School is starting again. Some schools are bringing students back to the classrooms and dorms beginning the semester in the more traditional manner, and some have already announced that classes will be online for anywhere from the first quarter to the entire first semester. Whatever format your school is choosing, there are things you can do to be ready and prepared for the first day of classes.

 

Let’s Get Organized!

There is a good chance you already have your schedule. There are things, like supplies, that all students need. Even though most learning is done on a computer, every student should have a planner, a good supply of pens and pencils, colored pencils (if necessary), post it notes, a calendar, calculator, binders and folders. You have gone through the exercise before; let’s be ready! Office supply stores will be crowded and likely short of stock. (Manufacturers’ capacities may have been affected by COVID-19, so inventory levels could be low.) So, don’t wait until the last minute to stock up on the essentials. Printer ink is reportedly getting hard to find. Get what you can now.

Online or in a Classroom

The learning environment has changed in the last ten years. Computers have replaced notepads and three-ring binders (although both still have their place). Is your computer ready for another year? There are plenty of “back-to-school sales” in August and the last thing you need is a computer that crashes the day before you are handing in a big assignment. For those in college, your computer purchase can come from a 529 savings account, if you have one. (Check with your parents.)

Textbooks

You have your class schedule and should have a list of the textbooks required for each class. You can wait and buy on campus at the bookstore where they may have some used books. However, their supplies are not endless. For some classes, new books can cost anywhere from $400-$500. There are web sites (Google “used textbooks”) where you can purchase used books; and there are also options to rent an online version. Investigate your options now, as books are not usually part of the tuition payment and paying full price may cost a thousand dollars or more.

Read at Least One Book.

Your brain gets lazy when it is not being challenged. It wants to stay active. Reading is a great way to do that. Read a book or two. Read for pleasure and enjoy the journey of getting lost in a good story. When that first week of school starts, you will be steps ahead and your brain will be ready to go. 

Social Media

If you are starting college or a returning college student, understand that you are now considered an adult. Your online presence is your message to the world about who you are. It’s your reputation. Now is the time to start shaping that reputation into what you want it to be. Get a LinkedIn profile. Start developing your professional reputation now. Developing a professional reputation early will result in more opportunities for you after graduation. Employers and higher-learning institutions will look for you on LinkedIn. Don’t ignore it.

First Year at School? Consider Reaching Out and Making Friends Early.

Social media makes it easy to start reaching out to other students. Most of you likely know who your roommate is, so that’s one. Beyond that, every school has groups for incoming students. Reach out to start making friends early. When you get to campus, you will already have some people you can get together with to make the break-in process easier.

Understand How You Can Avoid that Fifth Year

About 60% of students will not graduate in four years. Having to go back for another semester or two can add $10,000-$40,000 to the cost of your education. Commit to taking at least 15 credit hours per semester. That will enable you to graduate in four years. Switching majors or transferring schools because your school does not offer your major is a big reason why students do not graduate on time. Credits do not always transfer. If you are going in as “undecided” or with an undeclared major, there is some quick and inexpensive help available HERE.

This is the Time to Reinvent Yourself

There is probably more growth as human beings during the four years of college that any other time during your life. We enter as teenagers and come out ready to take on the world and get a full-time job. If you did not like your four years of high school, now is the time for you to proactively take action to change. Think about who you are and how you are perceived. If you do not like the answer, you have the power to change them. Remember, if you think you can or think you can’t, you are correct.

New This Year

If your school is going back to on-campus, regardless of whether it’s high school or college, make sure you are ready. Face masks are relatively easy to find now, and hand sanitizer seems to be well-stocked in most places. All schools will have some precautions in place. Make sure you are ready and prepared to keep yourself and your fellow students safe and healthy.

Dot the “I”s Cross the “T”s

The last thing you want to do is arrive on campus to find out critical paperwork is missing. Tuition bills have gone out by now and payments are due. Confirm with admissions or financial aid that all the money due has been paid. Scholarship money usually comes in later and, if you have been awarded a scholarship, it should show up as a credit on your account. If you are on a medical insurance plan through your parents, confirm that coverage is extended to you at college and make sure the college has given you a credit for the mandatory insurance policy.

Dorm Rooms are Small

If you are sharing a room with a roommate, they’re even smaller. Resist the urge to pack everything you own. It will not fit. Much of what you need can be purchased locally the first or second week you are there. Basically, everything you bring will need to fit 1: under your bed, 2: in or on a small desk with two drawers, 3: in a closet about three feet wide and 4: in two small drawers for clothes. Lay out everything you want to bring and then cut that amount in half.

August marks the time where we start thinking about going back. Make sure you are prepared and make the most out of the coming year.

“There is So Much More than Just Figuring out what College to Choose.”

Read a real-life scenario about the financial and emotional toll that choosing the wrong major in college can have on a student and their family. We’re thankful to Lauren for sharing her experience and hope you find it helpful as you embark on selecting your college major.

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