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The Incoming College Freshman Checklist (What to Bring to College)

Congratulations, you’re officially a college freshman! This is both an exciting and frightening transition for most students. There are many things to do in the summer before college, and it can be difficult to know how to get ready. There are things to pack, people to say goodbye to, and forms to fill out. 

For those already stressing over this new life chapter, there are plenty of ways to prepare before even stepping foot in a classroom or dorm. We’ve compiled a list of all of the important must-do items, so if you work through it a little at a time – you’ll be done before you know it!

Before you arrive on campus, use the following checklist to make sure you stay on track:

1. Make a Commitment

Once you’ve made your decision about which college to attend, you’ll need to commit to that college. You may be able to do this online or you may have to do it in writing.

You’ll need to send in your deposit, complete and accept the financial aid application, and fill out any health forms that are required the summer before college. Be sure to read the information closely and promptly respond to all of the forms you receive from your college so as to not miss any deadlines. 

Read through your acceptance letter completely and take note of important dates. Dates to keep in mind may include:

  • Deadline to accept admission (and pay the acceptance fee, if applicable) 
  • Deadline to submit final high school transcript 
  • Deadline to take placement tests 
  • Deadline to apply for housing 
  • Deadline to file your financial aid documents 
  • Deadline to sign up for orientation 

2. Establish Housing

Since many colleges require incoming freshmen to live in dorms, chances are high you’re going to have a roommate. Whether you are living on campus in a dorm or off campus in an apartment or house, make sure you have your housing lined up as early as possible. If you’re staying on campus, see if you can request housing that is close to your classes so you can save time each day. 

If your college has assigned a roommate, reach out by phone, connect through social media, get to know each other, and coordinate on furnishing and decorating your dorm. 

If you are looking for off-campus housing, make sure you check out several locations that meet your budget and your needs. Also, be sure to read your lease in its entirety, so you know what your landlord expects.

3. Schedule a Campus Tour

You can walk around the campus on your own, but scheduling a guided tour will give you more insight into the different areas of campus and what you can expect on your first day. While you’re exploring campus, make sure you note where the emergency points and security office are located. Both parents and students should take time before the semester begins to become familiar with the campus’ safety resources and procedures.

If you’re attending a college out of state, use this time to explore your new location. Now’s the time to research the popular restaurants, the nearest theaters and music venues, the parks in your proximity; to research the history, culture, and local population; and to identify some of the neighborhoods, landmarks, attractions, and adjacent towns worth seeing.

4. Register for Orientation

Orientation for incoming students may be mandatory at your college, but if it isn’t – try your best to attend anyway. This is especially important if you haven’t been able to visit the college beforehand. Register for an early orientation to (hopefully) get the classes you want, as well as to familiarize yourself with the campus and to see your official dorm and cafeteria options firsthand.

Orientation is a crucial time to start making friends, research clubs and organizations, and get to know your campus environment. Don’t miss out on this opportunity to ask questions and get involved. It’s important to note that everyone is going through the same thing, so don’t be shy – try to make as many connections as you can. 

5. Practice Life Skills

Your parents are most likely not heading off to college with you. This means you are responsible for your cooking, cleaning, and laundry – maybe for the first time in your life. Now is a great time to practice. Take the opportunity to learn how to cook some quick and simple meals, wash and dry your clothing properly, and clean up after yourself. 

Make sure you have established a checking and savings account that you can access to pay bills or withdraw cash as needed. These essential skills will keep your life outside the classroom on track.

6. Visit Your Doctor

Get up to date on all your vaccinations; most colleges require that you submit updated vaccination information before or during your first year.

If you have a regular or essential prescription, work with your doctor to have it transferred before you leave to a pharmacy near your campus, or get a second prescription written. In general, this is a chance to get a clean bill of health, update prescriptions, and ask your doctor any pressing questions before you leave home.

7. Start Networking

If you haven’t done this already, now would be a good time to engage with your college online. It’s a great way to participate in ongoing discussions and also familiarize yourself with the culture and lingo of the college.

One of the best ways to connect with other prospective or accepted freshmen at your university is through social media. Try searching your university with your prospective class year and see if any groups exist. Add your future school onto your profile on Facebook and LinkedIn to help encourage the connections even further.

Use this time to clean up your social media and make sure everything you post online represents your best self.

