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A College Preparation How-To, By a Red Cross Intern

I recently had the realization that this fall, I’ll be a junior at James Madison University. And with that realization was an onset of panic. Going into my third year of college means that I am one step closer to becoming a Real Adult. I’m feeling nostalgic for the time when I was preparing to go off to college, so here’s some advice to all the new rising freshmen.

Understanding How to Properly Function as an Adult, Re: Appliances.

My roommate accidentally put liquid dish soap in our dishwasher

Buying decorations for the dorm room, choosing out your preferred color of extra-long twin sheets, and getting the right devices is one of the most exciting parts of the summer. However, before you go, make sure you know what you can and can’t bring with you. I lived directly across from the only kitchen in my building, and while I constantly wished that we were allowed to bring microwaves (so I wouldn’t have to smell burnt popcorn and failed cooking attempts), we unfortunately couldn’t. If you’re one of the lucky ones who can bring a toaster or coffee maker, understand how to use all appliances safely.

Getting Sick Is Real, and It’s Terrible Without Mom & Dad.

Living in a dorm means that germs spread like wildfire. During my freshman year, I got mono for six weeks, followed by the flu, followed by a cold. Let’s just say that my winter was not a fun one. Know the steps to prevent the flu, and understand when your immune system needs a break. If you’re not feeling 100 percent, most universities offer free medical consultations.

Do You Really Need That $2 Fish From the Pet Store?

My foster kitten, Sherman, relaxing in the kitchen cabinet 

My old RA once told me a story from her freshman year: two guys bought a fish for their dorm room. When it came time to go home for winter break, neither of them wanted to transport the fish, so – and I’m not making this up – they put an entire Pop-Tart into the fish bowl and left for a month. Follow your school’s rules when it comes to pets and their safety. Many universities will allow fish or other low-maintenance pets, but understand the responsibility that comes with having one.

High School Stereotypes Are a Thing of the Past.  It’s Okay to Join the Knitting Club.

I encourage everyone to join different clubs and organizations. College can be intimidating, but this is also a time to try new activities in a safe environment. Interested in astronomy or hip-hop dancing? Go to your student org night, and find what’s available. A good place to start is seeing if your school has a Red Cross club! Wherever you end up, make sure it’s with people you like doing what you like.

The Fire Alarm Will Go off While You’re in the Shower, at Least Once.

Lastly, be sure to learn your surroundings. It’s important to know how to safely exit your building in an emergency, and also understand the area you will be living in. My school is located in the mountains, which means lots of snow during harsh winter months. If you’re going to a school in a disaster-prone area, know the necessary measures you will need to take before, during, and after.

This is me, sledding behind my dorm building during a snow day freshman year

The most important things in college are to have a good time, learn a wealth of information from classes, and make memories to last a lifetime. As a Red Cross intern, and a rising junior, my only wish for you is that this guide will help steer you in the direction you want to go in. Good luck, and stay safe.

P.S. Also don’t miss the Ultimate College Dorm Prep List from the Red Cross on redcross.org.