5 Things

It’s summertime – the time when you might expect college campuses to be empty, but that’s not the case. Students fresh out of high school are flooding college campuses and are filling the air with excitement as they begin their new student orientation sessions. I've spent the last two summers living on campus at Iowa State University, so I've had the opportunity to observe these students visiting during orientation week. While these students are getting their phones out to take pictures of the campus, parents are scrambling to get their notepads out to take down notes on how to prepare for the transition to college. During orientation, parents and students are briefed on financial aid, classroom preparation, how to survive college 101, etc. The orientation team covers most of the important things, but there are a few essentials that are left out. This includes what every student must pack for college.

I know what you must be thinking – clothes, backpack, bedding, etc. – the things that everyone already knows. While those things are certainly necessities, I’m going to share with you five essential traits that you need to be prepared to bring with you to college … and that you should be sure to carry with you for the rest of your life.

A sense of purpose.

It’s often said that everyone is born with a purpose. We are all where we are today because of the choices we’ve made, and with each passing day, we’re creating our pathway to our future. While reading this, you may ask yourself, “What is my purpose in life?” I too asked myself that question as I began my adventure in college. Three years ago, I knew what my college major was but was unsure of how I would use it to follow my dreams. Soon, I declared a secondary major and a minor, which steered me in the right direction. Now, as a senior in college and soon to graduate, I have found my purpose and I will be following my dreams. Just like it helped me, your purpose will be your best guide in following your dreams and making a meaningful life out of it. Use it as a stepping stone to pave a way for yourself. Carry your purpose with you every day and allow it to create meaningful goals that can be achieved within the next four years to accomplish your dreams.


When most students begin college, they experience a whirlwind of emotions. They're excited to meet new friends, miss being around family, or both. This mixture of emotions happened to me quite often during my first year. As an international student in the U.S., I'm 9,000 miles away from home and making that transition was very tough. However, I viewed it as an opportunity to make new friends and begin a new adventure. And I can easily say that it's the best decision I've ever made. The sole motivation that I've had for the past three years is seeing myself walk across the stage with a degree in my hand at my graduation ceremony. It's possible that you'll have a tough time transitioning to college, and homesickness might bring you down to the point that you may find yourself questioning why you’re at college, especially if you’re far away from home like me. So, it’s very important to keep yourself motivated to keep moving in the right direction. You must be prepared to never give up because your college career is only the beginning of many other big chapters in your life.

A thirst for adventure.

As I began college, I was entering adulthood, ready to leave home and conquer the world. It was like I had been thrown into an ocean filled with people and instead of drowning, I learned to swim. That’s what college is about. You’ll meet people from all backgrounds and cultures, and this will be your ocean. You’ll learn to network and meet some of the best friends you’ll ever have. You’ll also meet professor and advisers who will challenge you to push yourself and expand your horizons. Most of all, you’ll learn to survive in the real world – and this is when you’ll know you’re swimming instead of drowning! So, bring along your sense of adventure as you embark on your newest journey and be prepared to have the best time of your life.

Adaptability to change.

Every time someone says the word “change”, people tend to get nervous. Change can either be good or bad. The world changes every day and we are all a part of that involuntary process of change. In the same manner, college will be a big change for you: from your daily routine to the kind of meals you’ll eat. You’ll probably learn to cook, do your laundry, and most of all, be independent! For me, change is one of the most liberating aspects of life, as I believe that the choices we make and the path we create will shape our future. If you choose to adapt to these changes instead of fight them, the next four years will be easier for you. Be ready to make many changes in your life and shape your own future.

A driving passion.

I saved the best for last. I believe that your passion is the most important trait you need to bring with you when you head off to college, and it’s something you should continue to carry with you for the rest of your life. “Passion” is a very common term. Along with ambition, positivity and leadership, passion is a quality that college admission officers are actively seeking from applicants. Your passion could very well be what got you accepted into college. It’s an important aspect in defining who you are. It makes you unique and stand out from the crowd. You can be passionate about many things – writing, drawing buildings, acting, or even math! But passion is all about how you go about pursuing your dreams and taking steps towards supporting the causes you care about. Your passion is so important because it was probably the catalyst that led you to apply for college in the first place, and to follow your dreams for the next four years.

These five essential traits have helped me push through college and achieve many successes along the way. Being an international student and finding a job in the U.S. is no easy task. My sense of motivation and driving passion were the two main components that landed me a summer internship at Kuder – something that I consider a big success in my college career. Similarly, these traits can help you get through the tough times and be a driving force behind your success at college.

I almost forgot: one thing you must not forget is to pack lots and lots of ramen noodles. You’ll soon understand why. Oh, and in case you’re in need of a list of tangible things to pack for college, here’s a comprehensive college packing list.

  1. college and career readiness

About The Author

Sanjana Ravi

Sanjana Ravi is an economics intern for Kuder. She is a senior at Iowa State University majoring in economics and international studies. A native of Colombo, Sri Lanka, Sanjana plans on pursuing a career with an international humanitarian organization focusing on the development of women and chil ... read more

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