  • Double check that comments made by you and your friends are positive and professional
  • Make sure all photos (not just your profile image and cover images) are appropriate
  • Set your privacy settings accordingly 

Look for ways to get involved on campus, whether you want to join a club or team (or both). Spend some time researching the clubs and organizations related to your major, or check out some of the varsity, intramural or club sports your school hosts. Get an idea of what’s available before you get to campus so you don’t waste any time once you’re there.

8. Pack, Pack, Pack! 

The best way to feel prepared for your new adventure is knowing you’re fully prepared. Explore our college packing list for dorm room and apartment essentials. 

Before you buy or pack anything, be sure to check with your school about what items are and are not allowed. Most schools have to be very careful about health and safety regulations, and rules differ from place to place. Check out our Official College Packing List (College Must-Haves), which includes dorm room essentials (or apartment essentials), school supplies for college, and other key items for move-in day.

College move-in day can be extremely thrilling and a little scary. Even though moving into the dorms, finding your classes, and adjusting to your new surroundings can be overwhelming, remember to enjoy the experience. You’ll be making friends, discovering new hobbies, and learning more about yourself than ever before in no time!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References: 

  1. https://blog.collegeboard.org/summer-before-college-checklist
  2. https://studentaid.gov/resources/prepare-for-college/checklists/12th-grade
  3. https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-in/making-a-decision/off-to-college-checklist
  4. https://thebestschools.org/magazine/summer-before-college/
  5. https://www.nitrocollege.com/blog/4-checklists-for-college 

9 Money Saving Tips for College Students on a Budget

By: Kayla Gowan

Let’s face it: college is expensive. Between tuition, housing, student fees, transportation, and textbooks – the costs add up quickly. For many college students, this is the first time you have to budget and manage money on your own. 

Managing money and setting budgetary goals may seem like the last things you want to do at the end of a busy day filled with classes and exams, but developing good habits is worth the effort. Managing in-college spending is a learning experience. Fortunately, there are many ways you can save money while in college. 

Here are the nine best money-saving tips for college students:

1. Rent Your Textbooks

Buying textbooks can be one of the biggest expenses every semester. One huge way to save money in college is to rent textbooks instead of buying them! With eCampus.com – you can save up to 90% off the regular price of a new textbook. eCampus.com also has three rental term lengths (short term, quarter term, and semester) to fit every student’s schedule and the ability to extend or purchase the rental at the end of the rental term.

If you’ve already purchased your textbooks, when the semester is over – you can sell your books back to eCampus.com for cash!

2. Apply for Grants and Scholarships

Start by filling out the FAFSA before each new school year, regardless of your family’s financial status, to tap into federal, state and institutional grants and scholarships. 

You can apply for scholarships and grants every year throughout college! It’s a misconception that scholarships are only for first-year students. In fact, many colleges have systems in place that reward students financially for good grades, volunteering, being an active part of the college town community, and many other things. Given that many scholarships go unclaimed (or have very few entries), if you dedicate some time to applying, you could find yourself saving on tuition costs! 

If you’re not sure where to find scholarships, the Federal Student Aid has compiled a list of places to look that you can view here. For more information about how financial aid works, you can read our eCampus blog post here.

3. Create a Budget

If you don’t know where your money is going every month, you’ll never know the true potential of your saving power! Start off small by giving yourself a weekly budget and see how close you come to accurately estimating expenses. Work on creating a realistic budget that you can stick to, incorporating all regular bills or payments. A budget isn’t set in stone and often takes several tries to get right – so keep working on it until you find the right balance!

A lack of structure can keep you from being on top of managing your spending and can mean disaster for your budget. Fortunately, there are a number of free budgeting apps to help.

3 Apps to Help with Budgeting for College Students

  • Mint: This money management and financial planning app lets you see all of your accounts in one place. You can swipe to check your balances or get reminders to pay your bills on time! 
  • Pocketguard: This app lets you see all of your mobile banking, including credit cards, checking and savings, loans, and investments in one place. After you’ve paid the bills, the app tells you how much you have left over, so you can save the rest! 
  • Personal Capital: Like Mint and Pocketguard, this app allows you to see all of your accounts on one platform. On this app, you can see separate graphs of your cash flow (income vs. expenses), your budget (what you’re spending your money on), and your investments.

