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Top Tips for the Transition to College


The transition from high school to college is exciting, but it can also be confusing. After all, a whole new phase of life is about to begin!  When it comes to change, thinking about what’s ahead. And how you can best be prepared for it can be critical to having a smooth transition.  So, here are some of our top tips to consider and help you plan before you head off to college in August.


Freshman orientation usually takes place a few days to a week before classes start. It’s a time to get some administrative stuff done. Help students meet each other and settle in, and figure out where they’ll need to go for classes and meals. This probably isn’t optional, so make sure you plan to be there on time!

Shopping for Dorm Gear

In this day and age, the easiest way to shop for dorm gear is by doing it online. Stores like Bed Bath & Beyond have everything you need (and more!). And you can schedule a delivery right to campus, or opt to pick it up at a local store.
If you’re in contact with your roommate before school starts, be sure to coordinate who’s bringing what! That way, you’re way less likely to have doubles of things you only need one of or miss something essential. Remember, too, that you can always order things you find yourself needing once you’ve settled in.

Money Management

While most things you’ll need to pay for can be covered by using your student ID card, it’s still a good idea to make sure you have a bank account set up for the things that can’t. Consider a bank that’s close to campus. Having it close by can help if you need to go in and talk to someone, or if you have to make an in-person transaction. Look into things like bank fees and the option of opening a student account. You may want to consider getting checks in addition to a bank card. Though they’re not commonly used in this day and age, you might need them, especially if you plan to live off-campus at some point and will need to pay rent.
It may be worth considering getting a credit card to use while at school. Some companies will allow a parent to issue an additional card linked to their account. Other companies may offer a “starter” credit card that will give you a smaller line of credit that will allow you to build a credit profile.

Planning Your Involvement

Many campuses have an astonishing amount of clubs, organizations, sports, and activities that you can be a part of. It’s a good idea to have a game plan before you arrive so you don’t get overwhelmed by all the choices. Try not to limit yourself! If there’s something you’re curious about, sign up for it. You can always pare your list down as the semester goes on.

Legal Considerations

Once you turn 18, you’re legally considered an adult. Which means that your parents no longer have the legal authority to make decisions for you medically, legally, or financially. There are some legal documents to consider that will allow your parents to be involved. Especially in the case of an emergency:

1. Health Care Advance Care Directives: This is a document that lets a parent make medical decisions for their adult child if something happens to make that child unable to make their own decisions. It will allow parents to access their child’s medical records and health information, which would otherwise not be available now that the child is past the age of 18.
A separate Advance Directive for Mental Health Care is also advisable. College can be emotionally challenging on many levels, and this document will grant parents the ability to make mental health care decisions should it be necessary.

2. HIPAA Authorization Form: This form allows a parent access to their child’s medical records regardless of whether or not they’re ill.

3. Power of Attorney: If the student is incapable of dealing with their financial or legal matters whatever the circumstances may be (e.g., sick, traveling abroad, just too busy to deal with stuff, etc.), this document gives a parent “permission” to act on their behalf.

4. FERPA Release: The FERPA Release allows parents access to grades and school performance records. You’ll need to request this directly from the school if it’s something you and your parents want.

Communicating with Home

College is a big adjustment for new students and also for their families. It’s important to figure out how communication is going to work for the whole family. Are you going to have a weekly Skype chat? Are you going to text after class on certain days? When will a phone call be expected? While this might sound like over-management of something relatively simple, it’s important to share what’s expected and to balance students’ desire to dive head first into their life on campus with parents’ desire to know what’s going on.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but they’re some of the things that we here at Great College Advice think are important to consider. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and get ready and excited to start college in the fall!
Andrea Aronson
College Advisor
Westfield, NJ


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