An extra toothbrush. Check! Enough underwear to go a month without doing wash. Oh yeah. A bedspread carefully coordinated to compliment your roommate’s? Well, maybe not. In any case, your bags are packed, the family van is heaving under all the weight, and you can’t wait to start a new, exciting phase of your life.
But along with all the material items you’re bringing, don’t forget to prepare for the emotional and interpersonal chances and challenges awaiting you.
Free condoms– and a heckuva lot of information! Visit your campus health center, ask questions (“Do they provide emergency contraception? What types of medical services do they offer? Do they have the HPV vaccine at a reduced price for students?”) and pick up fun freebies. Stockpile– and read– those colorful flyers on everything from conscientious alcohol consumption (assuming you’re of age) to the meaning of and how to prevent HPV (and HSV and HIV, etc.) Become the unofficial go-to girl or guy on the hall when it comes to sex ed and safer sex. Look into what (free) counseling services your university has to offer, and don't just stop there.
Ask your resident advisor to plan an activity on stress reduction or time management. Get to know the names of some public safety officers, and see if they have self-defense classes or a night taxi service for women. Be extra nice to the cleaning and maintenance staff– they have to clean up everyone's messes! Hit up the gym (especially that Olympic-sized pool!) with a friend or sign up for phys ed classes. See what healthy options the dining halls have and give food services feedback. Attend those night lectures with activists, academics and athletes. (And tour the library right away so you know exactly how to find the necessary information for that research paper all-nighter.) Regardless if you're attending the local community college or a big-name university across the country (or globe!), there are services available to you. After all, your tuition and/or taxes are paying for them, so why not put them to good use?
Let your fingers– and your feet– do the walkin’. Social networking websites can be quick ways to make contacts, but don’t forget the more traditional, tried and true ways of making friends: hanging out with hallmates, chatting with classmates, and checking out clubs. And regardless of how peachy things with your roommate seem at first, take the time to fill out and discuss that roommate agreement.
College can be a great time to not only expand your brain but also explore your independence. You can start friendships, try dating and pursue relationships, as well as explore your sexuality– have a blast! Just be prepared for the bumps, because knowledge really is power, in all aspects of your life. Here at Scarleteen, you’ve already taken that first step.