A Complete First-Year College Checklist

A Complete First-Year College Checklist

By Staff Writer

Published on September 21, 2021

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When getting ready for college, adequately preparing yourself for your upcoming move and new classes can help ease the stress of this transition. If you think about college-related tasks proactively, such as buying school supplies and dorm room essentials, planning class schedules, and making loan repayment plans, you can spend more time and energy enjoying your new environment once you get to school.

The following college checklist covers important things to consider — both before and after you arrive on campus. Read on to learn how to prepare for college and make the best of this new experience.

Download the BestColleges.com Complete First-Year College Checklist.

Before You Get to Campus

There are lots of things you should think about and address before you even set foot on campus, including those described below.

Access Your School Email and Portal

Gaining access to your school's email and web portal is an essential step when preparing for your first college semester. Your school's email and web portal open a critical line of communication. These give you access to course information and a way to connect with administrators, instructors, and fellow learners.

Register for Classes

Colleges often require incoming students to register for classes before arriving on campus (or during orientation). Your academic advisor can help create your college class schedule, ensuring your classes address major and general education requirements.

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Get Vaccinated

To ensure the safety of the student population, most institutions require incoming learners to get several standard vaccinations against infectious diseases like measles, HPV, and meningitis. Additionally, many schools now require learners to get a COVID-19 vaccine to help reduce community spread.

Buy Basic School Supplies

Preparing for college and your on-campus experience also means purchasing basic school supplies. While your classes may require specialized supplies, day-to-day essentials like pens, notebooks, and highlighters often come in handy. Additionally, college laptops, flash drives, and other digital study aids often prove indispensable.

Reach Out to Your Roommate

Rather than waiting for move-in day to make an introduction, reach out to your roommate before you both get to campus. Whether through email or social media, introducing yourself ahead of time means you won't be moving in with a complete stranger. Additionally, opening this dialogue can help sort out furnishing your dorm room.

Know What to Pack

In addition to school supplies, picking up some college dorm room essentials is critical. You can start with things like bedding, toiletries, and seasonally appropriate clothing. Additionally, a TV, mini-fridge, and microwave can go a long way in adding comfort to your room. Also, consider storage solutions, lamps, and shower essentials like a robe and flip flops.

Figure Out Financial Aid and Pay Tuition

College can be expensive, and costs may include tuition, housing, and books. If you get funding through scholarships, grants, or loans, make sure you know how to pay your bills. While financial aid can help cover school-associated costs, unplanned expenses may require seeking out additional income through a part-time job or work-study program.

Gather Important Documents

Before you get to campus, make sure you travel to school with essential college documents like your driver's license, your Social Security card, and a copy of your birth certificate. You should also ensure that you have a copy of your health insurance card. Bringing official school documents to campus, such as those containing scholarship or financial aid information, is also a good idea.

After You Get to Campus

So you made it to campus. Now what? Familiarizing yourself with your new home can help ease the transition into college life. Read on for some post-move-in tips.

Get to Know the Campus and Surrounding Area

Taking time to explore campus and the surrounding area can ease the stress of moving to an unfamiliar place and add to the excitement of living somewhere new. Familiarize yourself with on-campus essentials like residence halls, libraries, and class locations. And seek out a few off-campus spots, like coffee shops, grocery stores, and restaurants.

Attend Orientation

While you may have visited your school before enrolling, attending orientation offers a formal college introduction that supplies you and your fellow students with essential information that can help you transition into college life.

At orientation, you can introduce yourself to future classmates, meet professors, and familiarize yourself with campus facilities. Additionally, many students take advantage of the opportunity to talk with an academic advisor to discuss academic goals and class schedules.

Review Your Class Schedule

Before classes start, review your schedule so you know when and where your classes take place. Additionally, if you want to adjust your schedule, talk to your advisor. At the beginning of each semester, students can typically add or drop classes during the first few days.

Memorize Where Your Classes Are

When getting to know the campus, try to memorize the location of your classes. Knowing class locations can help you get from class to class efficiently and with less stress. Rolling into class late on the first day is not the best way to make a good first impression.

Meet Your Floormates

Moving to a new place with many unfamiliar faces can feel overwhelming. However, introducing yourself to the folks you see daily and making friends at college will help ease the transition. Do your best to put yourself out there, meet your floormates, and have fun.

Read and Print Out Your Class Syllabi

Before classes start, read over your class syllabi. Getting to know your professors' expectations and attendance policies puts you on a path toward success. Additionally, knowing what reading material, textbooks, and supplies you need prepares you for the semester.

Buy or Rent Textbooks

Acquiring required texts means figuring out what you need and factoring in the cost of expensive books. Your textbook budget will help dictate whether you should buy or rent textbooks, use e-books, or shop for books online. Learn more about how to save money on textbooks.

Attend a Student Activities Fair

Attending a student activities fair facilitates on-campus engagement and can also help you meet like-minded students. Engaging in extracurricular activities can also bolster your resume. Through sports, cultural events, and civic engagement, you can meet new friends outside the classroom and enliven your college experience.


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Moving away to college is an exciting yet stressful experience. Ease the process by using our ultimate college packing checklist of must-have items. Many college students feel unsure about what to do once they arrive on campus. Learn about the activities that happen before the academic year kicks off. Feeling first-day-of-college jitters? Learn what to expect and how to prepare for the first day of class.