"Time is passing by pretty quickly, and it feels like the future is almost here. I don't feel ready for college. What can I do to become more independent?"
- 16 year old female
It does feel like time is passing very quickly, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed when thinking of college. But you don’t have to be nervous. This is such an exciting time in your life! And I think just a bit of preparation will help you feel more independent and less nervous about how fast time is going!
Since you’re 16, I’m guessing you’re a rising junior. A lot of factors will depend on your college plans. Do you plan to live at home and commute to a community college? Or do you plan on going to university and living in a dorm? Either way, I hope these tips will help ease your concerns a bit!
To start, it might be a good idea to focus on things you can do around the house. For example, if you’re not already, start doing your own laundry—you’ll be doing that a lot in college! You’ll find that it’s not intimidating at all as long as you follow the directions, and there is nothing like pulling a fresh, warm blanket out of the dryer.
If you don’t already, make yourself simple meals so you know you’ll be able to feed yourself. Pastas tend to be the easiest, but you can also teach yourself salads and sandwiches, or hot cereals like Cream of Wheat or Malt-O-Meal. No need to live off Froot Loops if the food in the dining hall is gross…for the third night in a row!
Money can be a big challenge when figuring out how to be independent. You’ll have to budget even if you have endless funds. You’ll need to buy books, save quarters for laundry, and remember what I said about the dining halls? Sometimes it might be so disgusting you won’t want to bother, or maybe you and your new friends will want to order a pizza late Saturday night. Those seem like little things, but they can add up quickly. If you can, avoid credit cards and try to pay for everything with cash. That will help you stay on budget, and keep you from incurring debt stress on top of homework, exams, social life, and staying alive.
Learning how to prioritize will be the biggest factor in your independence. That will help you be responsible, and will help you keep your life in order. One thing I still do is live by this motto: “Do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do.” Get all the chores out of the way, then you can focus on the fun stuff with nothing nagging at the back of your mind. It builds trust, as you make and keep promises to yourself and others.
Most importantly, take time to care for yourself. It’s easy to get sucked into “doing doing doing” that you forget to just be. Enjoy your time now! Make sure you’re sleeping enough and eating well. Spend time with loved ones, and do the things you really love when you can!
College is a great time to experiment with what works for you. There are a lot of support systems in place if you’re having a hard time, so don’t feel like you should have all the answers before you even graduate high school. But I do think these few things can help you get a great head start and set you up for an amazing time once you’re on campus!
I wish you the very best!
About The Author: Ronni Davis grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she tried her best to fit in—and failed miserably. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology, she worked in insurance, taught yoga, and became a cat mom.
Now she lives in Chicago with her husband Adam and her son Aidan. By day she copy edits everything from TV commercials to billboards, and by night she writes contemporary teen novels about brown girls falling in love. When she’s not writing, you can catch her playing the Sims, eating too much candy, or planning her next trip to Disney World.
Her debut novel, WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU, will be released by Little Brown Books for Young Readers in November.
Have a question you want to ask? If you're a teen who has a question about a difficulty you're facing, we'd love to hear from you. Just click here to submit your question for an upcoming segment of "Ask An Author."
And if you're a published (or soon-to-be published!) author who'd like to answer one of these questions in an upcoming segment, just click here to get in contact.
A final note: We are strong believers in the power of therapy. We know that this isn't a realistic option for every teenager, since some of you might not have the parental support or extra income necessary to make this happen. But, if possible, please consider therapy. Many of the adults you respect most have benefited from therapy, and it's likely that you will too. There's no shame in getting support. You deserve it.