Everything You Need to Know Before Starting College

You know what college you’re attending, and you may have your roommate and housing selected, too, so what’s next? Heading to college is an exciting and transformative chapter in one’s life. It’s a time of new beginnings, personal growth, and academic exploration. 

However, the transition from high school to college can be overwhelming. To help you navigate this critical journey, we’ve compiled a comprehensive guide with everything you need to know before heading to college.

Getting Ready for College

Academic Preparedness

Review your Class Schedule and Degree Requirements

You may have already decided on your class schedule for the upcoming semester, but it is important to make sure you have a clear understanding of the degree requirements for your chosen major or program. Take the time to review the selected classes and ensure that they align with your degree path. 

Many schools have tools to ensure you are on the right track. Some may call them “major maps” or “degree audits.” It’s also important to familiarize yourself with the specialized tracks or concentrations within your major to explore potential areas of interest and future career paths.

A College-Senior’s Pro-Tips for Picking the Right Class Schedule:

It’s easy to underestimate the impact of class schedules on your experience as an incoming first-year student. Check out sites like Rate My Professor. Take some time to read reviews and see what others say about the professors teaching the courses you need. Finding a fantastic professor who aligns with your learning style and schedule can make all the difference. 

Another important consideration is to be realistic with yourself and your schedule. A 7:30 am class may sound like a good idea, until those late night study sessions or nights out with friends start to add up. Consider starting with one earlier class to see how it works for your schedule before overloading yourself. Avoid filling up every day with classes to prevent burnout. Find a balance that works for you, and remember that taking it easy and being smart about your schedule choices can make the transition to college life much smoother. 

By keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a schedule that sets you up for success and a more enjoyable college experience.

Connect with Your Academic Advisors

Academic advisors can be one of the most valuable resources for navigating your academic journey. Reach out to the advisors in your intended department to schedule a meeting or seek their guidance through email. You can usually find their information within your student portal. 

These professionals can provide valuable insights and help you make informed decisions about course selection, major requirements, and potential career paths. Take advantage of their expertise to ensure you stay on track and maximize your college experience.

Necessary Course Materials: What You Need and What You Don’t

Once all your classes have been selected and you have your schedule for the semester ready, head over to your student portal and find out what courses require specific materials. Most will require some sort of textbook, e-book, or device to access homework and assignments. 

Pro-Tip: If possible, buy all your textbooks used. It will be significantly cheaper than purchasing a brand-new textbook you may never open. Yes, it’s true; some professors will have a “necessary” textbook you might never use. Take it a step further and check out the reviews for the professor and classes you’re taking. They may give you some insider information on the necessary materials. 

Another economical route to consider is by renting textbooks. Familiarize yourself with renting rules, which may or may not include limitations for writing or highlighting in the book.

What to Expect: Campus Life and Resources

Familiarize Yourself with Your Housing and Campus Facilities

Take the time to familiarize yourself with the various facilities and resources available on campus and in your student housing. Explore the library, computer labs, study spaces, and other academic resources your college provides. Learn about their operating hours, services offered, and how to access them. 

Additionally, identify any specialized facilities relevant to your field of study, such as research labs, art studios, or engineering workshops. Understanding the resources available to you will aid your academic pursuits.

Have Your Housing and Roommate Information in Order

Whether you pick your roommate or are going with a random choice, having all the information you need in order is essential. Check to make sure you have a room selected and see what resources your dorm may offer, like a community kitchen. It may help you figure out what you may need to pack. 

Check on Pinterest for detailed Dorm-Room Checklists. 

College Life: Socializing, Mental Health, and the College Experience

Parties and the College Experience

Parties are often synonymous with the college experience, but it’s vital to approach them responsibly. Understand that party culture varies across campuses, and not all students participate. You should never feel pressured to participate. If you choose to attend parties, ensure your safety by going with trusted friends, being aware of your surroundings, and consuming alcohol in moderation.

Remember that your academic and personal well-being should always take precedence, so make choices that align with your values and prioritize your overall health and success. 

Fun tip: if you choose to attend parties, having a collection of costume items for themed parties can be helpful. They happen often, so having these basic items will have stress and money in the long run. 

Greek Life

Greek life is a prominent culture at many college campuses, but deciding whether to join is a personal choice. It offers a unique social experience, leadership opportunities, and a close-knit community. However, it’s important to consider the time commitment, financial implications, and compatibility with your values and interests. 

Take the time to research different organizations, attend recruitment events, and talk to current members to make an informed decision that aligns with your goals and aspirations.

Insider Tip: I decided to join a sorority my freshman year, and as an incoming senior, it was one of the best decisions I made. I’ve held countless leadership positions, which helped me ensure internships and job opportunities, and I’ve made some of my best friends. I would recommend the experience to everyone to at least try. 

Taking Care of Your Mental Health

College can be challenging and stressful, making it crucial to prioritize your mental health. Seek out campus resources such as counseling services and support groups. Maintain a balanced lifestyle by practicing self-care, getting enough sleep, exercising regularly, and eating well. 

Build a support network of friends, and don’t hesitate to reach out for help if needed. Remember that taking care of your mental well-being is vital for academic success and overall happiness during your college journey.

Embrace Your Unique Experience

College offers a wealth of opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. Embrace your unique college experience by stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things. Get involved in clubs, organizations, and activities that align with your interests. 

Take advantage of the diverse campus community by engaging in conversations, exploring different perspectives, and forming meaningful connections. Embrace the challenges, celebrate your achievements, and allow yourself to grow and evolve during this transformative time.

How College Students Can Protect Themselves 

College Student Insurance 

As a college student, having the right insurance coverage to protect yourself, your money, and your belongings is important. Here are a few types of insurance you may want to consider:

1. Health insurance: Most colleges require students to have health insurance, and even if your school doesn’t mandate it, having coverage can be a lifesaver if you get sick or injured. Just be sure to pay only once for coverage! If you’re on a parent’s plan, you may not also need to pay for a plan through your school.

2. Renters insurance: If you’re on campus in a residence hall or off campus off-campus in an apartment or house, renters insurance can help protect your personal belongings in case of theft, fire, or other covered events.

3. Auto insurance: If you have a car, you’ll need auto insurance to drive it legally in most states. Even if you don’t own a vehicle, consider non-owner car insurance if you plan to rent a car or borrow a friend’s car.

4. Travel insurance: If you’re studying abroad or planning any other trips during college, travel insurance can provide coverage for medical emergencies, trip cancellations, and more.

5. Tuition insurance: Another important type of insurance to consider as a college student is tuition insurance, which can help protect your investment in tuition, room and board, and academic fees in case you need to withdraw from school due to an unexpected covered illness, injury, or other covered reason.

Shop around and compare rates from different insurance providers to find the best coverage at a price you can afford. And don’t be afraid to ask for discounts – many insurers offer lower rates for students with good grades or who complete defensive driving courses.

Starting college can feel overwhelming, but the key is to take it one step at a time. Create a plan and focus on what matters to you the most. Remember, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. Wishing you a wonderful school year ahead!

Author: Isabella Ordonez

Isabella is currently a junior at Arizona State University studying Digital Audiences. She loves shopping, cooking, baking, arts and crafts, and watching movies. Isabella is interested in the creative aspects of marketing and fashion. She has worked with her sorority and various businesses around the valley, working in social media and digital content.