It feels great to know where you are going to school in the fall, but there are still a few things that you need to take care of between making your final decision and actually starting school. Your job is not done yet! After accepting your offer, you will likely receive a to-do list from your school. It might have been part of your acceptance packet. If not, you may have to create an online account with your institution or wait to receive further information by mail or email. This list can help you stay on track of everything you need to do before you sit down in your first college class.
Sign up for and attend orientation.
Orientation is a time for you to become familiar with the campus, meet other incoming students, finalize your class schedule, learn about school policies, and participate in “getting to know you” events and games. While there may be a few upperclassmen around, orientation is a time for freshmen to have the campus mostly to themselves so that they know what to expect when school actually starts. Some schools will also host orientation for transfer students. Even if it isn’t required, you should plan on attending orientation. It gives you a chance to meet with academic advisors and faculty in certain departments, learn how to find your way around campus, see where you will be living, and get a student ID card.
Depending on whether you are attending a large or small institution, you may have multiple date options for attending orientation. If you have to choose a date, you’ll need to either RSVP or sign up for the dates that work best for you. Sometimes, these may be in the middle of the summer. It can seem like you’re jumping the gun a little bit, but you’ll feel better in the fall if you know that you’re showing up prepared. Smaller schools often offer freshman (and possibly transfer) orientation immediately before the beginning of fall semester. Students can arrive on campus a few days early, move into their dorms, say goodbye to their parents, and begin immersing themselves in the college life right away.
Some schools also offer summer programs for incoming students. These may come in the form of an outdoor camping retreat, a short course, or volunteer experience. Programs like these are a great way to start making friends and getting to know your home for the next four years, so take advantage of them!
Visit your primary care physician.
To attend college, you may have to show proof of certain immunizations before you arrive, particularly the meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which protects against bacterial meningitis. Also recommended are vaccines that protect against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis, HPV, and the flu. (Colleges often host seasonal flu vaccine clinics during the fall semester.) Not only may you have to show proof of vaccination, but almost all colleges require students to have health insurance. You can receive health insurance through your parents (until you turn 26), your school, your employer, the state or federal health insurance marketplace, or a private insurance company. This will protect you if you have a medical emergency while you are at school, attend any routine checkups, or need to fill prescriptions.
If you do regularly take prescription medications or suffer from a chronic illness, ask your doctor to write you long-term prescriptions (a three- or six-month supply) or prescriptions with multiple refills that you can fill while you are away at school. Visit your doctor for a routine checkup the summer before you start school, but also make sure that you establish a primary care physician (who accepts your health insurance) in your new town. Have your current doctor send over your medical records. You want to be prepared and have a well-informed doctor in case your illness flares up and begins to cause problems.
If you’re a generally healthy person, know that you will get the occasional illness. Colleges try to protect you from the worst of it by requiring immunizations, but with so many students who are living together, breathing the same air, and sneezing on the library books, you’re bound to get sick once in awhile. Most schools have on-campus health clinics for minor complaints, but knowing your off-campus options isn’t a bad idea. Additionally, if you regularly see specialty doctors (chiropractors, therapists, dermatologists, etc.), make plans to get your checkups when you are at home over breaks or find a specialist near your college or university who is accepting new patients and will take your insurance.
Figure out where you’re going to live.
Many colleges require freshmen to live on campus, in which case you will probably be required to submit a housing survey or a roommate preference survey. Be honest about what might irk you in a roommate but also about your own habits. If you stay up late every night, you don’t want to be paired with someone who goes to bed early and can’t sleep with the lights on. If you’re a smoker, mention it. For some people, that is a deal breaker. Colleges may also ask if you are generally messy or clean, loud or quiet, planning to work in the room or in common study areas, and what you like to do in your off time. Your school will take all of the information you provide and use it to pair you up with someone who has similar habits. Once you’ve received the name of your roommate, contact them! Use Facebook or email to coordinate who is bringing what for the dorm room. You don’t want to end up with two microwaves.
Adult students, married students, or students with children may be given special permission to live off campus or the school may offer married-student housing. Schools may not require freshmen to live on campus, either. If you’ve chosen to live off campus, where will you live? Will you need to find a roommate on your own or will your school provide you with a list of other freshmen who are living off campus? These are questions that you will need to answer once you know how much you can afford to put toward housing each year. If you do need a roommate, check with your college to see if there’s a message board where students can talk about off-campus housing. Once you’ve decided to live off campus and have picked a roommate (if you need one), you just need to find an apartment! Some schools own houses that they will rent to students, so check with the school first before turning to Craigslist. Then, start looking at neighborhoods close to school; you don’t want your commute to be unbearable.
If you’re living at home, you’re all set! Just make sure that your college knows your address and is aware that you will be living at home. You don’t want to get charged for a dorm room that you won’t be using.
Choose a meal plan.
Are you planning on cooking every meal yourself? Are you even allowed to cook for yourself or are you required to select a campus meal plan? Consider how often you eat, any dietary restrictions (colleges are often willing to work with you on this), the campus dining hall hours, and how often you eat out at restaurants or fast food joints. This will allow you to come up with an accurate number to specify on your meal plan. Some schools make you add money to a meal card, so instead of a set number of all-you-can-eat meals each week, you are charged for each meal item that you purchase. Typically, the standard plan or amount is sufficient for students who live on campus, but be sure to read through all of your options. Don’t forget to factor in the nutritional value of what you’re being offered!
Register for your classes.
When and how do you register for classes? How many classes do you need to register for? Can you email an academic advisor for advice? Are there particular courses that incoming students are required to take their first semesters?
Some colleges require that you take tests to determine where you place in certain subjects, such as math and languages. Check to see if you need to take any placement tests and whether they need to be taken online, on paper, or in person. After you get your results, register for the level the college recommends. If you are worried that you’ll forget some math over the summer, it’s okay to go ahead and register for a lower-level course too. The college just wants to give you the chance to test out of classes that would be redundant for you to take.
You may be required to complete a summer reading assignment, depending on what classes you register for. Registering as early as possible will help you get any potential summer assignments done, with time to spare.
Buy your textbooks.
After registration is complete, you may receive your textbook lists (though some colleges and professors supply the list as part of the syllabus on the first day of class). If you have a list in advance, you can spend some time doing price comparisons because many textbooks don’t come cheap. You will be able to buy new or used textbooks from your college bookstore, and it is possible that it also has a rental service for popular, oft-offered classes. The college bookstore, however, doesn’t often beat online prices, but you can’t beat the convenience! Amazon has a textbook rental service, and you can buy books new and used as well. There are many other online apps and textbook price comparison services (bigwords.com, for example). Learn how to save money on your textbooks here.
Find a job.
If you qualified for work-study in your federal financial aid package, you will either receive a position or be asked to apply for positions. If you do not receive any guidance from the financial aid office included in your admissions packet, contact an admissions officer and ask what steps you need to take to ensure that you have a job and receive all of the money for which you are eligible. Even if you don’t qualify for work-study based on your and your family’s finances, you may still be able to find an on-campus job to earn a supplementary income. If you think you’ll have some extra time, look for a part-time job, either on campus or off, but if you get overwhelmed at all, remember that school comes first.
Page last updated: 04/2017