Going away to college is already a big step, and if you've never left home before, it can seem like a giant leap.

There are things you can do right now, before you leave for school, that will help you cope with flying solo for the first time.

Visit Campus

Visiting your college campus before you move in can make the adjustment less jarring, psychologist Wyatt Fisher advises. If your school offers an orientation over the summer, take advantage of it. Even if there’s no orientation, spend some time on campus before you officially move in, if it’s feasible. The extra time will mean you’re inherently more familiar with your surroundings and cut down on future logistical frustrations like finding your way around campus.

Make a Real Budget

Before leaving for Florida State University, Gillian Muller knew budgeting was going to be one of the challenges of being on her own for the first time. She wound up making a budget that didn’t quite work. “I had one drafted that had things like rent, food, utilities, books, parking, gas. But I looked at my spending once school started and realized I didn’t factor in things like shampoo, or impulse purchases like drinks or takeout or even small things like gum,” she said. “Those add up quickly.” She recommends incoming freshmen be more thorough with their planning and build in some wiggle room for the extras.

Schedule Calls

If you have friends also living on their own for the first time—and also nervous about it—psychologist Sharon Saline suggests making a plan ahead of time to chat with them periodically. A weekly call or video chat to vent and compare experiences can be comforting and make you feel less alone. Plus, you could get some helpful tips on dealing with elements of living on your own that your friends have discovered and share your insights with them.

Learn How to Do Laundry

If you’re lucky enough to have had your parents do your laundry when you were at home, you might not know how to do laundry. Figure it out before it becomes a problem. “My roommate didn’t know to separate colors and white clothes,” St. John’s University student Thomas Gangi said. “He has a lot of peach underwear now.”

Pack a Memento

Psychiatrist Bryan Bruno recommends packing transitional objects—like a family album, favorite book, or even a blanket—for times when you need comfort. He explains, “These are proven to lessen separation anxiety and help us stay more connected to the place the object came from.” You may not need it once you arrive in your dorm room, but it’s a good idea to throw something in your boxes, just in case.

Leaving home for the first time is scary, but think of it like going on a roller coaster—if you brace yourself properly, you’ll be able to enjoy the ride.

Applying to college? We can help.
Start Here