Transition to College
1. Accept your Decision
To actually accept your offer, simply log into your online portal and select the "I am attending" option!
Get a second opinion and don't forget that you don't have to decide until May 1. There is no advantage to committing early, so take your time and make sure to compare your options!
2. Accept your Financial Aid Award
Accepting your financial aid award is the next step. The big decision most students will have to make is what amount of loans to accept.
Remember, you can accept any amount in loans or reject them completely. We also recommend that most students not accept much more than $5,500 in loans per year.
3. Select Housing
Many colleges require that first-year students live on campus. Even if it's not a requirement, we recommend living on campus for at least your first year (as long as it is affordable) in order to meet friends and be involved in the campus community.
Even within campus housing, you will probably have a few choices. Do your research and visit, but cost is probably going to determine what you choose.
However, applying to the Honors College or Living Learning Communities is usually the cheapest way to get the best housing!
5. Apply for Summer Programs
Some of these programs may cost money, but many, especially Summer Bridge programs, are free!
6. Plan Your Summer
It's important to do a couple of things during your pre-college summer:
- Rest & relax! Celebrate your accomplishments.
- Work to save some spending money for those indirect expenses that your financial aid didn't cover.
- See step 5: take advantage of a summer program!
7. Plan Your Classes
If your college has orientation throughout the summer, you will probably meet with an academic adviser who will help you select your first-year classes.
However, some colleges have students sign up for classes on their own.
Either way, put some time into class selection; your classes will be one of the most important parts of your college experience!
Tips on the Academic Transition
8. Submit Additional Documents
Once you have officially enrolled, your college of choice will start emailing you for additional documents.
Make sure that you are checking your online portal and your new college email! These messages will probably go there instead of your personal email. Get used to using your college email!
List of tasks that you will need to submit:
- Create your university email account & Access the online portal
- Register & attend orientation
- Sign-up for summer programs
- Ask your high school to send your final, official high school transcript
- Send AP scores for college credit
- Medical records including immunization records (the university will usually provide forms via email)
9. Pay the Bill
Most colleges send the bill in July. You will have to pay just one semester at a time.
July: Fall semester payment due
Dec: Spring semester payment due
It may be easier to pay monthly installments via an Installment Plan. Installment plans divide 2 payments into 8 monthly payments.
Keep in mind that your financial aid and scholarships will be applied to your bill. By comparing your financial aid award, you should know what your bill will be.
10. Budget for College
Budgeting is an important part of living independently. For most students, even if their direct costs (tuition & room/board) are covered, the indirect costs such as books, transportation, living expenses won't be.
Plan to budget around $4,000 per academic year for those living expenses.
Figure out where that money will come from: work-study, off-campus job, parent allowance, savings, etc., and make a monthly budget.
- Read about cutting indirect costs!
- Being Not-Rich Guide for the University of Michigan & UT Austin (many items are applicable to most universities)
- Starting a Budget (Tips to Follow)
- FAFSA: Budgeting Tips
- Budget Worksheet
11. Connect with Your Roommate
If you are planning to live with a stranger, it often helps to make contact over the summer. You don't need 2 TVs, 2 fridges, and 2 microwaves, so a division of who is bringing what is usually helpful.
12. Pack & Buy Books
You are about to set out on a new adventure and packing is the fun part.
Colleges will tell you to budget $800-$1,800 per year for books. In our experience, you shouldn't spend that much if you take some time to plan ahead, buy online, rent, and take advantage of the library.
- It's not always possible, but buying a couple editions back will save you serious $$$.
- Make a list of all the books for each of your classes during the semester: which are available from the library?
- Most colleges have book rental programs.
13. The Social Transition
Two words: get involved! Being involved in campus organizations enriches your college experience!
Most colleges have hundreds of student organizations, volunteer opportunities, and sports.
14. Health & Safety in College
Stress is going up nationwide, and one thing that we can promise you is that you will be stressed at some point in college. Whether the stress is related to your academics, relationships, social life, or family back home, it can pile up and make you question being at college.
It's important to take time for self-care and to reach out for help before things become overwhelming. All colleges have professional staff on site to help you get through the tough times.
15. Preparing for Challenges in College
Again, you will be challenged and stressed in college. The biggest advice that we can give you is to not be afraid to get help! Reach out to the professionals at your college and get help managing the challenges that come with being a full-time college student.
HuffPost series on "The Freshman Myth":