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From the instant we decided we’d had enough of laying in front of the A.C. and stalking our classmates’ cooler-looking Instagrams, we wanted nothing more than to just go back to school already. Well, that moment is almost here! If you’re starting your first year of college, you may or may not be quite so eager to pack your life into the back of your mom’s SUV and back it out of the driveway. Starting college can be a scary time, after all. With so many items to buy and so many school accounts to keep track of, starting the first week of a new semester can be quite stressful.
So to help you out, I’ve created the ultimate list of everything you need to do to prepare for one of the biggest weeks of your life, including what to buy and what to do. And I’m not talking about the obvious stuff like pack your bags and buy bed sheets; I’m talking about the small stuff that so many people (including me!!) often forget about. And, if the thought of moving into your dorm room is giving you cold feet, I’ve got tips that’ll make move-in day so much easier! Are you ready? Yeah, I know you are.
1. Start checking all of your school accounts.
Don’t wait for the first day of school before you log into your school email account for the first time. Your professors will start sending you syllabi, class material, and even assignments weeks before you guys even meet (welcome to college). I know it can feel overwhelming, but try to stay on top of these as early as possible. You wouldn’t want to open your email on the first day of school and be bombarded with 20 different things from all of your professors.
Also check any account related to school that you set up during orientation. There could be important updates waiting for you, and you don’t want to overlook these. Your financial aid information is the perfect example of something you’d need to log into your school account to take care of before the semester starts. Plus, if you have any questions about anything, you have more time to get them answered rather than scrambling around at the last minute.
2. Get doctors appointments out of the way.
Your school most likely requires you to submit some type of medical or vaccination record, especially if you’re going to be a student athlete. If you don’t have an updated record, make sure you visit the doctor to do so before your first week of classes. If you’re dorming away from home, you probably won’t have the time to leave campus and visit your doctor. The last thing you want to have to do is rearrange your schedule to fit a visit in. Make sure you stay on top of this so you don’t have to worry about it when you actually start classes.
3. Contact your roommate(s).
Roommates, roommates, roommates. What even can I say about roommates? My experiences with roommates have been the best of times and the most annoying of times, and also in between the two. Issues with roommates can seriously turn your college experience sour. Common roommate problems include cleanliness of the room, inviting people over, and sleep schedules, so make sure you discuss all of that prior to meeting each other. It helps you know exactly what to expect so you don’t go in blind. But how, might you ask, can you contact someone you’ve never met? Thanks to the power of social media and email, it’s pretty easy to do a quick search of your soon-to-be roomie and message them. Just introduce yourself and say that you’re excited to meet them on move-in day. It’s on them to respond to you.
Try to contact your roommate at least two to three weeks before you start the first week of school. It would be important for you to talk about who’s bringing what so you have time to look for the items you promised to bring if the two of you agreed to share a few things. Common shared items include a mini fridge, a fan, and a vacuum cleaner. I have a post on things you should do before you meet your roommate if you’re interested in totally owning your roommate situation!
4. Get into the habit of waking up early.
I know the last thing you want to hear is that you should practice waking up at 7a.m. during summer vacation (ugh!) but trust me when I say that getting into the habit of waking up a little earlier than usual will help you so much when you actually start classes. If you were totally unable to avoid early morning classes and you aren’t prepared for it, waking up during that first week of school will be a major pain in the butt.
Also, starting your day early can help you be more productive. There aren’t enough hours in the day to sleep in and still get everything done on time (believe me, I’ve tried!) I prefer waking up early and going to my favorite on-campus study spot to start getting work done. I also love schedule interviews and meetings in the morning to get them over with. I’m not saying that you should wake up early every day for three weeks, but once in a while, try to wake up earlier so you know how it feels.
5. Join your school Facebook group.
When I started college, I didn’t have a Facebook account (yeah, I was a little behind on the social media game). Because of that, I definitely missed out on any early social media connecting with classmates. One of the easiest ways for you to connect with the people in your peers is to join your school Facebook page. At my school, there are also specific Facebook groups for major classes like chemistry, physics, and math where students can help each other and ask and answer homework questions. Be on the lookout for anything like this, because it can be a serious asset to doing well in class. Once you join, don’t be afraid to introduce yourself! Engage in the group by commenting and answering questions that you have the knowledge to answer. Everyone is nervous and it’s so much less stressful when your classmates are helping you out.
6. A planner that works well for you.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much of a difference having a planner can make when it comes to organization and success in college. It’s just so much easier to stay on top of your assignments and get things done when you actually have a place to jot everything down. I’m currently using the ClassTracker planner, which I wrote a review on, and I love it so much! If you prefer a slim, lightweight planner, then I think it would be a great planner for you. And if you like planners with a little more sparkle, definitely look into Happy Planners. I used one last year and loved it. It kept me motivated, helped me stay on top of my to-do lists, and I was actually excited to whip it out and write in it because it was just so pretty!
Get a planner and start getting used to it. Print out your schedule and glue it to the inside of your planner. The ClassTracker has a space for you to write your schedule in, so that works really well for me. Mark down any important events happening prior to the first week so you stay on top of those as well.
