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ELKHART -- Jimtown graduate Heather Kelley is more excited to go away to college than she is nervous.
"Hopefully I'm prepared enough," she said, as an afterthought.
Kelley will be attending Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Mich. It is two hours away from her home, but a big change for a young woman who has always lived with her family. She already has attended orientation, a program for freshman that most colleges offer, to learn about the college, the campus and financial aid.
She has done some preliminary dorm shopping, and said she is lucky to have received seven scholarships so she doesn't have to worry to much about finances.
"I'm excited about being on my own," Kelley said. "My mom said, 'Heather you need to call me every day.' I'm like mom -- weekly, maybe." She added that she loves her mom but she's ready to be on her own, too.
Kelley will be leaving earlier than many freshman, Aug. 7, to take a leadership class worth two credits.
"Then I can take 14 credits my first semester and adjust," she said.
She also applied for a job at the campus library.
"That way I can get my homework done while working," she joked.
Kelley said she is a little nervous about meeting her roommate and living with someone she has never met.
She has been preparing for being independent in little steps, such as getting her first debit card so she can access her finances from school. She is excited that she gets to take her brother's Jeep to school.
Many recent graduates are starting to prepare during the summer for the different lives they will be facing in fall. Having talks with parents about finances and what is expected of them is important, as well as attending freshman orientation and shopping for essential dorm items.
Launa Rohrer Beck, dean of student life at Goshen College, said students usually feel more prepared and ready to engage in academic work when they go to orientation activities.
"They are designed to help prepare the students and solidify the feeling of connectivity and belonging," Beck said.
Beck added that orientation is a good time for a new student to meet other freshmen and realize they are not alone, and that there are many support services available if they needed them.
She said parents can encourage students to schedule classes, make phone calls and communicate with the school on their own so that they can learn to be independent.
"We like to start treating the student as an adult responsible for their education. Parents can be a great facilitator, making sure that transition happens smoothly," Beck said. Another tip she gave for parents is to not be alarmed when a student calls home and says he or she is overwhelmed.
Students need to be prepared to work hard, Beck said. Even students who did well in high school will find the college workload is heavier and requires more attention.
Be supportive, listen to the struggles and encourage them, Beck said. Some struggle is expected and will help them later as they navigate their college years. She added that it is common for first-semester students to feel a little overwhelmed or have some anxiety towards mid-term when the newness has worn off.
One mistake that 2005 Goshen College graduate Philip Kendall made was bringing too much stuff and having nowhere to store it.
"I think it's a far better idea to bring less stuff, and you can always get more later," said Kendall, who moved from Greenwood, about two hours away. He added it helps to talk to your roommate ahead of time to coordinate what each will bring.
He also has a warning to incoming freshman about eating habits. It's easy to go to the dining hall three times a day and eat junk food in your room, he said.
"Eat healthy foods unless you want to gain a lot of weight," Kendall said.
He said establishing a routine right away is also helpful. "Treat it like a nine-to-five job," he said, adding that he studied between classes and then had time left for hanging out with friends.
He said the most important thing to keep in mind is to have the courage to put yourself in new situations and get involved.
"Meet new people, get to know people who are different from you," Kendall said. "Once you start hanging out with new people, that is when the really important friendships begin."