4 Things Teens Need to Know Before Moving to College

Posted By Terri Williams on April 21, 2017 at 11:41 am
4 Things Teens Need to Know Before Moving to College

Going off to college is an exciting time, but it’s much bigger than just a change in environment. For many students, this is the first time they’ll be responsible for making their own decisions – and dealing with the consequences, good or bad. So, what do teens need to know before moving to college?

1. Explore Your Interests and Options

Expect to have fun in college, but don’t forget the primary goal is to gain an education, expand your horizons, and prepare for a fulfilling (and hopefully, well-paying) job.

“The best thing you can do in college is to align your coursework with your interests,” says Allison Cheston, a New York-based career advisor. “Of course, you may enter college being uncertain of what those are.”

College grads often second-guess their school and degree choices, and ultimately their career choices. But these are avoidable mistakes.

“I don’t believe you should limit yourself to subjects that seem directly related to a career path unless they are truly of interest, because ultimately, any interest can evolve into a career – literally anything,” Cheston explains. “Try plugging your interest into Google search with the word ‘career’ after it and see what comes up – the answer may surprise you.”

2. Take Advantage of Opportunities

Regardless of your major, college provides an avenue for developing skills that will be needed on any job. For example, billionaire investor Warren Buffet believes that public speaking skills can increase a job applicant’s value. Companies are also looking for applicants with emotional intelligence.

Bob LaBombard, now retired CEO of GradStaff, says the purpose of college is not simply to get a job; “it’s to become career-ready, and this has very little to do with a major subject.”

Instead, he says the college experience should help to develop transferable skills that can be used at every level of any profession. “These are skills like communication, leadership, critical thinking, and problem solving,” LaBombard explains.

College provides the perfect environment for obtaining these sought-after skills.

“I believe everyone should have jobs and/or internships in high school and throughout college, as well as take on strategic volunteering gigs,” Cheston says.

3. Develop Financial Literacy

For many students, college will also be the first time they’re responsible for managing their money.

Craig M. Steinhoff, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs Consumer Financial Education Advocates, says, “Students need to understand their banking and lending documents, understand how to reconcile their checkbook, understand how to budget, save, and invest.”

He warns that there’s a danger in not developing financial literacy.

“I find that people who do not understand something, generally put less importance on it – for example, if students don’t understand the financing aspect of purchasing a car, they will likely pay too much for it and pay too much in interest.”

When applying for a student loan, don’t take more money than you need. Some students are using student aid money for other purposes, such as paying car notes, cell phone bills, and even for food and vacations. However, the more you borrow, the more you’ll have to pay back.

Related: 4 Ways to Pay For College Without Student Loan Debt

4. Avoid Drunkorexia

We’re bringing up such a serious topic because it’s a serious problem on college campuses.

“Every college-bound teen needs to be aware of the dangers of ‘drunkorexia,’” according to Jenna McCormick, a Philadelphia-based public relations coordinator. “Drunkorexia occurs when an individual engages in disordered eating or excessive exercise during the day to ‘save up’ calories to spend on binge drinking at night.”

McCormick warns that this practice can result in severe physical and psychological consequences.

In fact, Dipali V. Rinker, a research assistant professor in the department of psychology at the University of Houston, conducted a recent study on drunkorexia. Survey participants were all between the ages of 18 and 26, and had at least one episode of heavy drinking in the 30 days prior to the study.  The results reveal that within the three months leading up to the study, 81 percent of respondents engaged in pre- or post-drinking behaviors that included restricted eating, exercising, or bulimia to either increase the effects of alcohol or to account for alcohol-related calories.

Be aware of this trend before you head to college and avoid it when you get there.

It’s Never Too Soon to Start

The best way for teens to learn how to manage day-to-day activities is to assume responsibility before they leave home. Dr. Susan Kuczmarski, author of The Sacred Flight of the Teenager: A Parent’s Guide to Stepping Back and Letting Go, offers several tips to help teens prepare for college:

  • In high school, be responsible for waking up in the morning and getting to school and other places on time.
  • Handle specific financial responsibilities, like managing savings and spending accounts.
  • Do larger jobs on the home front, like shop for groceries and cook a meal, do the laundry, or take complete care of the car. All home chores should transcend traditional gender boundaries. Young men need to cook, iron, and do laundry. Young women need to handle tools, change their car oil, and maintain yards.
  • Explore and practice what it means to be a group leader in extracurricular activities. In programs like planning a musical, teens learn how to be leaders, and take as well as teach responsibility.
  • Experience the world of work with a summer job. Even if the work is hard and boring at times, it is work.
  • Jobs during the school year should have reduced hours, no more than 10-15 hours weekly, so they don’t interfere with school. It’s important to find your own job and not rely on a parent to get one for you.

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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