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Six Things to Do Before You Leave to College Far Away
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There are many factors to consider when you’re making your college list. You’ll probably need to think about how selective each college is, its setting, and the programs it offers in your areas of interest. Perhaps you’ll need to weigh extracurricular or sports offerings along with financial considerations. All these factors and more are common considerations when you’re narrowing down your college list.
When it comes time to finally commit to a specific school, you will probably feel some combination of nervousness and excitement. Perhaps you’re excited for the next stage in your life, but nervous to leave your high school friends behind. Maybe you’re excited to experience a large campus and its resources, but nervous to navigate life in a big city. Or, if you’re like one of the thousands of students each year that chooses to travel far away for college, you might be both nervous and excited about your imminent change in location.
While traveling far away to college can certainly be an intimidating prospect, the saying goes that with great risks come great rewards. By traveling far away, you’re likely to grow more independent, broaden your exposure to new cultures and backgrounds, and familiarize yourself with a region other than the one you’ve lived in most recently.
At the same time, though, there are plenty of logistics that make this transition more difficult than moving into a dorm an hour down the road. You’ll need to juggle luggage, transportation, and navigate a new area all while you’re trying to settle into college life. It may not be easy, but you don’t need to go into it blind. There are many ways that you can prepare yourself for the transition ahead of time, thereby streamlining the process when you’re finally ready to move in.
If you’re about to head off to college at a faraway place, or you’re considering whether it’s even a feasible idea for you, read our tips for six ways to make your life easier when you’re traveling a far distance to attend college.
1. Familiarize Yourself With the Climate and Prepare for It
When attending a college far from home, it’s likely that at least in some ways the climate will be different from what you’re used to. Do some research to figure out how the climate will differ and anticipate ways to ease the transition.
For example, if you grew up in sunny Florida and are about to ship off to the University of Vermont, you’ll want to anticipate the broad variety of seasons you’re likely to encounter up there. You’ll need to pack clothes for every season, and you’ll likely need to invest in some proper winter gear, maybe for the first time. Though you probably won’t need it right away when you arrive on campus, at some point you’ll need to purchase a heavy winter coat, hat, and gloves at the very least.
It goes both ways, too. If you grew up in New England and headed to the deserts of Southern California, you can save yourself some packing space by leaving most of your winter gear at home, though you’ll still want a warm coat and hat for those chilly desert nights. In addition, you might want to consider how your body responds to drier climates. A humidifier might be a good idea to help you adjust if you know that it is sometimes difficult for your body to adapt.
2. Set Up a Frequent Flyer Account With Your Preferred Airline or Other Travel Rewards Program
Before you get too deeply into this one, be sure that you have a solid grasp on the transportation options that will be available to you. Do your due diligence by browsing flight, train, and bus schedules and costs in advance to get an idea of which airlines will best meet your needs.
If you’re traveling across the country, your most practical options will almost certainly be flights, but if you’re traveling several hours or so, you might find better deals on the train or bus. Some bus companies offer frequent-user discounts, and Amtrak offers a guest rewards programs and discounts on multi-ride tickets.
If you are limited to air travel, be sure to include smaller regional airports in your search. For example, if you go to school in New England, Boston’s Logan Airport may be the largest in the region, but there are many smaller regional airports that might be more convenient for you, like Providence’s TF Green Airport or New Hampshire’s Manchester-Boston Regional Airport.
Once you have a pretty firm grasp on the logistics of travel, consider which airlines will be convenient and which have good frequent-flier programs. If you don’t want to commit to an airline, consider a credit card that allows you to earn and redeem travel points. Flight costs can add up quickly, so any way to absorb the cost will ultimately be a big help.
3. Try to Build Your Support Network
If you know of any family, friends, or perhaps even alumni from your high school who are settled in the area you’ll be moving to, it never hurts to reach out. Not only will knowing a few locals help you to get a better feel for your destination, but also you’re likely to feel more secure if you know that you have at least a few friends already in place when you arrive.
If you don’t know anyone in the basic vicinity of where you’ll be going to college, try to make friends online with other incoming members of your class. Most colleges now have Facebook groups or other forms of social media for getting in contact with members of your class. You might even find that there are incoming students from towns nearby yours. If so, try to schedule a casual meet up to get to know people before moving day.
4. Be a Tourist For a Day
Make a list of tourist attractions or other destinations in the area where you’ll be going to school. Then, check out some maps of the public transportation system and figure out how to get to each one. Create a little itinerary for your day as a tourist in your new town.
This will help you to get an idea of the city or town’s layout, figure out the public transportation system, and be more comfortable getting around when you need to do things like find a pharmacy or a grocery store.
If you end up going to school someplace rural, there may be few or even no nearby tourist attractions. That’s okay. Instead, try to find some places of interest. You’ll want to know where the grocery store is and the best place to grab a quick lunch. Read up online or use Yelp to find some good options and check them out. If there’s no public transportation, figure out how you might get around. Maybe you’ll need to grab a ride with a friend, find a taxi service or Uber, or consider investing in a bike.
5. Set Up Online Correspondences
No matter how quickly you adjust to your new town, your parents and other friends back home will likely miss you and be curious about everything you’re doing so far from home. Setting up a blog, email, Skype, or social media account to chronicle your adventures will help you to stay in touch with everyone, and might help to streamline communications so that you don’t have to repeat the same details to every distant relative.
In addition, keeping in touch with your friends and family consistently will provide you with another layer of support. Even if you feel uncomfortable at your new school or take some time to make new friends, talking your feelings through with people at home will help lend perspective and remind you of how capable you are.
6. Set Up a Bank Account
While some students might wait and set up a bank account someplace close to their new college, since the advent of online banking and mobile banking apps, that’s no longer your only option. It may be easier to set up an account with online access before you arrive at your new campus. This way, you’ll have one less thing to take care of when you get there.
Be sure to choose an account with a strong mobile app. One particularly useful feature to check for is mobile check deposits. If you’ll be working and won’t be getting direct deposits, mobile checking deposits are the next best thing. This feature will also allow you to quickly cash in on any birthday or graduation checks you receive.
Also check out ATM locations and fees. Some banks have significant charges for using non-affiliated ATMs, so you’ll want to locate a branch ATM near your school or choose a bank with lower fees.
While traveling a far distance to attend college might seem like an intimidating prospect at first, there are many things that you can do ahead of time to ease the transition. By anticipating your needs and any obstacles that may exist, you’ll be able to make sure that your move goes smoothly and you are able to hit the ground running as soon as you arrive at college.
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