By Guest Blogger Carrie DeLong

Parenting has by far been the most amazing experience of my life! There have been the most exhilarating moments followed by those heart aching challenges that form us into well-rounded parents. In early days of parenting, we make decisions regarding the right schools, music programs, sports activities, food choices and social playdates. Suddenly, our input and opinions on these topics is not as relevant. As I have transitioned into life with two college age daughters at UNC-Chapel Hill, I reflected on those important discussions that were had (or not had) and hope that I can pass on a little wisdom to share with your freshmen as they prepare to leave your nest.

1. Life with a roommate (and new friends) can, and will, be challenging. One of the most beneficial aspects of living in a dorm is the potential of creating a life-long relationship with your roommate. However, this must be cultivated in a positive way and will require some investment of time and energy from you. Embrace new people and ideas but stay true to yourself. Learn to love others for who they are and what they offer to teach you, whether good or bad. Most importantly, it’s okay to take some time to be alone – independence and self-sufficiency are key aspects of college life.

2. Mental health is important. The college transition can be an overwhelming experience, especially for those with limited time away from home pre-college and may bring light to previously undetected mental disorders such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. You will have high days and low days and finding a good balance is crucial. Be aware of new stressors and know when to ask for help – counselors and therapists are critical advocates on your college campus. Don’t compare strengths and weaknesses with your classmates – this may only serve to deepen your anxieties and insecurities. Overall, don’t stress about the small stuff.

3. Communication is a vital skill. I know you’re excited about life in a new place and environment, but don’t forget to call home and let those left behind (parents, siblings, grandparents) in on your new experiences. Social media and texting have become the norm amongst your generation, but there is nothing like hearing your voice to ensure all is well. Not only is it important to communicate with family but it’s also important to talk with others in college to develop strong relationships, build confidence and convey respect. Learn to listen more deeply before speaking and show a genuine interest in others.

4. Learning HOW to study is as important as studying. Unfortunately, students are rarely taught HOW to create positive learning habits in grade school and often flounder about with new freedoms, lack of accountability and variant class schedules. Take advantage of every learning opportunity given by professors, athletics, musical encounters, dramatizations, technologies, Greek-life, etc. Go to class and participate – your professors are eager to get to know you through active engagement. Study smarter, not harder, by eliminating distraction while studying and incorporating more short, intensive study sessions. A planner is key to avoiding procrastination – anxiety is often camouflaged in the form of procrastination.

5. Exercise and rest are vital. Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do to improve your experience in college. Exercise has been shown to elevate your mood, improve your energy, decrease your stress level and sharpen your memory amongst other benefits. Your path to success may be challenging with packed class schedules, assignment deadlines and social obligations but the benefits associated with regular exercise and sleep can provide massive benefits on your scholarly efforts. Sunshine and fresh air are often the best therapy.

6. Go experience life. The college experience is about more than just academics and accolades. Through experiences in the dorm to the meal hall to the library to the frat house, memories are created that last a lifetime. You will never regret taking the time to goof off with friends or attend the rival football game, but you will regret not taking these short four years to become confident adults. Travel and study abroad. Don’t forget to be grateful for your college opportunities … grateful hearts create generous people.

Finally, to leave you with a quote that resonates with this mama’s heart … “You never really know the true impact you have on those around you. You never know how much someone needed that smile you gave them. You never know how much your kindness turned someone’s entire life around. You never know how much someone needed that long hug or deep talk. So don’t wait to be kind. Don’t wait for someone else to be kind first. Don’t wait for better circumstances or for someone to change. Just be kind, because you never know how much someone needs it.” ~ Nikki Banas ~

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