Being prepared for college is more than performing well on tests and earning high grades

Here’s some advice about becoming an independent student


Aiden Owen

A string of banners representing various colleges lines the counseling office.

As seniors take their final steps in their high school years, it’s clear to see that many struggle to understand the required tasks that help us to become independent in the real world.

Graduating from high school and going beyond a place where we are supported by our parents — whether financially, physically, or emotionally — we must come to terms with the fact that, eventually, they won’t be looking out for us. The responsibilities fall to us as we enter into adulthood.

Imagining life beyond high school is often a scary subject that causes stress, confusion, and heartache due to the feeling of not knowing exactly what it will take of us. Paying bills, car insurance, grocery shopping, and living on our own are all things we must take into consideration as we progress forward into adulthood and college.

Thankfully, there are many ways for students to prepare for their college lives and shift from being a dependent to an independent young adult.

As daunting as it may be, understanding a rough idea of what you want to major/study in is a great first step when completing a college application. You must ask yourself what interests you, that will allow you not only to make a living but also what will keep you occupied and content with your chosen career path.

Being organized and setting goals for yourself are also great ways to ensure success in college. Being able to manage your time, money, and physical space is what will allow you to stay on top of your school work and take accountability for study time and learn the values that come with being a college student. Setting goals for yourself is what keeps you motivated and on track. Starting this process early on allows you to gain experience and establish good habits, which will then carry onto college.

University of the People says being organized “can naturally reduce stress levels and make going back to school feel like a breeze”.

Having an organized system also “helps you save time, achieve success, and enjoy a clutter-free zone both within your physical environment and your mind”, according to the same source.

Knowing ways to maintain a structured state will really allow you to declutter your life and potentially help you long-term, both mentally and physically.

College comes with an education, but it also comes with a shiny price tag. Be sure you apply for different scholarships, grants, and possible financial aid; that way, you are able to minimize the cost of attendance as much as possible.

One way to do this is to fill out your FAFSA and by making sure you’re familiar with financial aid terms (like tuition, meal plans, housing costs, scholarships, grants, and loans).

Fastweb Staff advises to still enter scholarship contests “even if the scholarship prize is only a couple hundred dollars”. A few hundred dollars might not sound like much in the context of an entire college tuition bill, but extra cash can help cover the cost of books for a term or help pay for that spring break “research” trip to Cancun.

Understanding the financial advantage that scholarships bring is critical when preparing for college; even the smaller amounts count. It’s highly recommended across the board that students apply for financial aid where they are able to, so when college rolls around, it won’t be as harsh of a financial burden.

You should also figure out if you wish to attend a trade school, university, or community college — all of which come at various costs. Once you do so, research the trade schools, universities, or community colleges that you might like to attend. It’s crucial that you investigate the cost, location, attendance and deadline requirements, admission rates, different programs offered (majors and minors), campus layout, and the amount of students in each class/attending the school in general.

Janelle Higdon from Table Salt says that  “the state, the size of the city, and the local community, all impact your years at school” and can end up impacting the opportunities that you have while in attendance.

Higdon also said that “an urban university might offer you more big business internship opportunities… while a school in a smaller town might have a very large campus and more on-campus activities and opportunities.”

Familiarizing yourself with the various opportunities that different locations may offer should also play a part in choosing which college you wish to attend and commit to. That way, you are able to gain the experience needed for your chosen career path.

When it comes to college, money is one of the most stressful factors. As we get older, we must learn how to make our own money and support ourselves financially. Getting a part time job as a college student, whether it’s on-campus (work-study) — which helps to pay your tuition — or off campus — where you make your money separate from the school — it will allow you to draw in your own income and support yourself throughout your college years.

Lastly, learning the correct way to budget and manage your money is also an important step to learn and understand when it comes to college and living on your own. Money goes fast and requires tremendous amounts of self control and restraint. One tip for budgeting your money in college is to overestimate your expenses; this will allow you to make sure that you always have enough money. In this case, overestimating is much better than underestimating.

You should make lists of things you need and things you want, making sure that you will be able to provide the things you need for yourself while also keeping within your set budget.  Then you can allow yourself the wants if possible.

It’s important to keep track of your monthly expenses, including your school loan, grocery necessities, occasionally treating yourself, gas/transportation, and money that should be kept in case of emergencies.

Affordable Colleges Online says that ways to manage your money as an independent student include: “1. Buy used textbooks, 2. Purchase a coffee maker, 3. Take advantage of student discounts, 4. Grocery shop strategy, 5. Sell items you don’t need, 6. Watch out for memberships and subscriptions, 7. Get a bus pass, 8. Cook your own food, 9. Utilize the library, 10. Use the school gym.”

Learning how to budget your money in college helps you can ensure financial success and stay away from the economic stress that may come later.

As young adults, making the change to being self sufficient individuals is a complicated and overwhelming process, but it can be made easier and more manageable if done the right way. By following the steps outlined and the correct approaches to living on your own, you will be able to face the real world in no time!