22 Life Skills to Learn Before College

Are you ready for college life?

You’ll finally get to make your own decisions, pick your own classes, eat whatever you’d like and stay out as late as you want.

But wait.

There’s a catch...

All that independence also means you're vulnerable to some traps.

Forgetting to set an alarm, gaining the infamous “freshman 15” and falling asleep in class.

There are certain skills that will be valuable to learn before college which could dramatically improve your university experience.

Most of the life skills listed below will help you conquer college regardless of where you go to school...but first, we’ll break down some unique characteristics for success in the US and UK.

College Life Skills for the US Student

1. Learn How to Share a Room

Sharing a room with strangers can be daunting. College is the first time that many students are exposed to people from different backgrounds.

Because, um, you might share a room with three other people and a bathroom with God-knows how many...

Lifestyle differences can often lead to silly miscommunications that can be easily solved.

More often than not, your roommate ends up being your friend.

Just remember to discuss your expectations early on, be respectful and speak up if you have any problems!

2. Reach Out to Your Professors

Believe it or not, professors and teaching assistants (aka “TAs”) enjoy supporting your efforts and want you to succeed.

Regardless of how big your class is, go to office hours and you will be rewarded.

Cultivate effective study skills - write your papers early and show them drafts, they will be happy to help.

Creating a meaningful relationship with a professor can pay off in the long run.

3. Participate Often

US class sizes at some colleges can seem awfully overwhelming at first.

Some freshman courses have over 700 students in one lecture! Yet participation is a key factor to getting good grades in many of your courses, especially in the smaller ones.

Some professors seriously use it as a deciding factor between an A- and an A or a B and a B+. So get your participation skills in order! Learn how to ask intriguing and thought provoking questions and you will be rewarded.

You might feel intimidated, but if you don’t use your voice, you’ll lose your voice – trust me.

4. Know Your Limits

An important student and life skill to master. Most colleges in the US are overflowing with a multitude of appealing and unique opportunities such as classes about pop icons like Beyonce, a Macaroni and Cheese club and thriving Greek life.

Forget about choosing extracurricular activities simply to pad your resume. Participate in activities that you are truly passionate about and you will make a difference.

Know your limits both academically and socially. Don’t forget, you have four years to try everything and anything you’d like.

Pace yourself.

5. Keep Your Stomach in Check

Most dining halls at US colleges are “all you can eat". While this may seem incredibly enticing at first, be wary - all of those extra calories add up quickly.

Remember, just because you have all the food in the world available to you, it does not mean you need to eat it all!

Pro Tip: Limit your chocolate consumption… I know, it’s hard...

College Life Skills for UK Students

1. Self-Motivation Is Key

Most of your grades, and in many cases, all of your grades at UK colleges consist of a set of final exams that cover all of your courses. While this may seem daunting at first, it gives you time to take risks in your ideas without suffering the consequences of having a poor grade on your transcript forever.

So experiment with your writing style and take chances on your ideas and on what you argue because the only grade that counts is the final exam.

However, it is very important that you keep up the reading and test yourself throughout the course. Study often and read everything.

Your professors will push you, but it will be up to you to always do your work and do it well.

2. Hold Onto Your Convictions

The tutorial system can seem intimidating. You meet with your professors once a week, often alone, and are expected to defend your ideas.

It can be difficult, especially as a first-year student, to discuss your ideas effectively with someone in a position of power, so learning to stand your ground is very important.

3. Thrive Under a Different Grading System

Familiarise yourself with the grading scale ahead of time so you don’t get upset when the highest grade you get is a 70.

Perfect assignments do not exist.

The goal of this system is to remind you that you always have room to make mistakes and grow.

Embrace it.

4. Learn to Love Tea

It will become a part of your everyday life. Drink it often.

5. Spend Time with Yourself

Since your tutorials are much smaller than typical classes elsewhere in the world, learning to spend time on your own is key.

