Getting ready to start college in the fall?
Congratulations! This is the start of a new and exciting part of your life. I hope you’re getting to enjoy it.
Of course, while change can be exciting, it can also feel overwhelming. You’re going to be handling a lot more responsibility over the next few years. To deal with all of this change, it’s important to begin planning ahead now, so you can start college feeling confident rather than trying to play catch up from the get go. Here’s how you can prepare for college now.
1. Schedule your physical.
Your college will send you a form for your doctor to fill out. Some colleges require a meningococcal vaccine, which can be 2-3 shots. You may also need to get screened for tuberculosis, which requires two visits, three days apart. This means you need to leave enough time for multiple doctor’s visits before the deadline, so schedule your appointment now instead of putting it off.
This is also a good time to visit the dentist, get prescriptions refilled, and buy new glasses or contacts if you need them.
2. Plan ahead for your health care…
Will you be able to get healthcare using your current insurance, or will you want to use your college’s health insurance?
If you have a chronic illness, talk to your healthcare provider about how you can keep getting the care you need. Can they send your prescriptions to a pharmacy near your school? Will you have to get established with a new specialist?
3. …including mental health care…
If you see a therapist now, how will you continue therapy? Some therapists do video or phone sessions. If yours doesn’t, you may be able to get therapy through your college’s counseling or health center. Get in touch with them now so your mental health care isn’t disrupted at college, when many need it most.
If you have a history of substance abuse, find resources ahead of time. Continue with therapy, find support groups on or near campus, and stay busy and engaged with hobbies, sports and clubs. Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous have young adult groups to support you in your sobriety.
4. …and sexual health care.
If you’re having or think you might begin having sex, make sure you’re prepared to stay safe. Check out our College Sexual Health Checklist.
5. Understand consent.
Consent is a fundamental part of sex and relationships. Make sure you understand how important it is, what it looks like, and how to respect other people’s boundaries. This is also a good time to think about your own boundaries. Learn more about consent.
6. Know how to stay safe at parties.
Whether you choose to drink or not at college is up to you. If you do decide to drink, make sure you know how to keep yourself and your friends safe.
Don’t leave your drink unattended, since someone could slip a date rape drug into it. Go out with friends you trust. Use the Find My Friends app so they can find you if something goes wrong, and vice versa. If you’re leaving the party with someone, let your friends know. Tell them the person’s name, and where you’re going.
Look after your friends and peers in the same way you want them looking after you. If someone has any signs of alcohol poisoning, get them medical help. If you notice that someone is very drunk and leaving the party with someone they don’t know, say something. Make sure they get home safely. Learn more about bystander intervention.
7. Plan ahead for a healthy lifestyle.
College may be the first time you’re planning your own meals. Ask yourself what healthy eating means to you and think about ways to eat nutritious meals, whether you’re eating at the dining hall or cooking for yourself.
Also think about how you’re going to build exercise into your routine. Will you play an intramural sport, use your college’s gym, or go running?
8. Know how to handle stress.
Many people find themselves dealing with more stress in college than in high school. Think about coping mechanisms and self-care activities for when you feel overwhelmed. Know how to get counseling. Identify people you feel safe talking to, and commit to telling them if you ever feel overwhelmed.
9. Talk with your family.
Whether you’re moving halfway around the world or will still be living at home, your relationship with your family will probably change when you start college. Have an open conversation with them about what their expectations are about how often you communicate and what level of involvement they have in your life.
10. If you have testing accommodations now, you’ll need them in college.
If you have a learning disability or ADHD and required extra time or special testing accommodations in high school, learn how to get those same accommodations in college. Don’t wait until finals. Similar to high school, you may need a formal evaluation by a therapist and a letter documenting what you need. At the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, getting this letter requires several visits so a therapist can determine which accommodations make sense for you.
11. Keep track of deadlines.
Get a folder (or create a folder in your email) to keep all the letters and materials from your college. Mark all your dates and deadlines on a calendar as you get them. When are bills due? When is move-in day, orientation, and the first day of classes?
12. Understand how you’re paying for college…
Soon (if you haven’t already), you’re going to get a bill breaking down what payments you owe and when. Add these dates to your calendar. If you haven’t already, make an appointment with the financial aid office to go over your loans or bills. Ask them about work/study if you’re interested, and if that’ll affect any scholarships, grants or loans you have.
13. …and life.
You’ll also have to pay for textbooks, meal plans, room and board, commuting costs and even just snacks and dorm decorations. Keep track of each of these costs, and prioritize what’s important to you when possible.
14. Remember that you belong.
In college, you’ll probably be taking classes with students who went to the best prep schools, and the most underfunded public schools. It’s easy to feel insecure—especially if you’re the first in your family to go to college, or one of only a few students of color. Keep reminding yourself that you’re there for a reason.
If you’re 10-22 years old in NYC, call the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center at (212) 423-3000 for comprehensive, confidential health care at no cost to you.
Dr. Nathalie Duroseau, DO, our first year fellow, completed her residency at Sidney Kimmel Thomas Jefferson University/ Nemours A.I. DuPont Children’s Hospital after receiving both her doctorate in Osteopathic Medicine and a master’s degree in Neuromuscular Sciences at NYIT College of Osteopathic Medicine, Old Westbury, NY. She also received her bachelors in Sociology at New York University. Her particular areas of interest include reproductive health, improving health literacy in adolescents through the use of technology and social media tools, PCOS, and substance abuse among adolescents.
The Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center is located in New York City. It provides comprehensive, confidential, judgment free health care at no charge to over 12,000 young people every year. This column is not intended to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual, only general information for education purposes only.