Are you ready for college? In just two months, we start another academic year at Columbia!
For some of you, this will be your first college experience. For others, this is your first experience at Columbia. And as you make your lists in preparation (you can also refer to a previous post of mine about what I think you’ll want to bring), we have also been making a new list for you.
I call it, “what we wish you knew before coming to Columbia!”
While bringing the right things to college can be helpful, I find that there are some, let’s call them life skills, which will help you out even more.
So without further ado…
#1. Email is still “so 2019”.
Look, I understand that on the daily, you might be more accustomed to using methods of communication other than email. It feels too “formal”, right? Well, there’s a reason for that. It is formal. It is still the main mode of communication that organizations use to share personal information with you (because honestly, we aren’t going to create a separate Instagram story to notify each one of you about your account balance owing…and you wouldn’t want us to).
So, here’s what I would advise: Check. Your. Email. (Seriously).
Get into the habit now, before school starts, of checking your email daily. It is how we will communicate with you, and we don’t accept “I didn’t check my email” as an excuse for why your scholarship application is late/homework isn’t handed in/bill isn’t paid on time.
Pro tip: Do your emails sound professional? Do they sound different than something you would text a friend? This is a good time to review and evaluate whether or not your “email etiquette” is up to speed. (And trust us, this will help you, not only for your time at Columbia, but also for future employment…because even though technology is advancing, we really can’t picture your boss communicating only via snapchat…at least not yet).
#2. Sleep makes you a better person.
Yes, there will be those nights: the ones that include Timmy’s runs at 2am, or possibly an occasional *all-nighter to complete that paper (*not endorsed by Columbia Bible College as a wise decision). It’s all part of the college experience, right?
Well, here’s the thing that the movies don’t show you: the healthiest college students typically get sleep. We’re talking a solid 8 hours per night. And ideally between 11pm and 7am…not 4am and noon.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been sitting with a student who is struggling, and at some point we together realize that this person has not been sleeping. While this isn’t always in your control, and not always the root of struggle, it does not hurt to try your best to get a solid, regular sleep schedule going! (Your roommates will thank you).
#3. There are no bells here.
One of the things I remember having to get used to my first few weeks of college, was the absence of bells! I realized I had gotten so used to following the sound, which in high school signaled it was time to do the next thing.
When you transition to college life, you quickly learn you have loads of time in between classes (depending on your schedule), and it can feel like the world is your oyster…until you realize how many books you are supposed to read, and how many pages you need to write in those hours.
And if you decide to take on a job as well? This adds to the scheduling stress! But it is possible to do this well.
My best advice is to get accustomed to using a planner (whether paper or electronic). It will help you get your due dates organized, as well as schedule in hours for homework, shift work, and visits with friends or family. No need to wait until September to start organizing yourself if you don’t already!
#4. You signed something.
Whether you remember it or not, when you applied to come to Columbia, you agreed to the conditions of the Student Handbook. (Remember that thing?)
I can always tell within the first week or two, those who have definitely never read the handbook. They are the ones who show up to school with a tarantula (true story; ask me about it sometime).
This handbook is full of information designed to help all of us live together well. We don’t make the rules just for the sake of having rules; we truly believe that these things will keep us healthy as a community. And yes, it means you *might have to leave the air soft gun at home (*actually, it TRULY means that. Check out page 15.), which is for the benefit of everyone.
#5. Vegetables keep you alive.
There’s a reason your mom made you eat your broccoli. And it wasn’t because she needed revenge for stepping on your lego.
Our bodies need vitamins! Vitamins keep us healthy! Health helps our brains! And when you’re spending so much time listening, reading and writing, your brain needs all the help it can get.
I once had a commuter student, who lived with a bunch of guys off campus, tell me he had been struggling with sickness off and on for a few weeks, and was trying to figure out why he couldn’t get better. As we started talking about what he was eating, I quickly realized almost his entire menu consisted of macaroni and cheese from a box.
It’s about vegetables people. They do wonders.
#6. Commercials about cleaning products are misleading.
