You'll likely spend the summer before your freshman year of college stalking your future roommates on social media and collecting an unnecessary amount of items from Bed, Bath & Beyond that you'll discover won't fit in your dorm room anyway.
Knowing that your roommate has an obsession with comic books or owning the perfect shoe rack won't really be crucial pieces to your freshman year survival kit, but these skills will:
1) Learn how to do your laundry.
I could see the panic, confusion, and embarrassment wash across his face all at once. It brought me back to that moment in my 7th grade religion class when, in my naivety and to my dismay, I pronounced "Gentiles" like "genitals." Luckily for this guy, his humiliation was limited to me, the girl in an over-size sweatshirt and pajama pants that were too long and dragged on the floor, and a few half-asleep students instead of an entire classroom of pubescent preteens.
I imagined his name was Jake. Jake touched the washing machine as though it were a Rubik's Cube: with great intention but with absolutely no idea what he was doing. I took pity on him and walked over with my basket slumped uncomfortably on my hip and gave him instructions on how to work the machine.
He looked at me like I was some sort of wizard, or better yet, a divine savior; there's nothing more ego-boosting than to have someone look at you like this when you look like you rolled out of a dumpster.
Yet, at the end of the day, I wasn't a hero. I had simply been in his shoes before. I, too, had calculated how much money it would cost if I had accidentally bleached all my clothes or how much trouble I'd be in if I flooded the laundry room with water or set the dryer on fire from leaving lint in the lint catcher.
Jake said, "Thanks, this is really different from the one I have at home," a little too loudly and in a tone that let me know he was grateful for my kindness but also that he was too cool to let anyone know that he had been completely dumbfounded.
The moral of the story is this: whether you have super-awesome parents who do it for you, a maid, a sibling with the "clean gene," or a laundry fairy, learn how to do your laundry before you get to college.
Learn what the knobs on the machine mean, learn the difference between a small, medium, and large load, learn how much soap and what kind you should use, learn which clothing types shouldn't go in the dryer (unless you're one of those guys who likes to wear too-tight t-shirts to show off his gains), and learn how to not procrastinate folding your clothes when they come out of the dryer (and if you figure out how to do this, let me know).
2) Learn how to feed yourself.
You want to know the easiest part of college? Gaining the freshman fifteen.
If you plan to live on campus, you'll likely be forced to get a meal plan, which is the equivalent of having a prepaid credit card for food. You can literally eat until you die. No one will stop you. And, if your dining hall has a mac n cheese station, forget everything and accept that you're destined to gain the freshman fifteen to the fourth power.
The problem is that while there are healthy choices at the dining hall, there are also dozens more delicious and tempting unhealthy foods. Although a chicken wings platter covered in buffalo sauce is sexy, so is owning pants that fit.
Avoid doing this to yourself while your metabolism is in it's prime and learn how to cook a few, healthy meals. Also, do some research on what "healthy" means, how many calories you should consume per day for your body, and what a normal portion is. A "serving" isn't how much you decide to put in your bowl. I learned this too late.
A great book is "It Starts With Food," or if you're saving your brainpower for college, then watch a documentary like "Fed Up" on Netflix (tip: don't bring snacks).
All joking aside, you only get one body. Food is fuel, and if you get headaches, stomach aches, or are frequently lethargic, know that a lot of these symptoms can stem from a poor diet.
Go on Pinterest or Google and search dorm-friendly staples and learn how to cook a few healthy meals before you get to college. Your waistline will thank you.
3) Learn how to budget.
I may have had "a friend" who couldn't go out with her friends one Friday night because she had $18.31 in her bank account and the ATM only lets you take out 20s. And, if you didn't get it from my quotations, by friend, I mean me.
That is the textbook definition of a party-foul.
Even though I had worked two jobs in high school, I had a limited ability to budget and manage my account. I overdrew money a few times, and with each time, I had to pay an overdraft fee. Most banks will take away the fee if you call and ask, but as I learned, after the third time, they kindly ask you to learn how to manage your money and likely go home to tell their families how worried they are about the future generation.
Figure out how much money you'll have for the semester, and then divide it up by month and by week. Separate your budget into you "needs" and your "wants." Needs involve groceries, bills, gas, and savings (if that's a goal). Wants include nights out, random trips to the store, and events.
It's better to overestimate how much you'll spend instead of underestimate. Make sure you sign up for an account online, so you can keep tabs on your spending, and there are plenty of online trackers that you can hook your bank account up to monitor where your money goes.
Look into getting a part-time job at least by your second semester. You'll find that you have a lot more free time in your day than you did while you were in high school. And, since you're taking lower-level classes, it shouldn't be impossible to balance working with school.
One last piece of financial advice: avoid debt at all costs. You'll have enough student loan debt when you are done. Only open a credit card if you can pay it off in full every month. That means, if the money isn't in your bank account to pay for it, then you don't make the purchase. Having a credit card is a great way to build your credit provided you don't miss your payments.
Paying in cash is a way to be more mindful of how much you're spending, so if you are giving yourself a weekly allowance, aim to take out cash at the beginning of the week.
Learn these three skills and you're on your way to mastering your freshman year!
The College Essay Captain helps teens overcome their fears and limiting beliefs around writing college application essays, so they are free to authentically share their stories with admissions teams.