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Posted December 9, 2020

College applications sent? Check. FAFSA submitted? Check. Graduation season coming to a close? Check. Going to college in a few months? Hectic! Instead of stressing out, use these tips to prepare yourself before the first day of classes while still enjoying your time before your first semester starts.

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 things 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 in with your apartment to avoid bringing extra 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 out of state or far from home, see if you can ship your items directly to the dorm/apartment.

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, try and schedule multiple for the same day or if possible, via the phone or webcam.

Save. Save. Save.

Use the time before college begins to save as much money as possible. This can help cover additional expenses, emergencies during the school year, or even help pay for 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.

Set Up Finances

Make sure all of your finances are straightened out before you head off to school. First things first, consider opening a savings and checking account with a debit card for purchases.

You’ll also want to set your spending plan before you go to school. Determine your income (or money coming in), your expenses (money going out), and what the difference is between the two. Check out these free resources including a fillable budget to get your plan set up.

Finally, ensure that you have online banking set up and ready to go. If you’re going out of town for school, 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 that you were planning to pay cash for then pay off the balance in full every month. This helps build your credit history for when you really need it, like renting an apartment or borrowing for something bigger.


Starting college for the first time 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 less stressful.