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Back to School Tips for First-Year College Students

Updated on January 11, 2018
SMD2012 profile image

Sally is a business communications coach who gives workshops on how to keep your professional reputation squeaky-clean and drama-free.

Are you going away to college for the first time? Here are some ideas to help new college students successfully manage the transition from living at home to living on campus.

Going to college is an exciting time of life for most students.

The topics covered in this back to school article include:

  • Money management tips for new college students
  • Time management tools for academic success
  • Tips for making your dorm room feel just like home

Are you the parent of a student going to college for the first time? Are you a college freshman planning to live on campus while you get your degree? If the answer is yes to either of these questions, this list of tips for college students living away from home is for you. It’s not just another shopping list of back to school supplies. It's a list of things every new student should do before leaving for college.

Money Management Tips for College Students

When college students move out of the family home and head off to live on campus, they face a world of new money management issues they may have never dealt with before. Here are some of the things students should know before they leave home.

Understand your financial aid obligations before you leave for college. If you're relying on some sort of financial aid to attend a post secondary institution, make sure you read and follow the terms and conditions attached to your student loan, scholarship, or bursary.

  • When do you need to start paying your student loan back?
  • Are you required to maintain a certain grade point average to get scholarship funding year after year?
  • What happens if you don’t finish your college program or you take an extended leave from school? Do you have to give the money back?
  • Are there any reporting deadlines you must meet in order to receive your next student loan advance or scholarship disbursement?

Pay close attention to what’s required of you when you borrow money to pay for school. The last thing you want is for your funding to get cut off in the middle of the term because you didn’t complete a certain form or your grades dropped.

Get sufficient insurance coverage. What would you do if someone stole your laptop at school? Could you afford to buy a new one? What if your bicycle was stolen? How would you pay for a new bike to get around campus?

Protect yourself from financial losses and insure your valuables while living away from home. If you own a TV, DVD player, smart phone, stereo, or other pricey gadgets and plan on taking them to school with you, check your parents’ homeowners insurance to see if these items are covered. If these items aren’t eligible for coverage under their policies, you can still purchase renter’s insurance. It may cost a bit of money each month, but it does give you the peace of mind of knowing your valuables are protected against theft, vandalism, or accidental damage.

Don't forget to keep your sales receipts for all your major back to school purchases (i.e.; laptop, computer). If your equipment breaks down within the warranty or refund period, you'll need proof of payment to have your computer equipment replaced or repaired for free.

If you're taking your car with you to a college that's out of your home state or province, make sure your auto insurance plan will cover you in the event of a collision. Contact your local insurance broker to discuss your insurance needs before you leave for college.

Pay your tuition fees on time. Do you know when your college tuition fees are due? Do you know how you will pay them and/or if you will be able to pay them in full? Ideally, you have set aside enough money to pay for your college tuition before you leave for school. Whether the money is coming from your parents, you earned the money at a summer job, or you've been awarded a college scholarship, when you get to school, visit the registrar’s office and pay your tuition fees promptly.

Many universities and colleges provide the option of paying for your courses at most financial institutions. Just take a copy of your tuition fees assessment to your local bank and withdraw the funds directly from your bank account. Some universities and colleges will let you pay by phone or through their website. Whatever method of payment you choose, make sure your fees are paid on time. Don’t incur unnecessary penalties or interest charges on your tuition! Save your college money for important back to school items!

What provisions are you taking with you to school?
What provisions are you taking with you to school?

Time Management Tools for Academic Success

Even the brightest high school students will struggle with their first year college courses if they aren’t organized.

Your academic success at college depends on regular attendance in class and submitting your assignments on time. On top of all that, you need to have a good organizational system to make sure you have time to study for exams and finish papers and essays.

The thing that many first year college students don't realize is that your professor or course instructor doesn't care if you show up for class. You probably won't get in trouble for missing a class, but if you don't hand your assignments in on time or you fail to prepare for your exams, your grades will reflect your carelessness. If you want to succeed at college, you need to be self-motivated and organized.

Before you go to college, look into different time management tools that can help keep you on track. You may choose a simple paper date planner or you may want to spend a bit of extra money investing in time management software. It doesn't matter what method you choose to help you stay focused at school, just make sure the method works for you!

Good time-management skills are critical to your academic success.
Good time-management skills are critical to your academic success.

Moving Into Your New Home on Campus

Where are you going to live when you go to college? If you haven’t made living arrangements for your first year at school, now is the time to get that sorted out! If you have your accommodations arranged already, you can focus on how to make your dorm room or campus apartment feel like home.

What furniture, clothing, electronics, and personal care items should you take with you? Moving onto campus can be fun and exciting, but figuring out what to pack can also be overwhelming. What if you forget something that you can't live without? Have no fear! Check out this video (see right) on the top 10 comfort items you should take with you to college!

Even a small dorm room can be dressed up to feel just like home.
Even a small dorm room can be dressed up to feel just like home.

What do you think is the most expensive part of going to college?

See results

College Dorm Room Design Inspiration

What other tips would you add to this checklist for first-year students heading off to college or university?

© 2013 Sally Hayes


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Abhishek Jadhav 

    2 years ago

    Helpful tips

  • SMD2012 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sally Hayes 

    7 years ago

    Excellent tip mbuggieh. I agree. Why go to college and spend all that money if you aren't going to work as hard as you can! Thanks for stopping by!

  • profile image


    7 years ago

    As someone who has been teaching in the college environment for many years, let me add this tip:

    You are at college to get an education; an education that will afford you many opportunities in life---personally and professionally. Act like it. Engage yourself in your school work. Study. Study harder. Work hard. Work harder.


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