5 Money-Smart Things To Do Before Going To College

Jun 27, 2023 Paying For College

Take some of the stress out of going to college and plan ahead with these simple steps.

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College applications sent, acceptance letter received, FAFSA submitted, and now all that’s left to do is prepare for the next chapter! Things can get hectic with everything that needs to get done but instead of stressing out, use these tips to prepare yourself before classes start.

Pre-College To-Do List

Set Up Your Finances

Make sure all of your finances are in order before starting school. If you don’t have one already, opening a savings and checking account with a debit card for spending is a must.

Learn about all the tools your account comes with so you can better manage it. For example, ensure you have online banking set up and ready so you can keep track of your finances 24/7 from any device. Whether you’re going away to college or not, having online banking will allow you to review your account, transfer money, and deposit checks without needing to go to a branch.

Also, consider applying for a college credit card. If you’re responsible, a low-limit credit card can be a great way to build credit. Use your card for expenses you were planning to pay with cash and pay the balance in full each month instead. This helps build your credit history for when you really need it, like renting an apartment or borrowing for large purchases.

Budget & Save

Use the time before college begins to save as much money as possible. Your savings can help cover additional expenses, emergencies during the school year, or necessities like books, tuition, or housing.

You can even use your downtime to financially plan ahead for next year. Start the 52 Week Savings Challenge or consider opening a share certificate so you won’t be tempted to spend.

You’ll also want to create a budget before you go to school. Determine your income (money coming in), your expenses (money going out), and what the difference is between the two.

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Ready to take control of your finances? See what steps to follow to develop a spending and saving plan and follow through on it.

Find A Job

Campus jobs fill up quickly, so begin searching and applying right away. Contact the career services department on your campus and ask if they have a website or database for you to search based on your criteria.

If you need to interview and aren’t on campus yet, try and schedule multiple for the same day or, if possible, online or over the phone.

Contact Your Roommates

Whether you plan to live with a friend or someone you’ve never met, make sure you talk on the phone, via email, or even in person to discuss your living situation for the coming year.

Figure out the items you’ll need for your living spaces – such as a microwave, couch/futon, television, etc. – and who can and will bring what. If you’re moving into an apartment, communicate ahead of time how you’ll be splitting bills and food costs. Consider making a monthly budget you can share for items you’ll be purchasing together.

Create A Dorm/Apartment Checklist

There are plenty of checklists and packing lists for living on your own for the first time available online. Review a couple of them and write down the things that are relevant to you. Research what your college provides in the dorms or what comes included with your apartment to avoid duplicating items.

Make sure you set a budget for dorm/apartment shopping and follow it! Look for deals and comparison shop as much as possible. If you’re going far away or out of state, see if you can ship your items directly to the dorm/apartment.


Your first year of college is exciting, but can take a lot of planning – especially when it comes to your finances. Set up a budget and stick to it, plan ahead, and save when you can to make your college experience more enjoyable.

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Life Guidance for:

Going To College

College might be the first time you have full control over your finances. Use our toolkit to arm yourself with financial tips for building a strong foundation during your college years.

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