When you are standing at the base of the mountain, looking up towards your impending college experience you might feel like selecting your school and submitting your applications is the biggest piece of preparation. This is certainly one of the first steps. Arguably one of the most impactful also. There are a few things that you should prepare for. College is often discussed in terms of simply the academic aspect. However, what people are less commonly talking about is the entire college experience.

There are new challenges to consider that extend beyond the classroom. This stage of life is certainly exciting in many ways. But not everyone thrives on that level of adrenaline. Some need some sort of plan in place for how to handle it. Think about your individual traits, goals, and habits as you consider the following ways to prepare for college that go beyond your application. 

Create a Supportive Network

College is a tricky time. For most students, this is their first real adventure into their adult life. Regardless of if you live away from home or attend a commuter or online school. This period comes with newness on the regular. Think about where you already turn when you need support. And about how this established network will serve you in college. Especially for those leaving their hometown, it is essential to consider how you will maintain this network remotely.

Telehealth has made a huge splash recently. It allows students to do just that. This remote style of care means that you are not relegated to a physical location or specific schedule. You can take advantage of these services remotely. Mental health is a top concern for many college students. And their loved ones also want to ensure that the student in their life mitigates as many challenges as possible. You can review a guide on mental health in higher education for reference. 

Vary Your Exposure

Variety is the spice of life. As a college student, allow yourself permission to gain exposure to different learning and networking opportunities. The internet is a great tool for this. Blogs, global online summits, and campus clubs are great ways to vary your exposure. Immerse yourself in the chance to meet different people and learn about different cultures. You can take advantage of intramural sports or hobby groups also. 

A great thing about college is the timeline. With most activities only lasting the length of a semester they are a relatively low commitment. If you decide to join a group or club that ends up not suiting you it is not forever. Try to remember even if the activity was not for you, you can still network and make friends. When your tenure as a student is over you will be thankful that you were open to new things during this period. 

Identify Life Skills

The autonomy of college is a mixed bag. Some thrive on the opportunity to make their own schedule and develop in their own way. Others struggle with this newfound independence. No matter which side you fall on you must identify the life skills necessary to thrive. Here are some examples of common college responsibilities:

  • Creating and sticking to a financial plan and budget
  • Paying your own bills
  • Grocery shopping and cooking meals
  • Household chores like laundry and cleaning
  • Time management
  • Cohabitation
  • Peer pressure

Knowing in advance what to expect can help you better prepare. For example, knowing where to start with your budget before you need to implement it can mitigate financial challenges. Practice with a dummy budget and see how you do. Do not be shy to ask your network for guidance. For example, credit card debt is a common collegiate pitfall. Digging yourself out of a bad credit situation can be a lengthy process. The more you understand upfront the better off you will be. 


The best way to be prepared for college is to simply care about the preparation. You cannot know exactly what this period has in store for you. What you can know is that you can handle whatever college throws your way. Often one of the hardest things is building and accessing self-confidence amid challenges. Being prepared takes care of that for you. Preparing for the general period builds a foundation for the details. Embrace the spirit of adaptation as well. Understand not everything goes according to plan. 

Maybe you have wanted to be a doctor since you were a child. This does not mean that you must become one because you always said you would. College might show you that you are better suited to business or hospitality work and that is ok. Flexibility will suit you post-graduation so starting in college is smart.