There are very few people in the world who truly love the act of cleaning. We all love clean space…but the job of getting it clean is not our favourite. Which is why companies keep trying to convince us that if we buy their product, we barely need to lift a finger! Just spray and walk away! Leave it for two months and spray this product, and you won’t even smell it anymore!
If you have not already figured it out, let me be the first to break it to you:
You still need to clean.
Clean space means (a) you stay healthy, (b) you enjoy your home, and (c) you are less likely to argue with your roommates. Oh and (d) you have a fighting chance of getting your damage deposit back at the end of the year!
#7. Telling me you’re broke, while holding Starbucks, means you’re probably not broke.
When you come to college, you are definitely on limited resources (this exact amount varies from person to person). It is a huge investment to do higher education, and highly important to understand how to best allocate your resources.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with treats, but if you decide you can’t pay for, let’s say, food and rent, but then buy a $200 ticket to go to a concert with friends, it might signal a problem with your financial planning.
Finding a way to budget and track your spending is a fantastic way to make sure you are covering the necessities, while also aware of what else you can take on (i.e. spontaneous surf trip to the Oregon coast – possible? New pair of jeans after yours ripped during a tackle football game in the back field – possible?)
Ensuring you truly know how much college is going to cost is also crucial. It is not abnormal for someone to show up to school and not realize how much their tuition is going to cost. Sit down and take a look at your costs, your resources for income, and make a plan!
#8. Jesus loves you more.
Starting something new is both incredibly exciting and challenging. As you read over this list, you might be feeling ready to take on this new season of college life, while equally terrified that you’re not ready.
Jesus has you.
My hope is that as you read over this post, you identify some areas that need some sharpening (and I’ve added a handy dandy checklist at the end so you can quiz yourself on how ready you are)…but at the end of the day, what is most important, is that you know you are loved by a Saviour, our Shepherd, who is leading you.
May I encourage you to spend time with Him as you prepare. Ask Him to show you the areas that need to be addressed in anticipation of your upcoming semester at Columbia. I am confident He will respond; He loves you more than you can even imagine.
We are excited to meet you, and begin a journey with you here at Columbia.
May you be blessed as you prepare!
Handy-Dandy College Life Skills Checklist:
▢ I know how to check my bank balance online
▢ I currently have a budget and track my expenses regularly
▢ I know how to remove a stain from my clothes before washing
▢ I have read over the student handbook and know the expectations and college rules
▢ I can cook a simple meal (and it includes vegetables!)
▢ I know which cards I would need to bring to the doctor, if I needed to go (and I have them in my wallet)
▢ I know how to check the oil in my car (and I know what type of oil to buy, and how to refill it if it is low)
▢ I currently have a healthy sleep schedule (which means I get somewhere around 8 hours of sleep most nights)
▢ I know how to send a professional email to someone that works at the college (and it sounds nothing like the texts I send to my friends)
▢ I regularly clean my bathroom
▢ I know how much money I can spend each month on food
▢ I know how often to wash my sheets
▢ I wash my own dishes (and put them back where they belong)
▢ I know how much money I can spend each month on outings with friends
▢ I know how to read the labels on my clothes to know whether or not they can go in the dryer
▢ I can spend time without my phone (and not feel panicky!)
▢ I use a calendar to track meetings, appointments, and time spent with people
▢ I know how to properly clean and bandage a cut or scrape
▢ I know what is considered appropriate to wear to class and to the cafeteria
▢ I have memorized my “in case of emergency” phone numbers (they are not just programmed on my phone)
If you scored:
20/20 – Fantastic! You are above and beyond ready for college life!
15 to 19/20 – Well done! You are on the right track…figure out how to brush up on the things you don’t yet practice or know!
11 to 14/20 – You’re getting there! Take a look over the list, and make a goal of working on 3 or 4 of these things so that you are more ready for September!
0 to 10/20 – Don’t worry! You have time to still find out more, and start establishing some good habits. Bring this list to your parents/friends/mentors/teachers/etc. and ask for some help in finding out the answers or establishing some new practices. You’ve got this!
Kathleen Doll is Columbia’s Associate Dean of Students and Co-Program Director for Applied Leadership.