Long before the lines at the college bookstores shrink to a trickle, the freshmen pressures have begun.
Away from home for the first appreciable length of time, freshmen not only face tough classes, rigorous study and tenacious fun, if they live in a dorm they'll probably face limited space and the quirks of those nearby.
One hopes that, as they leave their comfy nest, they'll remember such necessities as soap, toothpaste and a toothbrush. But what else do they need to plan for?
Barbara Edmondson, associate director of residence life at George Washington University, first suggests biding time before rushing to decorate a dorm room. "Wait until you see the room," she suggests, indicating that first-year students often plan to decorate before they come to school. "Come to school and get some other ideas," she says.
Meanwhile, the University of Maryland is telling students to leave their telephones and answering machines at home. The university has just finished installing a $32-million high-tech phone system. According to John Rood, director of communications services, each student living in a dormitory will get a phone and voice mail. Rood explains that if two people share a room, there will be two phones in that room. The service costs each student $70 a semester.
Rood says the cost to the university is virtually the same as if it were installing only one phone per room. Dormitory residents may bring their own computers and modems because, along with the new phone system, jacks to the university's mainframe computer are available in each room.
"I can't wait to see how it's going to work," says Larry Watson, a junior majoring in radio, television and film.
Aside from technologically advanced systems, colleges also install roommates. Most colleges match roommates early enough for everyone to get acquainted. GWU's Edmondson suggests corresponding with a future roommate to coordinate such essentials as stereo components and the acquisition of a small refrigerator.
Edmondson says, however, that sometimes things are not smooth and the freshmen "are not prepared to live with roommates."
Ron Campbell, director of housing and residence life at George Mason University, wants to kindle civility among roommates.
"We expose them to a willingness to accept who they live with," Campbell says. The freshmen should "bring things that are important, whether it's politically, culturally or socially important."
This philosophy, Campbell says, nurtures the students' self-governance. Rather than his residence hall staff leading the students to programs, Campbell encourages the students to lead themselves.
To counter first-year adjustment problems, George Mason University distributes a brochure, "Living on Campus," and maintains its Freshmen Center, now in its second year. George Mason's Freshmen Center introduces new students to the school's resources, which in turn makes it easier for them to adjust at school.
The first semester of the first year is the hardest, says GWU's Edmondson. "It's tough to be a freshman," she acknowledges. "They have a lot of obstacles. There will be some time of loneliness, and it's hard to leave some things behind."
One reason school can be tough is the lack of time-management skills. Juggling study and social time easily can confound first-semester freshmen.
"Many freshmen don't realize how grueling college can be," Edmondson declares. "The first semester is a trial-and-error period."
By the way, forget about bringing microwave popcorn for a microwave oven: Most college dorms don't allow microwaves in students' rooms.
Any lovelorn college student can't have enough postage stamps, stationery or envelopes. Throughout the universe, they crave mail as bears crave honey. There isn't enough of either.
And if you haven't seen textbook prices lately, bring plenty of money. Even today, textbook prices make a tankful of gas look cheap.