WHEELING - At this time of year, many incoming college students are busy buying and packing everything they'll need for their new adventure - but the most important things to bring are an open mind and a willingness to get involved, according to Justin Tyler Owens, director of residence life at Wheeling Jesuit University.
Many students enter college so focused on one particular thing, such as athletics or a particular course of study, that they develop tunnel vision. College is a time for new experiences and meeting new people, Owens said, so it's important to keep yourself open to those opportunities.
Many colleges plan events throughout the semester that can help students meet each other and develop new friendships.
Don't always shut your door when you're in your room, Owens advises. And most schools plan various getting-to-know-you events throughout the semester that can be a great way to meet new friends.
"You're going to learn a lot from other people," he said. "You never know what you're going to find."
When it comes to school work, effective time management is essential, according to Owens. Procrastination can be a college student's worst enemy, particularly without parents always there to breathe down your neck, but he said most students will find they have more down time if they get a head start on important assignments they know are coming.
Although every college has different rules and you should check their list, here is a quick checklist of items to bring with you to college, and things to leave home:
- Television/DVD player
- Stereo with headphones
- Small refrigerator
- Surge protector
- Small toolbox
- First aid kit
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- Can Opener
- Reading light and desk lamp
Not to bring:
- Full-size refrigerator
- Appliances with exposed heating coils
- Candles or incense
- Burners or hot plates
- Air conditioners
- Electric heaters
- Drugs or alcohol
"Reading ahead and starting projects weeks in advance instead of waiting until the last minute, and taking some time for yourself, will decrease your stress as the semester progresses," Owens said.
Having a roommate for the first time is another big adjustment for most incoming college students. Owens said his two most important pieces of advice to students in this area are to communicate and follow the "golden rule" - treat others how you would want to be treated. For example, ask your roommate if it's OK before having a group of friends over.
And make an effort to get to know them, Owens said, noting merely living in the same space isn't enough to foster a friendship. Ask them how their day is going, or if they'd like to join you on a trip to the store to pick up supplies.
"Hopefully you'll grow together through this experience of college," Owens said.
Adjusting to college can be a daunting experience, but it's one a student doesn't have to work through alone.
Although some students view their resident adviser, or RA, as an adversary - a hall monitor who's there to catch you doing something you shouldn't - it's important to remember that RAs were freshmen not all that long ago and understand the difficulties of adjusting to college life. They are there as a resource, Owens said, helping to build community, particularly among first-year students.
"They're there to make these students feel like they fit in," Owens said.
Sometimes, however, larger issues will arise that can't be resolved by an RA, and the school's professional staff is there to help, including counselors if needed.
"Sometimes they need to vent," Owens said. "We're there in our office to help these students. My door's usually always open."