Making it on your own in college

Story & photos by Natalie Reyna/COMM 2311

Moving up in the world also often means moving out. Are you ready?

For some students, South Plains College is the next level of education after high school. It is also the next level of independence.

Not everyone who starts out at college is ready for that independence.

“The first semester is always the scariest for everybody,” says Rebecca Canon, SPC’s Director Health and Wellness. She says she and three other full-time counselors see many students each week as walk-ins or by appointment.

Canon says separation during COVID-19 was often not good for students. What happened, she says, is students who did not have physical contact with people in high school now struggle to socialize.

“We are humans,” she says. “We require socialization. And if that does not happen, we start to get into our head and anxiety and depression increase.”

Anxiety may be one significant factor that contributes to a young person’s struggle to reach a new level of independence.

According to a 2012 article called “Failure to Launch: Addressing the Needs of Transition-age Young Adults” from, an organization devoted to helping those with attention- deficit/hyperactivity disorder, there are a number of factors that may contribute to a young adult’s failure to “launch.” In other words, a person’s ability to successfully adjust to a new phase of life.

Many of the factors the article addresses include a list of personal issues such as emotional resilience, willingness to try and potentially fail (grit), problem-solving skills, or mental health diagnoses like ADHD and anxiety.

Canon says she emphasizes social connection when she helps students at Health and Wellness. She says she gives students “homework” during counselling sessions such as going up to someone and starting a conversation. By doing this, she says, it builds a person’s confidence and courage. Even if it is a short conversation, she says, it is an achievement because it is one step further than the person was the day before.

Justice Sibole, the SPC coordinator of residence life, is another person on campus who often helps new students adjust to life in a new home.

According to SPC’s main webpage, the Levelland Campus maintains nine residence halls plus the Smallwood Apartment Complex.

“We have a total capacity of 750 students who can live on campus. That means we have 750 unique individuals,” Sibole says. He explains it is a challenge to know where every single student stands.

To help first-year students who are moving into dorms, Sibole says residence assistants host programs to help students grow in their independence. He says the programs help students grow in five major areas: personal achievement, identity development, community building, civic engagement, and personal success. Some of the specific goals of the program, he says, are to

teach students to learn how to wash their laundry, dishes, and create schedules. Those goals may sound simple, but they are important.

“It’s stressful keeping everything in order,” says Justin Gonzales, “and figuring out what I have to do next.” Gonzales is an SPC student who lives in the Smallwood Apartment Complex.

According to a July, 2022 article from, the basic skills young people need to learn

before they head off to college include: time management, goal setting roommate etiquette, interpersonal skills, networking, studying, and budgeting.

Of course, it is not surprising that “budgeting” is on the list of “must haves” from, since that company would like everyone to use its financial services and products including credit cards.

But learning to budget is an important life skill.

“Yeah, I can budget my money all I want,” says Ernest Godina, an SPC student. “But the issues I have is if I’m going to be able to stick to it.” Godina says he has lived in both the dorms and the

Smallwood Apartment Complex.

“Smallwood versus the dorms…I would say Smallwood, you get more privacy. But it means more items you have to buy,” says Godina, a not-for-profit organization that offers information for students, publishes 

“The Essential First-Year College Dorm Checklist.” It is a list of suggested items students might need.  It is long with nine categories of items. It includes everything from an alarm clock to an extra pair of glasses and sunscreen.

SPC students Beau Zuniga looked at the list to see if any of those items matched what he brought to the dorms. He says he just brought most of the essentials such as blankets, dishes, clothes,

toiletries, and of course, food.  He did not mention the alarm clock or sunscreen.

In the end, Sibole has words of advice for students who are moving away from home. Whether it is going to a dorm or an apartment, he says: give it a year. That way a person has time to build connections, figure out their “place,” and truly understand what it feels like to be independent.

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