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I’ve got the college jitters!

I’m excited to head off to college — but scared at the same time.

Can our elder help a high school senior prepare for the next stage?

Dear EWC

Hello! I am a high school senior preparing to head off to college within the next few months. Although I am very excited to begin this new journey of my life, I’m scared to leave — and even more scared to say goodbye. I am a pretty independent person, but to think that pretty soon I will be over three hours away from home without seeing my parents or my brother every day is honestly kind of scary. Also, I’m scared of potential guilt I may face if something tragic happens in my family and I am not able to get there as quickly as I usually would. How do I prepare myself for all of these changes in my life? I’ve learned lessons of education, of budgeting, of balancing a schedule, but I have never learned the lesson of saying good-bye. Thank you, your advice will be greatly appreciated!

Willow replies

What an exciting time this is in your life! You should be extremely proud of your accomplishments so far. There is so much to look forward to as you head off to college for the first time. I was drawn to your letter because I was in your shoes and had the same concerns a few decades ago as I left home for college for the first time. I experienced it all again more recently as my son headed off to school in another state. I hope that sharing my perspective with you will help ease your concerns.

First, please don’t think about your departure as “saying goodbye”. You aren’t leaving forever; you are simply off on a new adventure. Try to think of it as a “see you later”, because you will be back again and again. You will have breaks from school, vacations and holidays when you will be able to return home, and your school may host family weekends when your family members will be able to visit you and share a bit of your life on campus. Today’s technology will also allow you to Facetime, Skype or otherwise keep in touch over social media whenever you’d like. You will be able to “see” your friends and family any time you wish.

However, please believe me when I tell you that your first days and weeks in college will be so filled with new activities and new people that you will not be thinking about home nearly as frequently as you think you will now. There will be orientation activities, new friends and endless events to enjoy before classes start. Once it does, prepare to be immersed in your studies. I encourage you to take advantage of every opportunity you can to get to know the campus and your fellow students. In my experience, and my son’s, there is so much to do and learn, especially in those first weeks, that there isn’t much of an opportunity to pine for home! And if you do feel anxious about being away, most schools have Resident Assistants and Housefellows (older students and adults assigned to each dorm to help new students), as well as university counseling services. You won’t be alone!

Please try not to feel guilty about what might happen while you are away. Think about it this way — how many times during your high school years has there been a tragic family emergency that you have needed to rush home for? Hopefully, the answer to that is “none”. Fortunately, tragedy in most of our lives is infrequent. Please consider that your parents and brother, along with any other extended family members, will be at home and will likely be able to handle whatever situations arise. Trust them enough to do so. If there is a need for you to head for home, three hours is not such a long trip that you will be unable to get there. Things can happen whether we are away from home or not, and it’s important that you don’t stress yourself out over the “what if’s”, things the odds are against.

It’s a rare student that doesn’t express some of the same concerns you have when leaving home for the first time. There’s an old saying that the only constant in life is change, and I think that old bit of wisdom applies here. You will mature and change a great deal during your college years, and your freshman year is just the first step in the start of your adult life as an independent young woman. Being knowledgeable about budgeting and juggling a schedule are important skills, and mastering those puts you ahead of the curve already. The best advice I can give you is to assure you that all these pre-college jitters will pass. You are not saying good-bye forever; you’ll see your friends and family in a matter of weeks. Try to think instead about the exciting future ahead of you — a future of new knowledge, new friends and amazing opportunities. Embrace these changes, as they’re all positive. Before you know it, you will be at home for your first-semester break with lots of new things to share with your family and friends. Experience has taught me that when I fear something, the anticipation and dread is nearly always worse than the reality. Once the thing I agonized and lost sleep about is over, I am usually pleasantly surprised to realize it wasn’t as bad as I’d feared. I’m quite confident the same will be true for you. Keep reminding yourself that you’ll be just fine.

I hope you’ve found my perspective on your letter helpful in some way. Good luck as you go off to college. You’ve got this!

Letter #: 421055
Category: School

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