Recent Graduates Offer Advice for New College Students
High school graduates walked across the stage in May and, soon, many will be packing up and heading off to college. It’s common to get butterflies on the first day of school, but moving away from home for the first time can be even more daunting. To put the minds of first-time college students at ease, recent graduates from Cherokee and Cobb counties shared expert advice.
Ansley graduated from the University of Georgia in May with her master’s degree in public relations. She recently accepted a position as the marketing coordinator at Brown & Brown. In 2019, as a rising college sophomore, she wrote a packing list article for Aroundabout magazines (https://bit.ly/3nowTHQ). Here is her perspective as a graduate:
Despite all of the courses you took in high school and the conversations you had with your guidance counselor, it’s hard to feel fully prepared for college. Getting ready to go off to school can be overwhelming, from trying to fit your life into a shoebox-sized dorm room to fitting half of it back in your car to take home when you realize you don’t need everything after all. The last-minute items you shoved in your suitcase will be the ones you use daily and the decorative pillows you splurged on probably will spend the semester on the floor. Through the challenging first weeks, you will learn and grow more than you ever thought possible in such a short period of time.
Don’t forget the necessities.
While picking out the perfect decor may be more fun, you might regret not prioritizing the essentials when you’re stuck in Target with every other freshman, fighting for the last pack of Command strips or off-brand paper towels.
Bring an extension cord that can reach from the floor to your lofted bed. Pack more hangers, buy a box of trash bags, and toss in some medicine, because — without a doubt — you will need it. Unless you stay on top of your health, you might just spend your entire first year with the freshman flu. Pack disinfectant wipes, take your vitamins and at least try to get some sleep.
There always will be something you forget.
You won’t realize you forgot to pack an umbrella until it’s already raining. Even if you aren’t a STEM student, there will be at least one time you will need a calculator for class, and it will be the day the bookstore is sold out. You won’t think about extra storage until you’re out of room.
You might think you will eat in the dining hall for every meal until you see your roommate come home with Easy Mac and a side of microwave popcorn. Bring your favorite snacks. Pack Tupperware to bring dining hall food back to the dorms. Bring a Keurig, enough K-Cups to last you through your first week of exams and to-go cups.
Think out of the box.
With the luxury of Amazon and online shopping, it’s easy to pack your deliveries the way they arrive. But, take items out of their shipping boxes to consolidate space. Pack clothes and bedding in soft bags that can easily squeeze into the extra space boxes can’t.
Try to unpack larger items first, and take the elevator up to your dorm and the stairs down. Get there early. The lobby of your dorm will soon look like a line for a ride at Six Flags, but where everyone is carrying furniture. Set up your side of the room before or after your roommate. With tiny dorm rooms, the fewer people trying to unpack at the same time, the better.
Come with an open mind.
The greatest advice is to come to college completely willing to try new things and meet new people. Introduce yourself more often than you might be comfortable with. Start conversations with something other than “Where are you from?” I like to ask people their zodiac sign, because, even if they don’t know it, they probably have an opinion on it they’re going to want to talk about.
Visit a club even if it’s just for the free food. If someone asks you to go to the dining hall or hang out in their dorm or study together, go. Try to get to know your teaching assistants and professors.
Enjoy this time in your life when you are constantly growing. You’re never going to be fully prepared for when your parents leave and you are finally on your own, but you’re going to be able to handle whatever comes next.
Brooke von Seeger
Brooke, a 2018 Etowah High graduate, recently graduated magna cum laude from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in human development and family science and a minor in business. She has accepted a position with PepsiCo Frito-Lay as a sales management associate. Her tips for college-bound students:
- Don’t leave home without a good laptop (definitely do your research). Also, buy lots of vitamin C, specifically Airborne vitamins!
- Make sure to bring your pillow. I forgot to pack my pillow, and I was so sad.
- Do not overpack! I am guilty of bringing too much stuff no matter the occasion. Only pack what you need, and then add one more outfit. As far as packing a car, utilize every space, i.e., your laundry hamper as a holder for smaller items. Use blankets and bathroom towels as padding between breakable items.
- Packing a car is like a puzzle. Take your time, step back and look at what you are working with before beginning. Good luck; you will become a pro by your third year!
- Get involved. Whether that means joining organizations, going Greek or joining a club/intramural team on campus, it’s a great way to meet new people. It helps make a large campus feel smaller, and it makes the adjustment to college life easier.
Chelsey graduated from Georgia State University in 2020 with her bachelor’s degree in film and media. She’s pursuing a master’s in Christian ministry at Mercer University Atlanta and is set to graduate in May 2023. Her advice:
- Bring a planner. It’s the only way you’ll be able to remember all of your assignments, appointments, meetings, etc. Whether it’s a calendar on your phone or a paper planner, carry it with you everywhere!
- I wish I would’ve brought my own Wi-Fi router. Unfortunately, campus and/or dorm Wi-Fi can be finicky.
- For packing a suitcase, section your loose items like toiletries into plastic bags and roll your clothes so you can fit more. For loading a car, pack loose items into flexible bags and label them all to make unpacking easier.
- Remember to explore the resources on your campus, such as your advisers, career counselors, professors and even alumni. Half of the college experience is about the connections you make and the on-the-job experience/internships you’re able to put on your resume.
Grant recently graduated from the University of North Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, with a concentration in digital marketing. His advice for first-time college students:
- Always keep an extra pair of comfortable clothes to carry around with you (in your backpack, etc.), in case you get rained on on your way to class or you get asked to hangout with friends after class.
- One thing I didn’t bring was pots or pans, yikes!
- When packing your car, moving the passenger seat all the way up gives you a little more space after you fold down your seats.
- Don’t worry about if you will make friends in college. I promise, you will make some great friends that make college much easier.
Rachel, a 2015 graduate of Etowah High School, graduated from Mercer University School of Law in May with her Juris Doctor degree. Rachel recently completed the Georgia Bar Exam and will be working for the Cherokee County District Attorney’s Office in Canton.
What were your dorm essentials?
Other than the obvious things like chargers, extension cords, power strips … stackable storage containers with drawers were a good space saver, especially when having to share a bathroom with little or no drawer space. Also, my first year of college, I had to do all of my laundry in the dorm laundry facility, so having lots of quarters on hand is a must.
I did not get an air fryer until I got to law school, and it changed my world! Definitely wish I had one in college. My rice cooker and Crock-Pot were huge lifesavers. I would meal-prep and freeze a lot of meals. I could easily grab one out of the freezer, stick it in the Crock-Pot for a few hours, and have lunch or dinner with little prep work/cleanup.
What are your packing tips?
One thing I tried to do to save space was to consolidate small things within large things. For example, if you have a lot of tennis shoes, you can store socks inside the shoes to save space.
Also, if you run out of bags for your clothes, keep the clothes on hangers and place them inside a trash bag. Tie the bag shut by wrapping the garbage ties around the hangers; that way, your clothes are more likely to stay flat. When you get there, you can hang up the hangers and cut away the trash bag. This saves a lot of time when unpacking as well; plus, the hangers provide a good handle when transporting the bags.
When packing a car, I recommend using towels or blankets to line your seats and trunk to make sure you aren’t scraping your car or damaging the interior.
How can you meet new friends?
Get involved as much as you can! Making friends when you first get to college can be hard, especially if you are going to a school where you don’t know anyone. Getting involved in clubs, organizations, campus jobs, school events, etc. helps you meet new people easily. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. A lot of other people may be feeling apprehensive about going to these events alone, so you might meet others in your same position and quickly bond over that small thing.