Key Tips for College Success

College experts answer your questions, including how to make the most of orientation, what to bring and not bring to campus, what campus resources to seek out, how to prepare over the summer, and how to choose classes.
Student moving into college

Starting college can be a confusing time for students. Many students find themselves living on their own for the first time in a new environment, which can bring up a lot of questions. How do I manage my finances? What do I bring to campus? What resources are available to me? We answer some key questions below.

Are there any steps students still need to take to manage financial aid and college costs?

  • Make sure you have a plan in place for paying the fall and spring semester college bills in full. If you need to borrow student loans to pay for college, compare repayment plans and plan ahead for the monthly payments you'll need to make after graduation
  • Research textbook options such as buying used, renting, or using a library loan system
  • File the FAFSA® each and every year in college
  • Start the scholarship search process early and apply for many
  • Manage academics so that graduation happens in 4 years or less

How can a student make the most of Orientation?

  • If class registration happens at Orientation, prepare beforehand to determine what classes you hope to take. Look at the course catalog as it pertains to your major and get an idea of which classes you need vs. electives
  • Find out the resources on campus that are relevant to you
  • Attend all events
  • Walk around the entire campus
  • Take notes - some info may not apply to you now, but may in the future
  • Use Orientation as an opportunity to network. Meet fellow students or other mentors who can help and support you beyond just Orientation

Packing: What should students bring to campus?

  • School supplies
  • Laptop and technology needs
  • Pictures of family and friends
  • Rain gear
  • Snacks, eating, and cleaning supplies
  • Comfort needs
  • Bring the right combination of clothes, but keep it simple
  • When it comes to dorms, "less is more" to keep the space open and clean
  • Bring your grit, determination, and work ethic!

Packing: What should students NOT bring to campus?

  • Candles
  • Large furniture that won't fit in your room
  • Bulky luggage
  • Too much décor
  • Hotplates
  • The wrong attitude, or issues with past failures. You have a fresh start at college and many chances to succeed!
  • The student handbook will make clear what tangible items NOT to bring on campus

What are the resources on campus that students should seek once they arrive?

  • Student Health
  • The gym
  • The Dean of Students Office
  • The library and another quiet place to study especially during midterms and finals
  • Dining halls with any specialty food needed for specific diets and food pantry
  • Academic support services
  • Career services
  • TRIO, clubs, and campus organizations
  • Tutoring centers and disability resource centers
  • Financial aid office and personal money management center
  • Student union
  • The main building or area for your chosen major
  • Counseling or other mental health services on campus

Are there things students can do this summer to prepare academically for college?

  • If you are in any class that assigns summer reading, make sure you complete that
  • If you are taking a language course, spend time brushing up on the language before classes start
  • Begin looking for scholarships so that you can lay the foundation for writing an essay and applying for scholarships as soon as the applications become available
  • If possible, take summer courses through the college in your area

What extra costs should students be prepared to cover at college?

  • Extra supplies for certain classes such as lab coat or art materials
  • Warm clothes if heading to a cold climate
  • Transportation to get around your campus and town
  • The cost of food, personal activities, and emergencies such as an injury or car problem, and trips home

What are some tips on choosing college classes?

  • Figure out what classes you need to fulfill your general requirements then research the classes you need for your major
  • Talk to your advisor for guidance
  • Take enough credits to graduate on time

What types of technology and other resources can help students stay organized once they get to campus?

  • A smart phone with a calendar is all you need to meet deadlines
  • Set reminders to keep you on track for every task
  • Set up text and email alerts for your bank accounts and credit cards to help you keep tabs on your spending and avoid missing payment dates
  • Day planners and reminder lists help with all college tasks, including scholarship applications!

What are the best financial tips for college students?

  • Set a budget and stick to it
  • Take advantage of everything that's free
  • Don't borrow more than you need in student loans
  • Take a financial literacy course if you can
  • Live like a student while you're a student! It's hard to constantly stave off the impulse to spend, but saving money now will help you afford more in the future. Learn to love frugality. You'll look back fondly on your Ramen noodle days and campus apartment furnished with hodgepodge hand-me-downs because you will be financially comfortable since you made smart money decisions now.

Learn more about planning for college