7. A really durable backpack.
In high school, I used to buy super terrible bags and backpacks for carrying my books and school supplies around. See, I knew in a month’s time I’d be left with a gaping hole in the bottom from all my textbooks, or a strap that was on the verge of snapping like a twig. But I never really cared as long as they looked cute. College is already expensive enough, so you’ll need a strong backpack that lasts for all of your class and study essentials. This way, you won’t have to spend money every couple of months for a new one. The High Sierra Loop Backpack and its Stacked Compartment Lunch Bag are my new favorite packs for school and for adventures (more on that in a bit!)
The backpack is super roomy, which I love because there’s nothing I’d hate more than not being able to fit all of my class essentials in one bag. There are multiple pockets, so you can easily organize all of your stuff. I love keeping smaller items, like lip balm and spare pens, in smaller pockets so I don’t lose them under huge textbooks. In other words, no more loosing your earbuds at the bottom of your backpack. Since I did some studying abroad earlier this year, and have no doubt that I’ll be going on even more adventures, having a compartment for my laptop and other tech gear is super important in a backpack (lucky for me this backpack has that!) If you’re planning to study abroad in the future (or even a hiking or camping trip, or a weekend getaway), add this backpack to your packing list.
The padded straps will make carrying around your laptop and heavy books easy on your shoulders, especially if your schedule will require you to be walking around campus from class to class all day. Okay, I’m going to go all fangirl on you for like two seconds. This backpack is equipped with two mesh beverage pockets for taking your water bottle on the go. I haven’t had a backpack with this since, like, middle school and I’m so excited this High Sierra Loop backpack has them! I hate having my water bottle rolling around the bottom of my bag and getting all warm (ick!) so this is perfect. You can use the other pocket as a place to store your umbrella for easy access on super rainy days.
I know walking around a college campus with a lunch bag sounds kinda lame with dining halls around every corner, but it’s actually a great investment, especially if you have a long ride to and from home on the weekends. I get car sick very easily, and my school is two hours away from home, so having snacks on hand is super helpful during the journey. And because the stacked compartment lunch bag keeps food and beverages cold, you don’t have to worry about fruit, yogurt, or other refrigerated snacks getting gross during your drive. I also really love that the strap on this lunch bag is actually a quick release buckle, so I can easily attach it to my backpack and just go!
What’s in my backpack?
My laptop, for starters! As a journalism student and blogger, I never go anywhere without it! I also keep a folder and notebook on hand to organize papers (believe me, you’ll have a lot of them!) and just in case I need to physically write something down to turn in (like when your professor throws a pop quiz your way). Of course, I keep my pencil case full of pretty pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters, and a stapler in my backpack as well. You probably guessed I would say this, but I also keep my planner in my bag for easy organization. Be sure to read my post on must-have school supplies so you know what to purchase!
And, I never go anywhere without my wallet, a good book, my eyeglasses, earbuds, sunglasses, and a camera for cute pics because, seriously, whether you’re on campus or at the beach with friends to catch the sunset, you never know when a good photo-taking opportunity will arise.
Quick backpack organization tips:
- Put small things in small pockets. They’re less likely to get lost, and you won’t have to dig around for them at the bottom of the grand canyon, er, I mean, your bag.
- Arrange books by size order. Keep the big stuff like binders and folders in the back, and the small stuff like a reading book and pencil case towards the front. This really lets you maximize the space in your bag.
- Keep all your personal items in the same pocket. For me, this includes lipstick, lip balm, mini deodorant, and any extra hair ties.
8. Professional looking clothes.
You guys, I completely overlooked this when I was starting my first week/semester and it seriously came back to bite me in the rear end. In college, opportunities for networking, internships, and jobs are all over the place and can pop up at any time. You need to make sure you have something professional—business casual works—to wear to any spur of the moment appointments. Lucky for me, I pulled something together with my signature black leggings, a slightly wrinkled teal button down, and tan riding boots. Had the interview been less casual than it turned out to be, I probably wouldn’t have been the best dressed.
You can never go wrong with a fun, printed blouse or button down. Something simple like polka dots or stripes would be perfect. One Bandage or pencil skirt is good to keep on hand, and be sure you have even just one pair of dress pants you can wear. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for cute and affordable dress pants going into my senior year since I’ll be applying to way more positions beyond the semester. H&M is a great place for finding blazers and button downs. Express is also a store that’s perfect for that. My biggest caveat is to ALWAYS try on the clothes before you buy to make sure you like how you look in them! I usually just eyeball the piece and hope for the best, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought something that doesn’t fit me right because of that.
9. A lanyard for your keys and ID.
It’s really easy to lose your ID and room key—a.k.a. two of the most important things that you should have on you at all times—but it’s just as easy to not lose them. A lanyard with a keyring and ID card holder helps ensure that you keep both items in the same place. This was always super helpful for me because I hated having to pull out my wallet for my ID card, and then dig around in my back for my key. (By the way, you have to pay money to replace both of those things if you lose them!)
An alternative to keeping your student ID in a card holder on a lanyard is to keep it with your phone. My phone case is from jimmyCASE and has a really strong built-in pocket, so I keep my ID, metrocard, and a few dollars there for easy access.
What are your tips for prepping for the first week of college?
P.S., don’t forget to check out my post on things you should avoid doing your freshman year of college!