8 Tips for New College Students Away From Home

President Obama urges new college students to phone home.

Posted Sep 08, 2018

In a September 7 speech at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, former President Barack Obama, while offering a withering attack on Republicans, slipped in a message to students: phone (or text) home.  He was reflecting on his own pain of separation from his daughter who is now a college student.  Here are eight tips for navigating the first month of college if living away from home.

1. Follow President Obama's advice. You do not have to call or text or email everyday but keep your parent(s) in the loop about your life.  Keep it as personal as you feel comfortable.  You are establishing a new relationship with them and they with you, so consider how you want this to go. Accept that there may be some miscommunication between you and those at home. Establishing a long distance relationship may be new for you both and communication can be misinterpreted, especially if one of the parties is in the middle of something else when a call comes in.  This advice also applies to your siblings (at home or elsewhere).  Remember that younger siblings at home may need you as a touchstone more, now that you have moved out.

2. Follow all the standard advice about your own health.  Get enough sleep, eat nutritionally, exercise, and avoid excesses in recreational activities.

3. Make new friends. Reach out to people living near you. Find activities you like on campus and get involved in them—this is a great way to make friends around your interests.

4. Keep in touch with old friends. You need them and they need you, but remember Tip #3.

5. Be aware that roommates are rarely on the same page about sleep patterns, study habits, and tidiness.  Roommates also rarely have the exact same needs for socializing with each other.  You WILL have to accommodate to each other.

6. Get into a study routine. Find a quiet place to work and keep a schedule that works for you both academically and socially.  If you find yourself struggling academically, contact your professors and other campus support services. Use campus support services if you are struggling emotionally. That is why they are there.

7. Explore the surrounding community.  The local community most likely has a lot to offer and gives you a chance to learn more about the context in which the university/college exists and the history of town/gown relations.  Opportunities for engagement may exist for you that are totally separate from where you are enrolled.

8. Hold on to the values that are important to you and be open to others' views.  College is a great opportunity to learn about yourself and others.