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The Six P's to Pack for College - They aren't What You Think!

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The Six P's to Pack for College - They aren't What You Think!

We've all heard the term "like two peas in a pod..." But really aren't there more than two peas in a pod? There are actually five, six and sometimes seven. So when packing for college let's consider for a minute how many P’s can fit into your “pod.”

Oh, I see you going right to pillows, paper, plastic bins. Nope. Not essential P’s.

So what P’s are essential to be successful in that first year? Here are my six: Purpose, plan, priority, perseverance, patience and productivity.


Will you have a solid purpose for heading off to college? A purpose that will be the driving force to all of the decision making on the horizon? Examples include understanding the rigors of a major and understanding that to be a student-athlete you must do well enough in the classroom to remain eligible to be out on the playing field. The purpose for college is the reason and the beacon for the whole enterprise and experience. Here are some not-so-solid examples of purpose: Everyone goes to college. I have to get out of my town/state. My parents went to college. I want to see my college on Saturday football on ESPN. Being very honest about purpose is crucial to the success and readiness of the first-year student.


Do you know how to build a campus plan? No one can really be successful without a team and having a team will reap many early rewards. In the first six weeks, check in with your academic advisor, a new professor, an RA, a counselor or a coach. They are members of your team and can help develop your early blueprint for college. Back on the home front, the less parents do the work, the more students will have to manage and plan. By planning your own blueprint, you may have a higher chance of early success.


Well, here's a tricky one. Parents know the priorities they have in mind for their students heading off to college: academics and good grades. But the priority list of a new college student is more likely: Making new friends to trust, not having to eat a meal alone, surviving being away from home/family, finding out what to do on the weekends, navigating a new roommate and so on. So you see there's really very little about academics on most students’ early priority list. But little by little and as soon as the comfort level is more balanced, it begins to shift to include academics, papers, midterms, a work study job, and so on.


This is about remaining steadfast in trying to withstand failure or challenge while moving forward. Resilience. Now this is a very, very challenging P. Hanging in there. Holding on. Not quitting. When the honeymoon weeks of being away at college start to wear off, when the priority switches to academics, when the workload increases, when the first failed paper or exam hits, when roommates aren't getting along, this is when students start to call home. Discomfort and failing are not welcome or comfortable feelings for teens. For parents, these are hard and derailing calls. One strategy is to guide, not mandate, your student to finding help via campus supports. (Remember the team!?) While a few students don't stay until midterms, most do. Really. Teens need practice in persevering, feeling icky, and failure. Remember, too, that each failure builds character and strength.


Let’s face it, most teenagers fail miserably in the patience department. Actually, come to think of it, most people lack patience overall. Instant. Fast. Speedy. Instagram. Snapchat. Students are wired now for an immediate response and expect fast results on pretty much everything. So place new students on a college campus and they expect, and really they need, that new friendship instantly. They need to feel comfortable in the first week in classes, residence halls, on their teams. They have no notion that being a part of a new community takes time to find a place to belong. Patience is the solution. Think of how long it took find a spot as a high school freshman. It takes time to feel like college is home. Then, one day, when they’re back at their parents homes, they think, “I've got to get packed to get back home” - meaning, college.


Keeping busy and productive with a wide range of things to tend to is so important. Having something to do, something planned and expected, keeps you actively thinking. In college it's classically known that the busier students just do better. Being productive means accepting that going to college is really like having a first professional job, a full-time endeavor requiring attention throughout the week. Cramming and all-nighters are red flags and are confirmation of poor time management (not something to boast about).

These six P’s are the foundation for creating a nice balance of academics, extracurricular, and a new social life. College, new graduates say, passes by in a lightning flash. In four years, you may be devastated to say goodbye. The difference will be that you’ll have your personal pod of P’s to dust off and call upon for yet another life transition.

[Want more? Here's how to make a big school feel small.]

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