Students at UK colleges have a much stronger focus on education and have far less time for extracurricular activities, so students tend to follow their own schedule and often times you are left to enjoy your own company.

College Life Skills For All University Students:

1. Learn How to Ask for Help

College can be stressful, regardless of where you go.

There will be times where you struggle either in school, socially or in your career.

Stay in touch with your family. Regardless of how far away they are, they want to help you succeed.

And always remember: universities are equipped with a multitude of different resources to help you in times of need, all you need to do is ask.

2. Be Open to Change

Chances are, something will go wrong while you are in college.

Do not let a fear of change or failure keep you from branching out and trying new things. Now is your time to be curious and explore!

Often times, the mistakes you make in college will lead to some of the most beneficial lessons you will ever learn.

Embrace your mistakes and learn from them.

3. Keep Your Priorities Intact

Another important life skill is keeping sight of your priorities. Make a list at the beginning of every semester of things you want to accomplish to ensure you don’t stray too far from your ultimate goals, whatever they might be.

4. Find Effective Study Skill Methods that Work for You

Develop an organised study strategy that works best for you, and stick to it.

Believe me, trying to unscramble your messy notes the night before an exam is only going to slow you down.

What works for others won’t necessarily work for you. There’s no wrong way to learn...except for pulling “all-nighters” before every exam.

The earlier you start studying, the happier you will be.

5. Create Healthy Habits

Start eating healthy, going to the gym and finding a workout that you enjoy now.

A great way to form healthy habits is by learning to cook a few simple meals.

Cooking is also a fantastic way to make friends and save money.

P.S. A little roast chicken goes a long way.

This might not apply if you're in a dorm without constant kitchen access, but still - learning to cook for yourself is one of adulthood's many rites of passage. So start sooner rather than later.

6. Manage Your Money

Being in control of your own finances can be scary, especially when your bank account is empty and you need lunch!

Learning how to budget your money will help you avoid many typical “college” moments.

Keep a running list of how much you spend everyday to see where you could cut back.

Buying one less cup of coffee every week makes a big difference.

7. Do Your Laundry

Unless you are going to school close to home, cleaning and folding laundry is now your responsibility.

A few tips: Dry your clothes in cold air to avoid shrinkage, never mix colours and whites, wash your sheets at least once every two weeks, and hang your nice clothes up.

8. Disconnect from Distractions

No one posted anything important on Facebook in the past five minutes since you last checked.

Marie’s doggy-filtered Snap can wait.

Your beachy Instagram picture can be posted after your finish your paper...plus you’ll get more likes if you post it at 3PM!

Disconnecting from distractions such as social media is so important. Your paper has a deadline, your online presence does not.

9. Impress With a Firm Handshake

You are powerful.

You are strong.

You are qualified.

Learn to shake people’s hand like you mean it and you’ll get noticed.

10. Check Your Email Often

There’s no reason why you shouldn’t check your email as much as you check your social media.

Answer emails in a timely fashion and you will be rewarded.

People will admire you for your quick, brief and accurate responses. Plus, then you can delete all the annoying email notifications on the bottom of your screen.

11. Write a Resume

Write your first resume while you are still in high school.

Use a professional font, a clean layout and make sure it is only a page long.

Trust me, your future self will thank you.

Also, when you're at college, make sure to use the career office before your senior year. They'll provide you with really practical tips for your job hunt.

And attend as many alumni events as possible. Networking is everything!

12. Take the Road Less Travelled

People often have a set idea of how to be successful, but these ideas won’t necessarily make you happy.

Find out what makes you happy and don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd.

Final Thoughts...

The best way to succeed in college, whether in the UK or the US, is by taking the time to figure out who you truly are and being true to yourself. Regardless of where you go to school, college will be a learning experience. It will challenge you, it will push your boundaries and it will test you.

College will make you grow but it does not have to be unmanageable or scary. These life skills will help guide you through college and beyond. Just remember, a little roast chicken goes a long way!

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