4. Split the Cost of Rent with Roommates

Living with roommates is the quintessential college experience. This is helpful for many students as you can split the cost of rent and utilities with one or more roommates.

Make a point to know what’s already provided in your future dorm or apartment. Some dorm rooms come equipped with a microwave or small fridge or an ironing board in the laundry facilities. An apartment might already come with appliances or even basic furniture. Coordinate with your roommates before shopping so you’re not double-buying items or buying things you don’t need.

Take good care of your apartment so you don’t forfeit your security deposit at the end of the semester!

5. Cook Your Own Food

Eating at restaurants can be one of the most expensive items in your budget. It’s almost always cheaper to cook than it is to go out to eat. While a dinner for $5-10 may sound cheap, it really does add up over time.

How Much do College Students Spend on Food?

The cost of a meal plan has doubled in the last 10 years. The average college and university charges about $4,500, or $18.75 per day, for a three-meal-a-day dining contract that covers the eight months or so of a typical academic year.

You can probably cook the same meal (and prep for future meals) for about half the price. If you do eat out, go for lunch or happy hour when restaurants are most likely to be offering discounts.

That goes for coffee, too! Let’s say you spend $5 on a daily cup of coffee – this can equal up to $375 per semester. Save the bank by investing in a coffee machine and making your morning brew from home! 

6. Use Public Transportation

Parking, gas, and insurance for your car can quickly add up. Many college campuses have free buses and shuttles that help students get around campus and even to nearby apartments. Some schools even have rentable bikes or scooters for the semester!

If you need public transportation to get around, see if you can get a student pass. Many colleges partner with their local transit authorities and offer student discounts and student passes for busses, subways, trolleys, and more.

7. Use Student Discounts

Don’t leave home without your student ID! Most places offer a student discount – this can include restaurants, shops, movie theaters, theme parks, and more!

Another big expense for college students is technology. Many students want (or need) to get a new laptop. Plus, some classes require their own specific software that you need to install. Often, technology companies offer significant discounts to students – from Apple and Microsoft, to Adobe and more. If you’re getting any type of new computer or software, make sure to buy it through the education store and get your student discount.

Click here is a list of the top 60 discounts available to students right now! If you’re not sure whether a company offers a student discount, there’s no harm in asking. Better “save” than sorry!

8. Utilize Campus Resources

Check out the amenities that are free for students to use on campus. Campus resources are designed to make college easier, but that’s only the case if you use them!

  • Student Gym: working out and staying fit is important in college. Instead of spending money on a gym membership, see if your campus offers the use of the student gym for free. Most campuses have great athletic and gym facilities available to students. Take full advantage!
  • On-Campus Printing: printing is another area that can be costly, with papers eating up ink cartridges at home. Oftentimes, the cost of printing is included in your student facility fees. Check the school library to see if they offer free or discounted printing.
  • Campus Library: one of the most under-used, but best free tools on a college campus is the library. College libraries have everything, including books, computer stations, software, and more. Libraries also offer free spaces to study, meet with group members, or use the computer. 

Other commonly provided resources include tutoring, counseling, childcare, and career services. Check what your college offers before you pay extra for the same service elsewhere.

9. Take Advantage of Campus Activities

Going out every weekend can drain your entertainment budget very quickly. Instead, keep up with what’s happening on campus. Most colleges organize plenty of events throughout the semester, ranging from museum visits, to movie nights, and more for free or discounted rates.

Check the events page on your school website to see what’s up and coming. You can also look for signs and promotions around your campus. These signs often promote free food in an attempt to get students to come. If you do this regularly, you can probably get your lunch taken care of most days! And maybe even learn something! 

Bonus: Attending campus events is a great way to make new friends, too!

While saving money as a college student is not always easy, it is possible with plenty of hard work and a commitment to your financial security and wellbeing. Meeting your budgetary goals will not only help your college experience, but prepare you for a bright financial future!

Be sure to connect with us @ecampusdotcom on Twitter, Instagram, & Facebook for more resources, tips, and some great giveaways! And when it’s time for textbooks, eCampus.com has you covered for all your course material needs at savings up to 90%!

