So, you are just a breath away from experiencing the life of a freshman and are preparing for college life. What a fantastic period of your life opens up in front of you! You will now be living on your own, setting your own schedule, and managing your own budget.
Tie Up Loose Ends
- Make sure your future college has received your final high school transcript (there are websites like Parchment, National Student Clearinghouse, and Need My Transcript that can help you ask for and send your school transcript or you may go to your local school district or guidance counselor and ask him/her for help).
- Submit your AP scores and your final college transcript.
- Ensure that the financial aid office has all the required information and necessary documents, such as your parents’ income tax returns, your driver’s license, and social security card so you don’t lose a part of your financial aid.
- Visit your doctor for a check-up. Also, make arrangements for any prescriptions you may need (if you have on-going ones).
- Make an appointment with your dentist to have your teeth cleaned and take care of any required dental procedures before heading to college.Open a bank account and don’t forget to check that the town you will be staying has an ATM or a branch of that bank.
- Learn how to do the laundry and write checks (or use online bill pay).
- Apply for a credit card with no fees and a low-interest rate just in case you need cash for an emergency.
- Learn your social security number by heart as you will need it for several things (i.e. to get a job or open a bank account).
- Call the college’s housing department to verify the situation of your dorm. If you are staying in a house or an apartment (also read below), then ensure that you double check with the roommate or landlord that you are all set to move in.
Make Necessary Financial Preparations
It is extremely important to figure out your college finances. Where are you going to get the money you need to pay your tuition fees? This should be on top of the list of things to do before college because it can affect your college life dramatically.
Without a doubt, living on a budget is much easier if you have done some prep before you leave home. Consider the following options when preparing for college life:
- Government Scholarships – File for government-run FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) no matter what (even if you believe they won’t accept your applications). You may qualify for a federal scholarship, grant, loan, or work-study program. In the first two cases, you won’t need to pay back the money you receive.
- College Award Letters – You should have received an award letter from your college, mentioning what aid the institution can offer you (scholarships, grants, and perhaps loans too). So, they will offer you a sum at first, but you can appeal for more aid.
- Private Scholarships – Funding can come from thousands of sources, ranging from national companies to churches and local businesses. Go through the varying requirements carefully and see what each scholarship is offering (some pay room and textbooks and others offer aid for tuition). You may also qualify for student loans for school supplies too.
- Federal Work-Study Programs – You get a part-time job (most likely related to the field of study), and your salary goes straight towards paying your tuition fees. Plus, you gain valuable working experience.
- Federal Student Loans – They offer a lower interest rate and more flexibility in their repayment plans compared to private loans. Besides, you might also qualify for a student loan forgiveness plan which could delete your debt.
- On-Campus Job Opportunities – You may take up a campus job and put the money you earn towards repaying your loan early. Call up the college student office even before the semester starts and let them know that you are looking for an on-campus job.
It is a good option if, for example, your financial aid does not cover 100% of college tuition.
Finally, there are private student loans, but these should be your last resort due to the more stringent repayment regulations and higher interest rates than the federal ones.