College Freshman Checklist for the Upcoming School Year

By Kayla McCormack · August 03, 2023 · 7 minute read

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College Freshman Checklist for the Upcoming School Year

Going to college is an exciting adventure, but it can also be incredibly nerve wracking, especially as a college freshman. With so much new and unknown ahead of you, it’s easy to let the stress build.

But being prepared for what’s ahead could help alleviate some of the first-year worries. This checklist is filled with things that you can do to prepare for your freshman year, starting with things like filling out the FAFSA, getting your packing list and school supplies together, and preparing financially for your life on campus.

Checklist for Preparing for Freshman Year

Acclimating to life on campus can be a big transition. Fortunately, there is a lot you can do to smooth the way before you even arrive.

Registering for Classes

Registration will likely take place before you get to campus for the school year. Some schools have freshman register during orientation, which gives them the opportunity to connect with an on-campus advisor. Once enrolled, check out the syllabus for each class to help you gauge expectations and determine what books and supplies you’ll need.

Recommended: 5 Ways to Start Preparing For College

Order Books and Other Supplies

Once you’re registered for classes, you’ll likely have a good idea of the books and supplies you’ll need. Cut costs on college textbooks by ordering used copies or renting the book.

Touching Base With Your Roommate

If you’re going to be living with a roommate, it’s a good idea to reach out to them before you get to campus. Open the lines of communication so you can discuss things like who’ll bring what (to avoid duplicate rugs, mini-fridges…). This is someone you’ll probably be spending a lot of time with so establishing a friendly relationship, setting roommate guidelines, and discussing how you’ll share expenses with your roommate are important.

Packing for College

Making your college feel like home may take some careful preparation. To create the ultimate college packing list, think of things you use regularly that you’ll need on-campus. This might include clothes, bedding for your Twin XL mattress, towels, toiletries, and more. Some schools may have restrictions on certain items, such as candles, so read any guidelines provided by the residential life office at your school.

Don’t forget to pack the supplies you’ll need for classes — depending on your course of study, this may include things like books, a computer, a calculator, lab safety equipment, or more.

Preparing Important Documents

Make sure you have identification information like your driver’s license or passport. Make a copy of your health insurance card so you’re prepared in the event of any issues.

Filling Out the FAFSA

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid, better known as the FAFSA, is the application students fill out each year to apply for federal financial aid, including grants, scholarships, work-study, and federal student loans. If you are a dependent student, the FAFSA will also generally require your parent’s financial information as well.

Some aid is awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, so it may be beneficial to submit your application as early as possible. Schools may use information from the FAFSA to determine awards for school-specific scholarships too.

Understanding how much aid, and what types of aid you can expect will be important as you craft a plan to pay for college. Some students may consider private student loans in the event that other funding streams, like savings, federal student loans, and scholarships aren’t enough to cover their tuition. While private student loans can help fill in any financial gaps, they don’t always offer the same borrower protections — like deferment or the option to pursue Public Service Loan Forgiveness — as federal student loans. As a result, they are generally only considered after all other sources of aid have been exhausted.

Getting Your Finances in Order

As a college student, this may be one of your first steps toward financial independence. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the financial responsibilities that await you on campus.

Opening a Checking Account

As a college student, you may be living away from home for the first time. Now that you’re starting to be independent, you may find the need to open a checking account of your own (if you don’t have one already).

Some colleges have banks on campus that make it easy and convenient for you to open a checking account. It’s worth comparing different banks and credit unions before you make your final decision. Look at fees, minimum balance requirements, ease of online or app use, and branch locations.

Tracking Your Spending

Creating a budget can help you stay on top of your spending. If you’ve never stuck to a budget before, there’s no time like the present. Begin by listing all your monthly income, whether it comes from a job, helpful parents, or both. Then list your expenses, like car insurance, a phone bill, or books for school.

Also include your “fun” money, for things like dining out, shopping, or travel. But if your expenses are more than your income, you’ll need to make adjustments. You can find budget spreadsheets online or convenient apps to keep track of your spending if you don’t want to start from scratch.

And remember, a budget isn’t set in stone. It’s a living document that is always changing based on your financial situation. Try your best and always look to improve it.

Looking Into Getting a Credit Card (and Handling It Responsibly)

Now that you’re on your way to adulthood, it may be worth starting to build your credit history. If you can be responsible with the credit card, having one in college is one way to help you establish a baseline for your credit history.

If you do open a credit card, it’s important to make an effort to pay your bills on time and pay off the total amount you owe every month. Once credit card debt starts to build, it can be difficult to get out from under it, so it’s wise to take steps to avoid it in the first place.

Responsibly using a credit card is one thing that can help you establish and build credit history. Whether it’s to buy a home or a new car, a better credit score could help potential borrowers secure more favorable loan terms.

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When You Get to Campus

Hopefully, all your preparation will help streamline your college transition. These final few tips could help you find your footing at school.

Exploring Campus and the Surrounding Area

College is a whole new world. Take some time to walk around and explore the campus. Where are the dining halls and libraries in relation to your dorm. As you explore the campus, map out where each of your classes are located. This may help mitigate some of your college nerves.

Venture off campus and check out the town. You may just find a cute cafe perfect for study sessions.

Connecting with Professors and Advisors

Your professors are there to teach and want you to succeed. Take a few minutes to get to know them and don’t shy away from office hours. Go often and early with any questions or concerns.

Finding Extracurriculars

Colleges usually have a variety of extracurricular activities and clubs for students to join. Visit any activity fairs and find the clubs that interest you. Maybe it’s working for the school TV or Radio station, intramural soccer, or an acapella club. Getting involved on campus can be a great way to get to know new people and make friends.

Establishing a Routine

As a college student you’re likely experiencing a ton of newfound freedom. While all this autonomy is exciting, establishing a routine that works for you. For example, if you find you are most productive in the morning, block that time for classes and any top priority assignments. Then a break for a quick workout or lunch, followed by some studying. In addition to studying and classwork, it’s important to create healthy habits and space for self-care.

Checking Your List and Following Your Needs

College is a time to get out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself. It’s a learning experience in every sense of the word. This college freshman checklist is just a starting point to help you get acclimated.

Don’t forget to check in on — and add to — your college checklist as you continue your education. It can be easy to get swept up in the excitement of college, but it’s important not to lose sight of your financial and professional goals. Commiting to your financial health and literacy now will help you even after graduation. Skills like budgeting and networking will always be applicable.

The Takeaway

With these tips in mind, you can put together a personalized freshman year checklist. This may include things like filling out the FAFSA, registering for classes, connecting with your roommate, and packing for the move to college. Getting ready for freshman year might seem overwhelming at first, but breaking down to digestible action items may make it feel more manageable.

Part of preparing for freshman year is figuring out how you’re going to pay for college. Once you fill out your FAFSA and receive your award letter, you’ll know where you stand, and whether you need to seek out any additional sources of funding.

If you’ve exhausted all federal student aid options, no-fee private student loans from SoFi can help you pay for school. The online application process is easy, and you can see rates and terms in just minutes. Repayment plans are flexible, so you can find an option that works for your financial plan and budget.

Cover up to 100% of school-certified costs including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, and transportation with a private student loan from SoFi.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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