping.
If she needs to get a job, she could look into becoming a tutor or a Resident Advisor on campus. She could also work in retail or at a restaurant or babysit.
If your daughter follows these guidelines, her college career will be off to a great start. There will be many opportunities for her to make friends, discover what she wants to do with her future, and of course, have the time of her life.
Iris Goldsztajn is a rising senior at UCLA. She was born in France with a British mother and is currently the style and beauty editor, LGBTQ+ editor and an editorial intern for Her Campus (www.hercampus.com), the #1 global community for college women featuring national Style, Beauty, Health Love, Life, Career, LGBTQ+, High School, and Real World content supplemented by local content from 270+ campus chapters nationwide and in seven countries.