8 Things To Do Before Heading Off to College
You just graduated from high school, and you’re enjoying a fun-filled summer, but remember that college is just around the corner! Soon you’ll be packing up your belongings and heading off to your first dorm room, dreaming of all the great adventures college will bring.
But wait – before you go, there are a few important things you need to take care of first. (Yes, even though it’s summer vacation.)
1.) Double-check on your financial aid
Before heading off to campus, make sure you check in with your financial aid office to make sure everything is in order with your financial aid package. The last thing you want is to arrive at college and find out your financial aid award has been delayed for some reason, preventing you from enrolling in classes! Doing a quick check ahead of time can help you head off any unpleasant surprises. If you didn’t receive enough financial aid to cover the entire cost, make sure you or your parents are prepared and ready to get that check in for the balance pronto!
2.) Get a part-time job
While not everyone wants to work during college, it can be a wonderful way to get your feet wet in the working world, gain experience in your chosen field, learn money management skills, and help pay for part of college! However, if you’re planning to work on campus, you should look into these opportunities before school starts. Even if you were awarded work-study in your financial aid package, this does not guarantee you a job. You still have to find a job on campus, apply, and qualify for the position. Contact your school’s financial aid office early to find out what positions are available and how to apply.
3.) Build a resume
Learning to write a good resume is an important skill to have, even before starting college. Not only can you hone your skills before looking for post-grad employment, but you will need a good resume when applying for internships or part-time jobs.
4.) Learn how to manage money
As you will soon be on your own, learning to manage your money is a very important skill – and it’s one that many young people don’t take the time to learn until it’s too late. College can give you a great taste of what it’s like to manage your own money, before you are totally out on your own. Tally up any expected income, extra money from financial aid, and expenses that may already be covered. Then list out anything you still need to pay for, like books, social activities, etc. Create a budget for the semester, so you know exactly what money you will have on hand, and what you can afford to spend. Learning this skill will help you throughout your entire life, so start now, to avoid learning the hard way later!
5.) Look for ways to save
Part of learning to manage money is learning to look for good deals! Many discounts are available to students – from movie tickets, to food, and more. When shopping, remember to ask if student discounts are available. When shopping for textbooks, look for used textbooks, or check online for deals or special offers.
6.) Practice time management
For many students, college is the first time you will be faced with having to manage your own schedule. Time management can be one of the greatest challenges for many college students, and it’s often one that you don’t think about ahead of time. Before college starts, take the time to familiarize yourself with your class schedule, and any important deadlines. Get a student planner, or use a phone, computer, or an online tool to plan out and manage your schedule for the upcoming semester.
7.) Learn to look out for yourself
You are an adult now, and you are responsible for your own safety – and your own belongings. Put your school’s campus security number into your phone, and start making it a habit to lock doors, lock your laptop, and protect your passwords and Social Security number. Your parents aren’t going to be around to do these things for you when you’re away at college! You need to learn to keep your important belongings safe, and protect your identity from the modern problem of identity thieves, who could compromise your credit and even your ability to get a job in the future.
8.) Get ready to file the FAFSA…again
That’s right! You just filed in January, but even though you are starting college in the fall, you will need to file AGAIN in October under the new financial aid rules, which go into effect on October 1, 2016. Since the new rules look at the “prior-prior year” taxes, make sure your parents have their 2015 tax returns on hand for filing, and get your forms in as soon after October 1st as possible for maximum aid eligibility.
By doing a bit of planning and preparation ahead of time, you will be ready to dive right into the college experience when the semester starts.
Good luck in your first semester of college!