If you said yes, there are some things you need to do before you go to campus. The list I made for you doesn’t have the usual checkboxes you’d find on a campus website. Most students don’t think to do or know how to do these things.
Let’s get started:
1. Check your email at school.
This piece of advice is both boring and important. I can’t even count how many deadlines and important information students miss because they don’t check their email. Email is still used by many schools to send out notices, bills, and requests for more information. Checking your email can be the difference between meeting a deadline and not going to college because you missed the deadline. Yes, it happens. And FERPA could mean that your parents don’t have access. You have to do it.
2. Plug into college using social media.
Most schools have accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and even TikTok. Start with the school’s main feeds, search for your campus departments, find the school newspaper, and follow athletics, the office of student life, residence life, campus safety, clubs, organizations, and the health center. Follow the accounts of specific people. The campus president, orientation leaders, and other campus leaders are often on social media and encourage students to follow them and talk to them. Ask the older students who and what you should follow.
3. Attend all welcome events (even the terrible rotten awful horrible ones).
In the first few weeks, there will be a lot of pre-orientation, orientation, and welcome events. Some of these events will surprise you with how good they are. Some of them might be very bad. Even the bad ones, you should still go to. Why? You’ll get food and T-shirts for free and meet new people. At the best events, you’ll learn a lot. The worst things that happen will give you and other new students something to talk about. All of the events will help you get to know the people and places on campus. Plus, you’ll get some swag. One student told me, “Don’t bring a lot of T-shirts to school. The first week, you’ll get a lot.”
4. Talk with your parents in an honest way.
Talk to your parents about what you want from them and ask them what they want from you. How often do you plan to call, send a text, or talk? Is it better to talk on the phone, send a text, use Snapchat, or post on Facebook? What do you hope to learn in school? If you live on campus, when do you plan to go home? How will you pay your bills and take care of your money? Too often, you and your parents have different ideas about what you should do. Before school starts, if you talk to them about what you want and what they expect, it will be less likely that you will have a fight with them.
5. Make a budget and keep track of what you spend.
You will be surprised at how quickly hidden college costs will eat up the money you earned over the summer. Your savings can be eaten up quickly by weekly lattes, late-night pizza, a night out with friends, and a “I’m Treating!” There are no surprises when you have a budget and keep track of what you spend. You will need a budget for the first month and a budget for the second month. There will be a lot of one-time costs the first month. The expenses for the second month will be more typical. A free tracking app like MINT can help you make a budget and keep track of what you spend. And if you want to know how to get scholarships, talk to students who have already gotten them.
6. You should ask yourself, “Am I a bad roommate?”
College is one of the few times in your life when you’ll have to live with someone you don’t know. Don’t worry about your nightmare roommate. Instead, focus on yourself.
Follow the three rules below:
- Those who want to get along with their roommates will find a way to do so. Do YOU want things to go well?
- Roommates don’t have to get along (friendship is a bonus). Do you allow your roommate to just be a roommate?
- Follow the rule that makes you feel bad. The uncomfortable rule says that you and your roommate agree to talk about what makes you feel uncomfortable within 24 to 48 hours. You do it in person, not through a text, Instagram, or Snapchat. Find someone to help you share it if you can’t. Do you agree to follow the rule that makes you feel bad?
If you follow these three rules, you won’t be the roommate from hell and you won’t have to live with one, either.
7. Tell your story as if it’s May.
Your first year of college is over. How did you make friends? Where are the three spots on campus where you met these three new people? How long did it take to become friends with these people? Think about how you met your best friends in high school. This will help. Find places on campus where you can work out, play, pray, live, learn, lead, love, and work with interesting people. Tell your story as if it has already happened. This will help you figure out what you want and how to get it. This isn’t just a plan for making friends. It’s also a plan for making a life on campus that you love.