References:

  1. https://turbo.intuit.com/blog/real-money-talk/how-to-save-money-in-college-1539/ 
  2. https://www.debt.org/students/college-budgeting-101/ 
  3. https://www.affordablecollegesonline.org/college-resource-center/student-guide-to-budgeting/ 
  4. https://thecollegeinvestor.com/22453/save-money-in-college/ 
  5. https://www.thesimpledollar.com/financial-wellness/63-quick-tips-to-save-money-in-college/ 

3 Tips for Surviving Fall Semester

It’s about that time again where the new school year looms dauntingly overhead.  Nearing the end of swimsuits and late night rendezvous in replace of studying and hitting the alarm 3 times before rolling out of bed. Yes, it’s the fall semester and while you’re frantically rushing to class, were helping you retain some of that cool ocean chill all year round. Get your head in the game because it’s going to be a long semester.

1. Get Plenty of Rest

3 Tips for Balancing Fall Semester | Get Plenty of Rest

This could be tricky but it’s doable. You’re loaded with midterms or finals and you must study to pass but you’re working or crunched for time. The only likely scenario is to study late into the night, every night with little sleep. If your experience is similar, don’t fret. The perfect solution is to start early. In order to get plenty of rest, start studying weeks in advance. The rule of thumb is to study the amount of hours you have a class per week. For instance, if you have a class that meets three hours per week, the allotted amount of time you should spend studying that subject each week is 3 hours.

2. Pick Healthy Foods

3 Tips for Balancing Fall Semester | Pick Healthy Foods

At every college campus, there is an ample amount of convenient food, but choosing the right convenient food matters. Ditch the candy, ready-made pizzas and chips for something more filling.  Assorted nuts are packed with healthy fats, minerals and protein to keep you full during long lectures. Sustained energy can also help keep you alert if you find yourself drifting. Fruits are also an easy on the go snack filled with brain boosting nutrients that can help curb that sweet tooth we just can’t seem to get rid of. Try eating a banana for the amino acid tryptophan; it has been linked to aid memory (great for studying!).

3.  Hit Your Campus Gym

3 Tips for Balancing Fall Semester | Hit Your Campus Gym

Hitting the gym is a no-brainer for optimum health, but did you know it can actually help achieve higher grades? One study found that students who frequented the gym had higher GPAs than those who did not. Those who work out regularly have better memory, better test scores and tend be better at managing their time. So don’t sweat the upcoming semester; just sweat at the gym!

I hope these tips help you have the best fall semester yet! Have any comments? Leave them below!

To Live on Campus, or Not Live on Campus: Tough Question!

Depending on where you go to school, living can be a sticky situation. If you go to a big school your options might consist of freshmen dorms, off campus apartments or houses, and potentially Greek Sorority or Fraternity houses. You may get to choose where you live—and make the tough call of staying put, or venturing off on your own. However if you go to a smaller school, your options start to change.

Smaller schools can accommodate more students because of smaller numbers—instead of 33,000 beds, you may only need a few thousand—if that. Small scale universities have large commuter, day time, and evening populations. Dormitories can be built to hold fewer students than state schools would need to, and often guarantee housing for all four years instead of offering a less than desirable lottery system.

But how do you choose where to live? If it’s mandatory to live on campus, is that a bad thing?  If you can choose whether or not to live on campus, should you? Or if you have the option to move off campus, what factors should you consider? Where does benefit vs. cost analysis kick in?

Before you toss and turn trying to figure out all of you housing worries, consider the facts. Make a pros and cons list and really weigh your options. Most campuses are different, so what may make more sense for friends studying at other schools, may not necessarily make the most sense for you!

So why live on campus? Here are my reasons: I go to a small, private institution in Philadelphia. It’s centered in an urban area, 15 minutes from center city. Housing options are limited off campus—you have to rent, buy or sublet. However, students are fortunate enough to be guaranteed housing on campus for all four years. And that’s not all! Your start in the dorms, but as you move through semesters and classes (and start to accumulate credits!) you can move up on the housing ladder. Dorms turn into apartments, and eventually your apartment turns into a townhouse with three floors. Now this isn’t the case everywhere, but you get the point. There are options for students who want to stay close, and stay put right on campus! The upkeep is taking care of, you don’t pay water and electric, you have options and space to room. Really, campus is your new backyard. The only downside? Your room and board receipt.  Maybe it’s covered in your financial aid, scholarships or loan, or maybe not. Just consider the numbers and decide if adding this portion to your bill makes sense.

