While being accepted at your dream college or university is exciting, it’s only a first step. Upon arrival to campus, things can quickly become overwhelming. Actions you take now can set you up for success and make the transition to college much easier. Below are some things to consider as you get closer to the next adventure of your life.
Build your savings
If you have any current sources of income, start building your savings account now or add to what you already have. In addition to the cost of tuition and housing, attending college can come with plenty of unexpected costs, including the spending money you’ll need to do things with your friends. Consider adding any monetary graduation gifts to your savings instead of splurging on something during the summer before college. This will give you a solid financial foundation and open the door to a multitude of opportunities.
Search for scholarships
Although completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can qualify you for significant amounts of financial aid, it’s rare for all of your costs to be covered by any grants and scholarships offered from your FAFSA. Many students end up having to use student loans to finance their education. In addition to financial aid offered by your school of choice, consider searching for additional scholarships online and applying early. Even if you have to write an essay or attend an interview, scholarship money adds up and is superior to borrowing money via student loans because you won’t have to pay it back. It’s a common mistake for students to stop looking for money once they receive their financial aid award offers. Keep in mind, it’s just an initial offer, so any additional scholarship money you can qualify for will reduce your loan burden.
Research degree requirements
While it’s relatively normal for students to change their major while attending college or to start without a declared field of study, it’s important to review degree requirements in your areas of interest. Degree programs make their course requirements and elective options available in advance. By reviewing course requirements in your field or fields of interest, you can avoid paying for classes you don’t need. If you’re considering a dual major, minor, or specialization, you can often find courses that overlap for multiple program requirements if you research before enrolling. Also, if you’re unsure of the direction you want to go, try to enroll only in general education courses that will fit with any degree track.
Look for a job
Even if you’ve planned ahead and are entering college with some cash in savings, it’s important to keep your cash flow strong as you begin spending that money. Most college and university campuses offer a plethora of on-campus jobs for students. You can also often find nearby internships to further your career or expose you to various job experiences. Although you may need to wait to apply for some jobs until closer to the start of the semester, it can be helpful to research what opportunities are available so that you’re prepared to hop on them when they become available. On-campus jobs are usually great about working around your class schedule and remaining flexible when your academic demands change.
Explore social clubs and student organizations
Once you’ve decided on a college to attend, consider exploring social opportunities on campus. Most colleges will have a student activities webpage where you can learn about student organizations and volunteer opportunities. One big reason to attend a large college or university, especially if you are studying away from home, is to build friendships, network, explore your passions, and engage with the endless possibilities available to students! Think about what your current interests are and if there are others you’ve wanted to explore, such as a language, a social cause, political or social activism and more!
Consider transportation options
Whether you plan to commute or live on-campus, navigating college transportation can be a challenge. It will be helpful if you can develop a plan in advance so you’re not caught off-guard when you arrive on campus or begin classes. Some colleges will provide free parking for commuters and others will sell parking passes. If you’re living on campus, there may be parking pass costs and possibly even restrictions on who can bring a vehicle to campus. Alternatively, many colleges have developed robust public transportation options for students to navigate campus and the surrounding community. By deciding in advance what will work best for you and exploring what options are available, you’ll have one less thing to worry about at the start of your college experience.