“Adult-ing”: the art of growing up in college

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While I was home over spring break, I asked a friend I graduated with how his first year of college was going. He said that it was going well and added offhandedly that he had been “adult-ing”. In a strange way, that “word” (I have no squabble with indictionaring it) seems to capture the transition to college all too well. You were at home, where your parents took care of you, and your pantry, and your doctor’s appointments, and your pets, etc… then, suddenly, you are doing laundry all by your lonesome. College is still a bit of a middle ground between childhood and real adult responsibilities. The change is not necessarily one for the worse, let’s face it, what kid doesn’t dream of growing up and being independent, but it is all rather shocking at the onset. Happily, growing up also means gradually growing into yourself and learning what God and life have in store for you. Also, you will find a whole new appreciation for the coming-of-age novel and the ceaseless nostalgia of Peter Pan, if you are into that sort of geekery.

I frequently consider how difficult it must have been for young adults to move away from home for the first time before the internet, the telephone, the telegram, or the postal service. We have nothing to complain of. Never forget that your parents and family are just a phone call away, and when things seem overwhelming or too complicated they are there with answers and support!

Here are a few of my own “adult-ing” experiences from this year and snippets of advice!


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This was one of the first “grown-up” issues I faced, and probably the simplest. I have been able to do laundry for years, so this was really a non-event in which I accepted responsibility for my own socks. Right on to some tips, then:

  • Put It in the Hamper: Buy a hamper and use it. As soon as you change out of something, toss it in the hamper rather than onto the floor and you are much less likely to lose your socks under the bed, fridge, etc..
  • Sort By Color: Red+White=Pink, it is a simple principle, so divide your whites and colors if you want to keep your whites blanched.
  • Check Tags: Read labels to ensure that you don’t destroy your favorite dry-clean-only blazer!
  • Wool and Sweaters Do Not Go in the Dryer: Lay them flat or over the back of a chair to dry.
  • Hang up Shirts Hot Out of the Dryer: This prevents them from wrinkling and could save you the trouble of ironing.
  • Coins? What are those?: Your laundry facilities may be coin operated. Where does one get quarters, a lot of quarters? There may still be a rhinosceros of a change machine somewhere on campus, but chances are that it doesn’t work. Instead, go to any bank and ask to buy a roll of quarters (if doesn’t have to be you bank, all banks have quarters).

Feeding Yourself

Yes, we know your parents stopped spoon-feeding you when you were an infant, but after that they still made sure that you ate. Now, when it is mealtime, you have to go scour out something for yourself. Your meal-plan will take care of you, but you still have to drag yourself to the cafeteria after a day of classes to get to the food. You will remember how you used to be able to call your mom and ask her to bring home dinner, so be sure to give her a nice thankful hug the next time you are home (maybe even get food for her, just to change things up). Advice? Eat, and eat well! Grabbing meals with friends after classes is perfect study break; you won’t mind trekking to the cafeteria if you aren’t going alone.

Shopping and Buying

Most of us (young ladies in particular) learned the fun pieces of shopping quite well in our youth, but being responsible for getting to the store to replenish your own shampoo, which will inevitably run out during your busiest week, is another beast entirely. Tips:

  • Think Ahead: Did you just run out of shampoo? Do you have only half a bottle of conditioner? Save yourself the second trip to the store by taking stock of your toiletries, snacks, tea, coffee, medicine, and such before you go shopping.
  • Make a List: I am a list maker, in fact you are reading one of my lists right now! After you follow the above tip and take stock of your stuff, write down everything you need to replenish or buy and slip it into your wallet so you won’t forget it.
  • Buy Like a Poor College Student: I saw this advice online before I came to school, and I it is all too real. If college loans are already looming overhead, do you really need to spend $5.00 a day on coffee? Try to be realistic about what you need and what you can do without.

Doctor’s Appointments

When you are sick at college, the last thing you feel like doing is dragging yourself to the health center, but if you are sick for a few days in a row or if it is something serious you should go. Earlier this semester, I was sick for a few days, so I called the health center to set up an appointment. I was dreading walking there and spending 20 minutes filling out medical history and insurance forms—my mom started passing that clipboard to me as soon as I turned 18 so I would know what to do (thanks mom!). Fortunately, our health center doesn’t expect that much of ill students, adult responsibilities successfully deferred! Before you arrive on campus, you submit your health forms, so you don’t have to deal with them again. I don’t know if this is the case with all campus health centers, but it is what W&M does. If you are going to a real doctor’s office off of campus, you will  still need to deal with the forms, so make sure you know your insurance information, medical history, and the names and dosages of any medications you take. 


If you are attending school away from home, you can choose whether to register to vote at home or at school. If you stay registered at home but are pretty far away, you can vote by absentee ballot, which is as simple as it is convenient. Check your home-county’s board of elections website to find their absentee registration form and submit it at least a week before the election (deadlines vary, but submit early just to be safe; in case you, you know, mess things up and they make you resubmit it, which I totally didn’t do *cough* of course not).

Job Applications and Interviews

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Oh so, so many. Eventually, they pay off! I just got my first actual job over spring break, which very exciting. However, that came after I filled out loads of applications and went to several unsuccessful interviews. Here are some things to make sure you have on-hand when opportunities pop up:

  • A Resumé: Create a resumé and update it very often. Take one to every interview.
  • References: High school teachers and family friends make great references and once you get to know you professors they will probably be happy to be your references too. Different applications request different things, but you could need their email address, physical address, and/or phone number. Make sure you contact your references before submitting the application so they know they may be hearing from your potential employer.
  • Previous Employer Information: Keep a business card from your previous boss or company. This isn’t too much of an issue now that we have the internet, but it certainly isn’t a bad idea.
  • Social Security Number: It is probably a good idea to memorize that.
  • School Addresses: Applications may ask for the addresses for your high school and college.
  • Interview Worthy Apparel: Make sure your wardrobe includes a few business-attire pieces (blazer, slacks, dress shoes) and keep them in good condition.

Traveling Alone

Traveling and especially flying alone sounds like a daunting prospect, but it is actually rather enjoyable once you get used to the idea. If you stay alert and use common sense, you should be able to navigate public transportation and airports with ease.

  • Check Schedules: Check bus or train timetables or flight status and gate before you leave home-base and again when you get to the station or airport.
  • Print Tickets: What if your phone dies and your boarding pass goes with it? Yes, that would be a problem. If you print your boarding pass or ticket, that will not happen! Print them the night before to save yourself a bit of hassle.
  • Arrive Early: Arrive at the airport at least an hour early for domestic flights and three hours early for international flights so you will have plenty of time to get through security and find your gate. Consider the weather when planning your trip to the station or airport.
  • Bring Cash: Make sure you have some real money on-hand whenever you travel.
  • Be Prepared for the TSA: Review security checkpoint requirements before you pack. Do not bring liquids in quantities of more than 3.4 oz and place them in a 1 quart or smaller ziploc bag: this applies to bottled water as well (I always forget that one and try to take my water with me, so don’t be me!). Be prepared to remove you laptop from your bag and to take off shoes and any jackets.
  • Keep Your Tickets and ID Handy: Not your student ID, one of those government issued ones (a passport or driver’s license, for example).
  • Bring Snacks!: Be a savvy student and tuck some granola bars or somesuch in your bag.

With faith, trust, pixie-dust, a fair measure of commonsense, and self-confidence, the gradual progression of growing up in college can be quite exciting; but there is no reason not to keep a young heart with eyes fixed on the second star to the right…

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