Going to college this fall? If the answer is yes, there are some things you need to do before getting on campus. The list I’ve put together for you doesn’t include the typical checklist items you’ll find on a campus website. These are the things that most students don’t think to do or know to do.
Let’s get started:
1. Check your campus email.
This tip is as boring as it is important. I can’t begin to tell you how many students get into trouble because they do not check their email. This is the place schools will send students notices, bills, and requests for additional information. Checking your email can be the difference between going to college and missing a deadline and not going to college. Yes, it happens. And because of FERPA, your parents might not have access. It’s all on you.
2. Plug into college using social media.
Most schools are on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and even Snapchat. Start with the school’s main feeds, search for your campus departments, find the school newspaper, and follow athletics, the office of student life, residence life, campus safety, clubs, orgs, and the health center. Follow specific people’s accounts too; the campus president, orientation leaders, and campus leaders are often on social media and welcome students to follow and communicate with them. Ask upperclassmen who and what to follow.
3. Go to all welcome events (even the terrible rotten awful horrible ones).
There are going to be a lot of pre-orientation, orientation, and welcome events the first few weeks. Some of these events will be surprisingly good. Some might be painfully awful. Go to all of these events, even the rotten ones. Why? You’ll get free food, free t-shirts, and you’ll meet new people. The best events will give you great info. The worst events will give you something to talk about with other new students. All the events will help you get a sense of the people and places on campus. Plus, you’ll get some swag. As one student told me, “Don’t go to school with a lot of t-shirts. You’ll get a ton the first week.”
4. Have an honest conversation with your parents.
Talk to your parents about your expectations and ask about theirs. How often do you plan on calling, texting, and communicating? Is it better to communicate via the phone, text, Snapchat, or Facebook? What are your academic expectations? When do you plan on coming home if you’re living on campus? How will you manage paying bills and dealing with money? Too many times, problems come up because you and your parents have different expectations. Sharing what you want and understanding their expectations before school starts will help you reduce the possibility of unexpected parental conflicts.
5. Put together a budget & track your spending.
You will be surprised how quickly hidden college costs will eat away at the money you’ve earned over the summer. It just takes an occasional latte, late night pizza, or night out with friends and an, “I’m Treating!” to eat away at your savings. When you have a budget and track your spending, there are no surprises. You’ll need a budget for the first month and a budget for the second month. The first month will be a lot of one-time expenses. The second month will be more typical recurring expenses. You can use a free tracking app like MINT to help you budget and log your spending. And if you’re looking for scholarships, find the students who’ve gotten them and figure out how you can get them too.
6. Ask yourself, “Am I a terrible roommate?”
Other than prison, college is one of the few times in life you’ll be expected to live with a total stranger. Instead of worrying about your nightmare roommate, worry about yourself.
Follow the following three rules:
Roommates who want to get along will find a way to get along. Do YOU want to get along?
Roommates aren’t required to be friends (friendship is a bonus). Do you give your roommate permission to be just a roommate?
Follow the uncomfortable rule. The uncomfortable rule means you and your roommate agree to share what makes you uncomfortable within 24/48 hours of the problem. You do it face-to-face; not a text, not on Instagram, not on Snapchat. If you can’t share it, find someone to help you share it. Do you agree to follow the uncomfortable rule?
Follow these three rules and you’ll avoid being the roommate from hell, and hopefully, living with one.
7. Pretend it’s May 2019 and tell your story.
It’s the end of your first year in college- how did you make your five new closest friends? Where are the three places on campus in which you made these new friends? How long did it take to make these friends? Think about how you made your closest friends in high school. Find places on campus where you can sweat, play, pray, live, learn, lead, love, and work with interesting people. Tell your story as if it’s already happened; then, you will know what you want and come up with a plan to get it. This isn’t just a plan for how to make friends, it’s how to create a life you love on campus.