College Checklist – The Smart Student’s “To Do” List

college checklistNot a shopping list of things to buy. Rather, a checklist for college students that takes care of the most important things, such as health insurance, tuition fees, student loans, and resources for college students.

Back to school clothes and iPads aren’t the most important things when you’re a college student (I hope!).

This checklist isn’t the same as my Back to School List for College Students. That was a shopping list of things to buy – everything from back to school clothes to yoga DVDs. This college checklist covers the most important aspects of being a college student.

Complete College Checklist

Student forums. If this is your first year at college, the first thing to do is start connecting with other students. One of the best ways to do this before college starts is by the student forum. At UBC (the University of British Columbia in Vancouver), we have a grad students forum that I visited several times before starting my Master’s of Social Work last year. It’s a fantastic source of information, support, and connection – which is related to my last tip on this college checklist!

Pay your tuition fees. My $2,099 tuition fees for the first semester of grad school at UBC are due on September 2. When are your college tuition fees due, and how will you pay them? Don’t leave them to the last minute – you want to avoid the stress of making sure you pay them on time, and the frustration of paying interest on unpaid or late tuition fees.

Healthcare needs – including a Medical Directive. Birth control, condoms, prescription medications, allergy pills – do you have everything you need to take care of your health when you’re at college? This includes your emotional and spiritual health needs. Make sure your college checklist includes things that help you stay balanced, grounded, and whole. Just as important is a Medical Directive or Enduring Power of Attorney, which gives your parents the legal authority to make decisions if you suffer a severe medical crisis.

If you’re athletic or outdoorsy, make sure you have a Safety Kit, First Aid Kit, cell phone, and identification on you at all times. The Extreme College Survival Kit (pictured) might be a good addition to a woman’s college checklist, because it includes pepper spray.

Student Loans, scholarships, grants, bursaries. When was the last time you looked at your college paperwork or talked to the financial aid office at your college? Double check your student loan dates, scholarship information, etc. before college starts in September.

If you haven’t applied for a student loan or scholarship yet, read:

Remember that you need to apply for student loans and scholarships months in advance! If you’re too late to apply for a college student loan this year, start thinking about next year.

Your college schedule. Even if you’ve already chosen your college courses and set your schedule for the year, it’s important to check it at least once before school starts! Are you enrolled in the right courses? Has anything changed since you chose your classes? Have you picked a major, and are you on track to graduating? I sent my course schedule to the Program Advisor at the School of Social Work at UBC, and got her emailed approval that I will graduate with my MSW with the courses I’m scheduled for. This is a must on your college checklist!

College insurance. You probably own valuable electronic equipment – laptops, smart phones, tablets, televisions, etc. – as well as appliances and furniture. Are your possessions protected under your parents’ homeowners insurance or renters’ policies? A college checklist wouldn’t be complete without talking to your parents or a local insurance agent about college insurance.

Housing or dorm room? If you’re already living where you’ll be living when you go to college, congratulations! Make the place your home. If you haven’t moved in yet, make sure you create a “to do” list of things to do. Moving day will be here before you know it. Who will help you move, do you have the key to your new place, will you have heat and water? This is one of the most essential parts of a college checklist: home and hearth.

Passport, birth certificate? You may not need to take your passport and/or birth certificate to college – in fact, it’s probably better to leave those important pieces of identification with your parents. But, make sure you know where they are. It’s also good to know when your driver’s license expires and where your Social Insurance card is.

Electronics. I know I said this college checklist isn’t about back-to-school shopping, but I have to encourage you to do your laptop and iPad shopping early. In Best University Apps for iPads, I describe my experience with Samsung Galaxy players and Apple iPhones. It’s important to do your research on the electronics you’ll need for college early, so you don’t feel pressured to make an expensive impulse buy.

Finances and budgeting. Here’s a word of advice from Yahoo Finance: “The first thing the young men and women should do is budget their expenses. While parents might be wiring tuition and dorm charges straight to the college, you need to take care of other expenses such as books, stationery, necessary gadgets, toiletries, entertainment (eating out, movies, games) and travel. You need to have a budget and adhere to it. Temptations abound and, for some, peer pressure can throw you off and so it is all the more necessary to budget your spending.” – from Sound financial choices matter as you make the transition into college life.

Free credit report. Here’s a great tip from certified financial planner: “Individuals in the 18-24-year-old age bracket are some of the most common victims of identity theft, making college students a particularly easy target.  Encourage students before they leave for college to go to www.annualcreditreport.com and request reports from the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Sit down to review them together when they come in–make sure that any credit reflected on the report is valid and known to you, such as student loan applications or authorized user of your credit card.” – from Preparing Your Child for College: A Financial Checklist.

College website. Have you explored your college’s website? That’s a great way to learn what your school offers – such as social and academic clubs, jobs for college students, online student forums, financial aid opportunities, and even college checklists specific to your school.

Peace of mind. Are you nervous about being a college student? No college checklist is complete with encouragement to take a deep breath and remember that you’re not alone! If you feel terrified you won’t make friends or you’ll flunk out of school, you’re normal. Most college students start September not knowing anyone – or only knowing a student or two. You will quickly become part of a group of friends in college.

Dorm room checklist. Here’s the final thing to check of your “to do” list – a tip on dorm rooms: “I am sharing with you all a Dorm Room Checklist. For those of you heading into the dorms (or an apartment), figuring out what to pack can be pretty overwhelming. You never know what you may need or what you should bring, so I made this list for you! Of course, you don’t need everything on this list. Everyone has different dorm rooms and everyone has a different situation so figure what is needed for you.” Then, Brie shares an extensive list of things on her  Dorm Room Checklist.

Resources for College Students

College Checklist – The Smart Student’s “To Do” List

I’m sure I haven’t missed anything on this college checklist ?  – but if I have, please comment below.

If you’re a mature student, read about going back to college at 40.

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