Before you leave home for your first college semester, there are some important things to take care of. And, once you’ve arrived on campus, take our advice below to complete a few more tasks. Your to-do list:
Before you leave:
- Know – and budget for – your total, real costs. Be prepared for those expenses. In addition to tuition, room & board, and school fees, there’ll be books, laundry, entertainment, and travel, among others. Make your estimates generous, and then add at least 10% as a buffer to your numbers. That buffer, along with estimates that might well end up being too high, will leave you with extra money, while estimates that end up too low can be a complete bummer.
- Receiving financial aid? Ask a financial aid officer if it might decrease over time. That way you can factor that into your monetary plans. If you’re planning to take out loans, find out from the thebalance.com resource what your starting salary is likely to be in your field of study, and then use the Debt Wizard calculator to show what your maximum student loan amount ought to be. (Other good resources: StudentLoans.gov, Repayment Estimator, and the credible.com Student Loan Repayment Calculator.)
- If you’re in a dorm, space will be an issue, so apply the “less is more” principle when you’re packing to leave. If you’re planning to take a mini-fridge or small microwave, contact the school to find out about both space limitations and allowable items. In addition to school supplies (notebooks, pencils, pens, calculators, sticky notes, invisible tape, stapler, paper, binder clips, etc.), the other things you’re likely to need are
- Cell phone
- Laptop (and 1-2 two thumb drives)
- Bedding (pillow, sheets, and blankets) and room decorations
- Bathroom and personal grooming supplies
- Casual clothes, warm coat/sweaters if you’ll be up north – and at least one more dressy outfit and shoes for special occasions
- First aid supplies (Band-Aids and some aspirin, ibuprofen, and/or Tylenol)
- Ear plugs (in case your roommate snores!)
- Eye/sleeping mask
- Do not be concerned that you haven’t yet chosen a major: Over half of your fellow freshmen won’t have chosen one, and two-thirds of those who have chosen a major will change it before they graduate! College should be about learning, and one of the most important things to learn while in college is which academic studies drive your passion – enough to become your major field of study.
- Before you leave home, become familiar with the free student services available to you, because you’re likely to be very busy once school starts. Among the more important are writing centers, math tutoring centers, career/résumé services, recreation centers, and mental health/wellness counseling centers, all of which are discussed in a grownandflown.com post. Regardless, if you need help, seek it, because doing so is evidence of strength, maturity, and responsibility, not a sign of weakness.
- Find out about clubs and organizations on campus. Get information about those that interest you: Your involvement in one or more of them can be enriching and contribute greatly to your sense of well-being after graduation – and to admission to graduate school or landing your first job.
Once you’re there:
- Immediately build your social network by introducing yourself to fellow dorm residents and classmates. Remember that they, too, will be newbies looking for connections. The best – and easiest – way to get them to open up to and be interested in you is to be open with and show interest in them. So ask them lots of questions about themselves.
- Begin looking for opportunities to connect with mentors, because they can be incredibly valuable to you throughout your college years – and well beyond that. Frank Bruni, in an August 17, 2018 nytimes.com, wrote, “…perhaps the most important relationships to invest in are those with members of the school’s faculty. Most students don’t fully get that. They’re not very good at identifying the professors worth knowing — the ones who aren’t such academic rock stars that they’re inaccessible, the ones with a track record of serious mentoring — and then getting to know them well.”
- If you want the greatest possible sense of fulfillment with life after you graduate, do the four things we mentioned in our Aug 17, 2017 blog titled What’s Really Important About The College You Attend: Part II. Those four things are based on the Gallup-Purdue Index, based upon interviews of many thousands of college graduates. Two of the four are mentioned above. Graduates reported a greater sense of well-being if they did any one of the following while they were in college, and the more of them they accomplished, the greater their sense of well-being:
- developed a relationship with a mentor
- participated in or did a project that lasted a semester or more
- had a job or internship that was directly connected to their chosen field
- deeply involved themselves in a campus organization or activity (as opposed to a little involved in many such organizations)
Ultimately, we’re giving you rock-solid, common-sense suggestions about a remarkable period in your life in a truly unique place. The preparation you receive in your learning community will serve long-term goals in your life. You’re stepping across a threshold into a world filled with opportunities. Take advantage. Assert yourself. Prepare. And, remember, we’re always here for you if you need academic support or future guidance.