Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What to bring and wear on the first day of college?

I wrote this article in 2013 and it is the most viewed even to this day (August 2015). Your love of this article also inspired me to suggest doing a first day of college episode on the show I host, The SKiNNY. It just went live today so I thought it would only make sense to post it here (below). Congrats on starting college and let's stay in touch on Twitter! (And if you're about to start community college, you'll love my book.) You can also get a free chapter here:

Congrats and I hope this helps. I'm so happy for you.

College Firsts Series

As some of you gear up to start college for the very first time, I've been getting a lot of e-mails about how nervous you are. That is totally normal and okay! 

Being nervous usually means you're about to do something important. 

But to alleviate your fears a bit and help you start off on the right foot, for the next two weeks I'll be writing a "College Firsts" series in order to help you to more easily get out of your comfort zone, crush your nerves, and set yourself up for a life-changing college experience by doing the most important things in the first few weeks.

College First: What to bring and wear on the first day of college? 

I cannot tell you how nostalgic I get every fall when the puppy notebooks start to come out; I miss the smell of colored pencils and elementary school classrooms and the excitement of a new year. 

While taking out your puppy notebook and purple colored pencil might make you stand out in a way you don't want to in college, school supplies are still relevant.

Yet in college no one is giving you a checklist of what you need to buy, nor a dress code to follow.

While that freedom is great, sometimes it can lead to anxiety. So below is a checklist that I hope helps alleviate your fears. Remember, everyone is freaking out just like you are, some are just better at hiding it. You're going to rock this!

First Day of College Checklist

1. Backpack or tote bag

I used a giant Vera Bradley tote all through college. It wasn't cheap but I loved it because I could carry everything, didn't show stains, and never broke despite all the laptops and books I put into it - I still have it today. The downside was that sometimes it hurt my shoulder, so my favorite backpack option is the Samsonite Tectonic

2. A binder or folder system

It's crucial to have a system in place before your first few day of college as each professor will give you different paperwork and you'll want to keep it separate. 

I preferred buying those cheap old school folders with the prongs in the middle and wrote the name of each class on the front of each one. I'd put the syllabus* in the prongs in the middle and then kept one folder for notes and the other for papers to turn in. 

You can do the same with multiple binders, or put everything together in one binder separated with dividers. I liked the folders because they were slim and light. 

There's no right or wrong way to do it, the key is to experiment and find the way that works for you. You'll know you have it right when it's simple and enjoyable. 

*note: some professors may make the syllabus available online beforehand so be sure to check and download and print it to bring with you if that option is available. 

3. Writing utensils

Don't be that guy who doesn't have a pen or pencil. Have a few of each; being able to offer a pen to a nearby classmate who did forget is an easy way to make friends. Also have a highlighter for organizing key points in your notes and textbooks.

4. Electronics (& their chargers)

When I went to college, tablets didn't exist and no one used laptops in class. However I can only imagine that has changed drastically. Decide if you're going to use an electronic device to take notes and manage your academic experience, and if so have it with you. 

But be cautious and notice if it distracts you more than helps you. For me personally, having my laptop out at a conference makes it impossible for me not to do a million things at once (checking my email, taking notes, answering emails, checking social media, etc.) and while that can work, I don't know if it would have been the best method for focusing in class, but that's just me.

Monitor yourself and find out what helps you get As. 

5. Paper

I know you know this, but I also know it's easy to forget small things when you're making such a big life transition. 

Always have paper and/or a notebook with you for taking notes and doing in-class assignments. Even if you choose to use an electronic device you'll always want to have backup supplies in case your battery runs out or a professor prefers people don't use electronics in class. 

6. Parking pass

Make sure you've stuck your parking pass on your car if you're a commuter. And while we're on the subject, plan to arrive at least 30 minutes to an hour before class starts to have plenty of time for parking and walking to the classroom. Don't be late. 

7. Your class schedule

Again, I know this is obvious, but I want to help alleviate your fears so you can use this checklist as a basic guide. 

I also recommend going to campus very early that day or a few days before to walk around and make sure you know where to park and where all your classes are. 

8. Textbooks

I was always a fan of buying my textbooks ahead of time and not the day of. I would have hated to wait in that long long line the first week of class. Some professors assign reading the first day, and it shows you're prepared to have your book out on the table. 

9. Comfy shoes

Walking around campus should be fun and it won't be if your shoes are killing you. Wear shoes that you know are comfortable. 

10. An outfit you love

I can clearly remember the outfits I wore on the first day of school in 2nd and 9th grade. 

They were iconic moments in my life because in 2nd grade I was starting a brand new school after we'd moved (lion king shirt, long pink shorts, side ponytail, lion king backpack), and in 9th grade, of course, it was the start of high school (crisp white Tshirt with a logo, weathered jean shorts, slightly spice-girl-ish tennis shoes with silver stripes).

Have fun with your first day of college outfit and show your personality. Obviously you don't need to dress professionally, but I do think it's important to send a message to yourself and your professors that you care.

Dressing nicely communicates that you want to bring your best self to this experience. Going super casual is okay once in a while, but especially in the first few weeks I recommend dressing nicely. 

For example, one of my go-to combinations was nice jeans with no holes or rips, a cotton blouse or T-shirt, a cool necklace, a casual cloth blazer, and sandals or flats.

I also highly recommend wearing anything that expresses your personality that you think might spur someone to say "hey I love that where did you get it?" It's a great way to make new friends on the first day.

If you liked this article you might also like this video on what to carry in your college backpack.

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