10 Tips for Surviving the First Month of College

by Susan Evans

Written by a recent grad, here are the top 10 things you’ll need to know to prepare for your first month of college.

1. Find Out About Health Services On and Off Campus.

Most college campuses have student health centers, but they typically operate on limited hours. Find out when your campus clinic is open, and be sure that you know where the nearest clinic or hospital is in the event that you have a medical emergency on campus when the student health center is closed.

WHN STAFF TIP – Local Clinic: Check if your local clinic or hospital accepts your insurance plan before you make any emergency visits or appointments there.

WHN STAFF TIP – Local Pharmacy: Find the location of the nearest off-campus pharmacy. Chances are you’ll probably need to fill at least one prescription while you’re at school.

2. Ramen, Ramen, & More Ramen?

Check your school’s cafeteria hours to see when food is available on campus. Also, check the hours of the grocery stores near you. (Is there a 24-hour supermarket nearby if you run out of the essentials?)

WHN Reader TIP – C’mon – Noodles Again?! If you’re tired of Spaghetti-O’s and cereal, many eating establishments near college campuses offer student discounts. Look for coupons, etc. in your local paper.

3. Spin Cycle

College living typically involves doing your own laundry. Before you head to school, stock up on quarters if your college has coin-operated machines.

No Martha Stewart? Learn basic laundry tips about sorting and water temperature. How Stuff Works has great laundry tips!

4. Getting Around

No car on campus? Get the schedule for your city’s bus/public transportation. Many colleges also offer campus shuttles for students (sometimes at reduced rates).

5. Get Your Bearings

Use your first few weeks on campus to get to know the area around you. Figure out landmarks or distinctive buildings to look for if you lose your way (for example, the school chapel or student center).

WHN Staff TIP – Find the Tallest Building: Lost? Look for the tallest building in your town or campus and keep walking towards it.

6. Check It Out

In college, you’ll often have to take responsibility for your own credit cards, checkbooks, etc. Be sure that you keep track of your budget and don’t overspend: if you spend more money than you have in your account, banks may issue you overdraft charges — typically $20-30 for each charge you make beyond the total funds in your account. Download Protecting Yourself from Overdraft and Bounced-Check Fees for more overdraft information.

WHN Staff TIP – On-Line Account Management: Most banks allow you to check your balance online. If you’re not the kind of person who’s good about balancing a checkbook or writing down your expenses, consider logging on to your bank account every few days to make sure that you have sufficient funds for whatever purchases you may need to make. (Read US News & World Report’s online banking tips.)

7. Headin’ Down The Highway

If you will have a car on campus, check for parking regulations, both within your school and your city. Are there certain lots on campus where students are not allowed to park? Do you have to display a permit or hang tag on your car window or mirror at all times? What happens during a snow emergency?

8. Over The Wire

Before you begin placing calls from campus, check your cell phone service hours. It’s great to keep in touch with friends and family from home, but you may not want to do it during peak hours. Some companies offer free minutes after certain times on evenings and weekends, so check to make sure that your half-hour conversation with Mom and Dad won’t cost you a fortune.

9. The Odd Couple

Knowing the top ten tips on living with a new roommate will get you off to a good start with your roommate – important since you’ll be sharing a (usually small) space with them for the next nine months.

10. Identity Crisis

Above all, keep track of your student ID card and dorm key. At many colleges, you’ll use your student ID to buy food in the cafeteria, check out books in the library, and gain admission to campus events.

Avoid storing your keys/ID in coats or jeans pockets—the likelihood that they will slip out or be thrown in the wash is just too great.

And know the 9 Indicators of Identity Theft and what to do if it happens to you!

Photo Credit: Annie Niemaszyk

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