If on campus isn’t for you, what else can you try? Here is my perspective– On the flip side of our cozy campus community, is the off-campus living. Students who are local, or who want slightly more freedom than dorms allow, make the move off campus. There are houses and apartments close by with owners looking to rent, or sublet to desirable students. There are factors that go into this move that students don’t often consider—safety, upkeep, costs, etc. However, when all is said and done, those who decided to become “college home owners” do okay. You can make your own rules, decorate however you want, and eat on your own plan. However, don’t forget to consider the time commitment you are signing up for! You are signing a lease or contract and become responsible for property. You are paying bills (that may or may not be cheaper than on campus alternatives), and managing the upkeep of your place. You have to cook, clean, and monitor aspects of your living life that you may not have even noticed when you were in the dorms.

Unfortunately there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to where you should live on campus. It’s mixing bowl of factors, time, and costs. You need to decide what makes the most sense for you individually and how you want to spend your time when you don’t have your head buried in a book. Do you want to share a room, are you comfortable with roommates? Can you remember to take on the trash? Will you remember to turn off lights and lock your door? Will you remember to grab your keys?

Take your time and do your research. Check out every available outlet of information on housing in your college area and decide what makes the most sense—also check requirements. Some scholarships stipulate that you live on campus, so does some financial aid! Or your campus may have a “first year” rule making it mandatory to live on campus. After that, it’s up to you! You can also choose how you decorate your room and what furniture to have—now you just have to decide where that room will be!

-Ring Queen

Get Involved on Your Campus

If you had to guess, how many clubs would you say there are on your campus? Maybe five, ten, twenty? Try Hundreds! Often college campuses will have a wide array of student groups, clubs and programs for you to get involved in. You may find it hard to believe—where do all those student groups hide? But I promise you, they’re there, and they are waiting for students like you to come check them out! Student clubs and organizations are an important part of a college experience. Whether you’re interested in Greek life, student governance, or academics, there is a niche right for you—you just have to find it!

So why should you get involved? Who cares if there’s a science club, or sister society? You should! Student organizations can be a lot of fun. Here are my top reasons why you should get involved:

1. We are social creatures by nature. There is nothing wrong with a quiet night at home every once in a while. However, there are times when it becomes necessary, some might even say crucial, that you get up, swap the sweats for real pants and mingle with your peers. It’s healthy to interact with others, even if it’s just once in a while. We all know you have to sit in class with Sue Something and Bobby what’s his name, but do you really know anything about them? What’s their favorite hangout? What do they like to do on the weekends? If you don’t give your snuggie a break, and leave your dorm room for fresh air, you might never know!

Student groups, whatever they might be—sororities, fraternities, student government, resident life, mock trials—you can find something that fits both your schedule and your social style. Just give these groups a chance and you might be pleasantly surprised. Some of the best college relationships—friendships and romances—start in student groups, that’s how I met my leading man! You never know who might share your interests! So go find out!

2. Another reason to get involved? Connections, connections, connections! Professors, administrators, and high ups in universities are often advisors or contacts of student groups. If you want to know the ins and outs of your school, or get guidance on jobs, resumes or even events, student clubs should be on your go-to list! Plus, you will instantly find a group of students who share your interests, passions and even schedules!

3. When you look back on your four years of college, what do you think you’ll remember? The test you studied for that one afternoon, at that one time, in the middle of that one month? Or the time you decided to run for class senator and gave a speech in front of the whole quad and taped posters up in every academic building? You only get to do college once—if you’re lucky! So make the most of your time and build memories that are going to last forever. Lots of groups will have formals, parties, social events and even dinners—perfect opportunities for pictures and memory making! The rallies you throw on campus, or the events you put on for the students will leave a mark on not only your memory, but will be a part of your school forever. Show your spirit, and share your skills with your school and get involved. You won’t regret it—in fact you’ll look back and be happy you did! You will have people to seek out at reunions, pages to flip to in the yearbook and memories to share with your kids some day!

Student organizations are easy ways to meet and greet with your peers, build relationships and get involved with something that interests you. You can always take time for yourself, but remember, once school is over, it’s much harder to find clubs and groups that will welcome you with such open arms—and often no membership fee!

-Ring Queen

I’m reading Strangers to These Shores: Race and Ethnic Relations in the United States with Research Navigator