You are finally able to take a breath. Endless college essays, test scores, recommendations, and scholarship applications have paved a path to new chapter for you. As you begin wondering how to navigate this next chapter, you know you still have things to do. Figuring out where to begin and what to do after replying “YES” to your acceptance letter will be a breeze with this essential checklist of to-do’s.
1. Send in Your Deposit
Once you have decided to go to your first choice school, you will be required to send along a deposit with your acceptance decision confirmation. This will hold your spot. It basically tells the school that you are serious about moving forward and attending. After your deposit is applied to your total bill, you will receive an updated bill with the remaining balance. This will help you to budget for the rest of the school year. It is recommended that you send in your deposit before the deadline.
2. Plan Tuition Payments
Budgeting is important. There are so many expenses to consider when planning for college and your tuition payments are one of the most important. After sending in your tuition deposit, you will receive your tuition bill. This bill will take into account all of your financial aid package information. Once you see on paper what you owe for the rest of the year, you can plan accordingly. You may be able to take advantage of college tuition payment plans through the Bursar’s office at your school. Some schools will work with you, allowing more flexible plans to help manage larger tuition payments.
3. Complete loan paperwork
It’s more than likely that you received some type of student or parent loan in your financial aid package. As much as we would love them to be applied instantly, student loans do not magically just happen. There is loan paperwork to fill out, including promissory notes, entrance interviews, and other agreements. It’s just as important to read your loan paperwork as it is to sign it. Take the time to understand how student loans work in your financial aid package. Take the time to ask questions. Sometimes you will receive more student loan money than you need for your bill. If this is the case you can plan accordingly to use those excess funds toward other educational expenses such as books, supplies, housing, etc.
4. Select A Dining Hall Meal Plan
You may not think you have to spend a lot of time selecting a meal plan, but it’s important to take the time needed. Everyone is different. Maybe you are living off-campus and have already budgeted for your food expenses. In this case, you may need a smaller meal plan. Perhaps you will have a car and plan to grocery shop since you have a special diet, but want to take advantage of the cafeteria at least one time per day. Think about the times of your classes, where on campus you will be and the times that the cafe is open. If you will not have a vehicle on campus and are not close to public transportation, you will likely want to take advantage of a meal plan that allows you to get everything you need from the cafe. The bottom line here is to consider what your lifestyle and needs are and select the most appropriate meal plan for your needs.
5. Continue to Save
Even after you make your decision and send along your deposit, it’s important that you continue to think about your college budget. By continuing to save, you are actively working toward making college more affordable. Even if you have enough money saved to pay your college tuition after your financial aid package has been applied, it’s important to think about saving for incidentals and emergencies. Thinking about your future is something you should begin doing as soon as possible. Saving is a life skill that you can continue to build upon.
6. Don’t Stop Scholarship Hunting
You can keep looking for potential scholarships. Maybe you feel you have done everything possible in terms of applying for scholarships. You have already sent along what seems like an endless bounty of scholarship applications. Just because you received your financial aid package and your tuition bill does not mean you should cease all scholarship search endeavors.
Think of some lesser known places that you have not looked into yet. Maybe you will find a scholarship that you can apply toward the second semester that will lessen your student loan amount. This will save you money in the long run! Look into local community agencies such as non profit organizations, parent or student employers, and local banks and credit unions to avoid potentially lost opportunities.
7. Open That Bank Account
While you are figuring out how to adult, go ahead and open that bank account. The great news is that many banks and credit unions will provide student benefits or special student accounts. Take advantage of them. These will often include local discounts, free checking and savings accounts, and other great benefits. If you are attending college at a local institution, look into banking options before your semester even begins. If you are going to a college further away, take some time to research. You can also contact your school and ask if they are affiliated with any preferred banks.
8. Shop Smart and Not Right Away
As soon as you receive your college acceptance letter, you probably want to do all of the fun things to prepare. That includes shopping for everything you need for your dorm and the comfort of your college transition. Instead of shopping right away, take some time to make a list of everything you think you will need. Many times schools will provide lists of dorm essentials. It’s important not to get carried away on the internet. Flashing banners with “back-to-school” specials and reminders will take over your social media ads. You will find yourself wanting everything and convince yourself that you need more than you do.
Carefully consider the essentials. Take advantage of student discounts if they are available. Clip those online or paper coupons and shop the clearance section.You can also look at gently used options through local online marketplaces. If you wait until “back-to-school” time, you may not always get the best prices. Shopping “seasons” go by quickly and before you know it, these “back-to-school” deals will be discounted and the holiday selections will replace them. You will feel like you adulted well when you know you didn’t pay full price for those essentials!
It may seem overwhelming thinking of everything you need to do to prepare for college. It is easy to overspend. This checklist will help get you started as you try to consider everything you need to do. The important thing is to pause and consider options. If you follow these steps, you will not only feel less stressed, but you will be more prepared and have more money in that new bank account you just opened!