As you get ready for your first year of college, you are probably overwhelmed because you are moving away from home, you are going to manage your own finances and going to live with strangers. These things can pose some new and intimidating challenges. 

College is an exciting time in young person’s life, but it can also be a nerve wracking one. 

This is where preparation can go a long way toward putting your mind at ease. As you start gearing for your first year of college, here are several things to keep in mind.  

College is a major transition in a teenager’s life. For the first time, you get a taste of living on your own. With this freedom, however, can come tough decisions. 

Here are three tips to help you get ready for your first year of college. 

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If you’re attending a traditional university, you might not have a choice when it comes to living on campus versus living off site in an apartment or some other arrangement. Many schools require freshmen to live in student housing.

However, if you choose a community college or obtain special status as a commuter, you might be able to live off campus. 

There are pros and cons to living onsite versus having a residence elsewhere. Being on campus lets you really immerse yourself in college life. You’re more likely to make friends and attend social events if you stick close to your school.

On the other hand, living off campus can help you save money. For example, if you stay with your parents while attending school, you can often save thousands on rent or housing expenses. 

College offers a lot new experiences — and many of them can be overwhelming. The freedom of being on your own can feel exhilarating. Unfortunately, you can expect to encounter situations that make you confront hard choices. 

Most of us want to be liked by our peers. However, peer pressure can lead to bad decisions. College can mean opportunities to experiment with drugs or alcohol. It’s important to think carefully before making decisions you might regret.

Just because you’re away from your parents doesn’t mean you’re alone. College campuses have a wealth of resources for students, from resident assistants to mental health professionals. 

Whether it’s a roommate dispute or a bout of anxiety, it’s important to seek support when you need it.   

Is the Freshman fifteen a real thing?

Yes, in some cases, it can end up being the Freshman Twenty or Thirty pounds. Many colleges and universities require underclassmen to live on campus. 

Because of this, schools tend to feature an almost endless array of meal options, including fast food and buffets.

When you’re running from one class to the next, it’s easy to grab a burger or soda. Likewise, pizza can be a convenient dinner or snack when you’re studying late at night.

Every school is different, but there are definitely certain items you should leave at home on move-in day.

  • First, many schools prohibit certain applicants, such as microwaves. It’s always a good idea to check your university’s student housing policies before buying a microwave, instant pot, coffee maker, or mini-fridge for school.

Even if these items are permitted, you might not have much space to accommodate them. 

  • You’re unlikely to prepare many meals in your dorm room. Dorm life can also make it difficult to wash dishes or safely store things like china plates.
  • The reality is that most dorm rooms are quite small — and that includes the closets. It might be hard to accept, but you’re probably not going to have enough room for all your clothing. Pick the pieces you love the most and leave everything else at home.
  • They might smell nice, but candles are a serious fire hazard in a compact dorm room. If you must have fragrances in your space, consider warmers that use a regular light bulb and scented wax.
  • Some decorations are fine, but don’t go overboard. Many students overestimate the size of their living space and splurge on pricey decor items. 

While it can be fun to shop, too many decorations can make a small space look cluttered.   

As you get ready for your first year of college, you’re probably overwhelmed at the thought of packing for school, making a checklist can help you stay organized and on budget. Here are 10 essentials to include on your college must-have list:

For many families, college comes with a steep price tag. For the 2018-2019 school year, the average annual cost of tuition at private schools was $35,676. At state schools, the yearly cost was $9,716.

Understandably, students and parents want to save money however they can. Fortunately, there are plenty of places to find great savings on school supplies. Here are four to check out: 

  • College students can qualify for an Amazon Prime Student membership which gives them free two-day shipping on millions of items on the site, as well as discounts on everything from laptops to pantry items. 
  • Want to stock up on college supplies while helping the environment? Freecycle is an online community and recycling network where people can offer up items to others at no charge.

The idea behind the site, which boasts more than 10 million members and over 5,000 community groups, is to keep stuff out of landfills. 

