Congratulations! You are about to begin your college adventure.
It’s an exciting time that can feel a bit overwhelming. Knowing what to do before going to college can take the stress out of starting school. It can also ensure that you are prepared, informed, and ready to start your first year on the right foot.
Here are 16 personal, financial, and academic tasks to complete before going to college.
1. Research and think about possible majors.
Some students start college knowing their major, but many don’t have a major in their first or first two years at school. If you belong to this second group, here are some strategies to help you decide.
Look at your school’s majors and determine what’s available. When you talk to an academic advisor and sign up for classes, sign up for introductory classes in one or two majors to see if they match your interests and skills.
2. Attend orientation.
Colleges and universities hold orientations to introduce you to the campus and your peers. Directions provide information about the resources and opportunities that await you.
If your school doesn’t provide the information when you accept, check their website to find out when, where, and how to attend. You may need to register to go there. Find out in advance about parking, orientation times, food options, and any other aspect of the orientation.
3. Configure your online university portals.
Your college’s online portal will contain links to campus resources, enrollment and financial aid information, and general updates to keep you informed. You will also have a university email address which you need to make sure is active.
You may receive information about setting up your online resources during orientation. These instructions should direct you to the appropriate office on campus to visit or the steps to follow to set up your account. If you do not receive this information, ask an academic advisor or contact Student Services.
4. Discuss with your college financial custodian(s).
Knowing your expenses and how you will pay for them during your studies is important. You should talk to your parents, guardians, or anyone else involved in your finances before going to college.
When reviewing your finances with your sitters, write a budget. Then talk about whether or not you’ll get a job, how to open a bank account (if you don’t have one), and work together on how bills and expenses will be paid.
Going to college with an idea of the financial resources you have can save you from overspending and help you determine the kinds of help you might need.
5. Complete your FAFSA (if applicable).
Before enrolling, you must complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA. The most traditional and online colleges accept FAFSA. The FAFSA assesses your financial resources and determines your eligibility for financial aid. You may be eligible for scholarships, grants, work-based studies, and loans to help pay for your college education.
The FAFSA itself is available online, making it accessible and easy to complete. If you need help completing a FAFSA, contact your college or university’s financial aid office.
READ IT: What is the FAFSA?
6. Prepare for your living conditions.
College isn’t just classes – you have to sleep somewhere. You must determine whether you will live at home, off campus or on campus before you arrive.
If you plan to live at home, you’re covered.
If you wish to live on campus in a residence hall, you must work with your school’s housing office. They will determine where you live and with whom. They will also inform you about the requirements and regulations of your new residence.
Off-campus housing requires finding an apartment or house and, possibly, a roommate. Your college or school may have resources to guide you.
7. Contact your roommate (if applicable).
A roommate can help cover your expenses in off-campus housing. In an on-campus setting, a roommate may simply be assigned to you. Either way, getting to know your roommate is important.
Exchange contact information with anyone you agree to live with or get this information from your school. Decide who will bring the essentials to share, set expectations on both sides, and identify any special circumstances that might affect your life situation.
8. Find out about your school’s COVID-19 protocols.
Before arriving on campus, you should know what your school requires regarding COVID-19. This will help you and those around you stay safe and avoid possible confusion when attending classes or events on campus.
Your school’s website should have information about COVID-19 protocols. You can also contact student services to find out what you need to do to protect yourself and others.
9. Prepare for your move, do your shopping and put your belongings away.
If you plan to live on campus, find out what days are available to move into on-campus housing. If you live off-campus in an apartment, find out what day you can move in and ask for help if needed.
To prepare for your move, make a checklist with what you need to live, work and study while in school. Placing items in boxes, bins, or suitcases ahead of time gives you an overview of what you need to buy before you get to college.
Don’t neglect the things you want to have around you. Memories and reminders of home are important to take with you, especially if you are leaving home for the first time.
10. Buy technology.
You probably have a phone or tablet, but in most cases that’s not what you’ll need in a college course.
If you have a laptop, make sure it has the software you need to write articles, take notes, and do other homework. Many schools offer free or discounted software to students.
You may need a new laptop if yours does not meet the technical requirements. Check with your college for discount information and details on new technologies. When visiting a store or shopping online, ask about student discounts.
11. Get Organized: Buy a planner or use digital planning tools.
College requires time management and organization and tools exist to help you with both. Write information in a student diary or use productivity apps allows you to keep track of important dates and deadlines.
Identify time management strategies make effective use of planning tools. Different strategies work for different types of workers and learners, so think about how you spend your time when exploring the options.
12. Do any required summer reading.
Not all classes have summer reading, but some classes may have work you need to do before classes start. By doing the required readings, you enter your classes ready for the content and avoid any confusion or catching up during the first weeks of class.
You can check department and course websites for reading lists. Contacting an instructor to ask about required readings is also an option.
13. Set social media limits.
You will benefit from having multiple limits in place around the use of social media.
As part of time management, you should limit the time you spend online. You can set up time limits and schedules for social media apps on your phone to limit usage. Productivity apps can also help.
You should also make sure to only post public content that you would like a potential employer to see at some point in the future. Keeping your messages private is probably the way to go, unless you feel comfortable with a member of the public viewing your message.
14. Spend time with friends and family.
If you are leaving home for college, you should spend time with family and friends before you go. It will take you a while to see them in person, although keeping in touch with them online is an option once you’re gone.
Even if you don’t leave home, college will keep you busy. The quality time before classes start gives you the opportunity to see family and friends without the anxiety you might feel later.
15. Set personal goals for your first year.
Before you start school, have an idea of what you want to accomplish in your first year. Having personal goals gives you something to strive for and keeps you on track throughout the year.
You can track your goals in a journal or computer document. Storing them in your phone’s notes app is another option. If you enjoy visual reminders, consider creating a vision board for your wall.
16. Find out how to get involved.
In college, you will meet people through classes and at events. Being part of the campus community helps you acclimate to college. And the bonds you form with classmates and friends can last a lifetime.
If you have a cause you want to support while in college, do your research and identify organizations you can join. Intramural sports, student groups, recreation circles and other activities also exist. Check the school’s website and calendar of events to see what’s going on.
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