Admissions Blog: Making the transition from high school to college

Posted on May 28, 2021 by Abby May

Ailish Rhoades
By Ailish Rhoades ’19

Going away to college, while so exciting, can also feel incredibly daunting — trust me, I understand! I lived in the same house, in the same town, with the same friends for the first 18 years of my life, and the thought of moving away from that and being “on my own” for the first time literally made me sweat. Have no fear though, because Ailish is here with some tips to make a seamless transition to your home for the next four years! I hope this helps get you pumped and excited for move-in day, and if you have any tips of your own or some things that you’re looking forward to please send me an email, I always love hearing what you all have to say! That being said, let’s get into the good stuff.

First things first: a lot of the students I work with in admissions have questions about what they should bring to school, and what they should leave at home. Here are some of my essentials and what I think should be top priority when packing:

  1. Dorm room
    Create your space.
    When it comes to your dorm room, try to pack things that are going to help you create a comfy, cozy space that you are excited to come back to. This could be things like a fun rug, pictures of your friends and pets, an oil diffuser or some cool lighting. For me personally, my salt rock lamp, oil diffuser and plants helped me create a really calm and homey space, so think of what really brings you joy and try to pack that with you.

  2. Organize your personal items. Don’t forget about your skincare, haircare and shower necessities. A friend of my mom gave us a great tip before my first year: get a plastic three-drawer storage unit and stock it with first aid supplies, medicine, personal hygiene products as well as all your bathroom supplies. This is so easy to store in your closet or at the end of your bed and I promise it will come in handy more than you would think. 
  3. Strategize your clothing. Okay here’s the big one: Wardrobe. My personal tip is for the first semester, pack your summer and fall clothes mainly and then a warm winter jacket, hat, gloves and rain gear. If you’re able to go home for Thanksgiving I would bring home most of your summer clothes and swap it out for your heavier winter clothes. Doing this will help save a little closet space and save you the stress of having to pack for every single season. Try and pack a variety of outfits — some formal, some more casual and business casual, any workout clothes you’d like, etc. Definitely remember to pack an all-white outfit, as Sweet Briar has a few traditions where that will be needed!

Founders' Day Dance
More important than the packing is the transition itself. Make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and creating a lifestyle that makes you feel good and sets you up for the best four years. I thought that going off to college meant that I needed to be 100% independent and couldn’t rely on anyone else for support, and that is so far from the truth. Before jumping into the next few tips, I want to share my number one piece of advice: Find your support system. Find people on campus who you feel you can go to for advice, help and even just a hug. For me those people were my coaches, teammates and professors, and for you that could be a therapist, friends or even an RA. No matter who it is, it’s important to start connecting with people and know that college is just as much about the community as it is the academics. Some other things that helped me and may help you with the transition are:

  1. Come in with an open mind and some broad goals for yourself. Take advantage of new opportunities and experiences, and try out some things that maybe you’ve never thought to do before! It’s also important to have what I call “your reason.” What is your reason for going to college? Whatever it is, keep returning to that in moments of stress or frustration and keep your eye on the prize. 
  2. Be true to yourself. I often hear comments about college being a time to reinvent yourself, which is true, but it’s important to not lose sight of your core values, goals and interests. You should absolutely try new things, test the waters, but know that you do not need to completely change everything about yourself. It’s all about finding what feels good and creating the life that YOU want for yourself. 
  3. Be kind to yourself. It’s OK to feel anxious or uncomfortable. Others feel the same way. Open up to new experiences and friendships. Try to lean on others, stay in touch with family and friends back home and take advantage of student resources on campus to improve your social, personal and academic life. Life is full of ups and downs.
  4. Get organized and find a study plan that works for you. Time management is the key to success, and the earlier you can figure out a system that works best for you the better! For some that could be a planner, and for others, it could be carving out a few hours a day for each priority. Whatever works, find it and stick with it! For me, having a schedule and listing out my priorities at the beginning of each week helped me stay on track and also cut down on my stress levels by breaking things into bite-sized pieces. 
  5. Last but certainly not least: Balance. It’s all about balance. Let me say that again… it’s all about balance! Classes, athletics, social time and sleep all have a place in your day, you may just need to be creative and determine what needs to be the priority that day! 

Well, it’s safe to say that after this you all can find me writing my self-help book — I think I have a knack for this! I hope that these tips help you feel more excited about coming to campus this fall and, again, if you think of any other ideas, I would love to hear them. As always, I’m sending you all the very best wishes for a fabulous summer, and I can’t wait to see you on campus very soon! 


Ailish Rhoades ’19