If you spot an item you need, you simply contact the owner and arrange a pick-up location. Members can also post wanted ads for things they need. 

  • UNiDAYS is a free app that offers thousands of discounts to college students. You can access deals right from your smartphone, so you never have to worry about clipping coupons or remembering your discount card. 
  • Don’t have hundreds of dollars to spend on dorm room furniture? This is where Facebook can be a boon for your budget.

The social media site’s community pages are filled with people looking to get rid of furniture, textbooks, and other essentials you need for school. 

You’ll pay pennies on the dollar for gently used items, and you might even be lucky enough to score a great find for free. 

First, it’s always a good idea to check your college’s rules regarding appliances in student housing, as some schools have strict policies regarding which appliances they’ll allow on campus.

If you’re permitted to bring appliances, or your plan on living in an apartment, it’s a good idea to keep everything compact. Fortunately, there are plenty of appliances sized just right for dorm or apartment living.

  • Microwaves are great for heating up leftovers or even boiling water for things like tea or vegetables.
  • You probably won’t be able to fit a standard refrigerator inside your dorm room. Many mini-fridges offer ample storage, and some even contain a freezer section.
  • Communal housing can make for less than pleasant air quality. If you have allergies (or just a messy roommate) an air purifier can help you keep your space smelling fresh.
  • College is typically a more relaxed environment compared to high school. Professors expect their students to show up to class on time and be engaged. Beyond that, most of them have few preferences regarding supplies.
  • Many college students prefer having a laptop for taking notes and even accessing online textbooks. It’s also a good idea to have a notebook or pad of paper and a pen/pencil for jotting down important information. 
  • You’ll probably also want to invest in a sturdy, comfortable backpack or rolling bag. Even if you commute, college textbooks can be heavy.   

You’ll probably also want to invest in a sturdy, comfortable backpack or rolling bag. Even if you commute, college textbooks can be heavy. 

Look for bags with padded straps and a built-in compartment or protective sleeve for your laptop or other electronic devices.    

One of the main challenges of being on your own for the first time is using money responsibly. If you’re not careful, you can make financial mistakes that follow you into adulthood.

Here are three ideas for keeping your finances in top shape:  

  • There are dozens of smartphone apps that help you keep track of your expenses. For example, Mint is a free app that lets you set a budget, log your spending, and quickly check your balance across accounts. 

The app will also send you alerts when you overspend or get close to going over your budget. 

  • One of the perks of living on or near campus is the availability of student jobs. In fact, many universities offer employment opportunities for their students — with flexible hours and sometimes even tuition discounts. 

Look for jobs in the library, food service, and various administration offices.   

  • Teens and young adults are the target demographic for just about every company out there. In other words, businesses want your business, and they’ll offer lucrative discounts to get it.

If a local business, chain retailer, or restaurant doesn’t advertise a student discount, don’t be afraid to ask if they have one. You might be surprised how many businesses offer a “hidden” student discount.     

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual food costs for a single individual is $3,989, which comes out to around $11 per day. The good news about food expenses is they’re relatively easy to budget for. 

If you start with $10 or $11 a day, multiply this number by seven. This gives you a food budget for the week. 

From there, you can plan your grocery shopping around your budget and make adjustments if you think you might go over on a certain day. 

Just because you live in a dorm doesn’t mean you can’t commit to eating healthy. Make it a point to stock up on healthy snacks so you’re not tempted to reach for pizza or candy from the vending machine. 

  • You can find budget-friendly grocery stores near most college campuses. Check their flyers for weekly deals, or look online for a list of discounts.

Many larger grocery store chains now offer apps that let you view specials and coupons right from your phone.

You’ll encounter many new experiences in your first year in college. Why not make the transition an opportunity to learn about saving money and managing your finances?

By practicing good money management skills now, you’ll lay the groundwork for a lifetime of responsible budgeting.    

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