Recent high school grads throughout the country are gearing up to head off to college this fall and are discovering this year’s back-to-school prep comes with a modicum of growing up.
If this is your situation, take solace that you probably don’t have to worry about full-fledged adult life yet (and you should take advantage of that fact while you can). But there are some responsibilities that you’ll face that you probably haven’t had to deal with before. Here are some things you should do before you venture off to campus.
Things to do before you head off to college
1. Shop around for the best deals on books
Finding your books at the campus bookstore may prove to be the most convenient, but that luxury may come at a cost. Use the ISBN numbers of your books to comparison shop online and in the bookstore (tip: used books are typically going to cost less). You may also want to consider looking at renting your textbooks or using digital copies, which tend to be less expensive options.
Read more: 9 ways to save on college textbooks
2. Learn how to cook
There’s only so many times you’ll want to grab dinner at the campus dining hall and going out to eat with your new crew is an expense that can add up quickly. By knowing how to make meals at home or in your dorm, you’ll save some cash (and cut down on your chances of packing on the dreaded freshman 15). It can even be something you and your roommates do together.
3. Make sure you understand your student loans
Student loans may seem like free money, especially when you get that first influx of cash to help you pay for college, but they certainly aren’t strings-free. Make sure you review the conditions that come with your loans and ask your lenders or college bursars office any questions you may have. It’s better to understand how they work now instead of getting hit with surprises after graduation.
Read more: Clark’s student loan guide
4. Calculate your student loan payments
Once you understand what your student loans entail, it’s a good idea to sit down and do the actual math of how you’ll start paying off your student loan debt. Figure out what your repayment options are, when you’ll have to start making them and what you’ll pay in interest. You may also consider figuring out how much you’ll save by increasing your monthly payments by different amounts.
5. Check your credit
Just like you check your grades, you want to check your credit scores. These magic numbers help determine what terms and conditions you’ll apply for on future lines of credit, like a new credit card or car loan. Having good credit can even benefit you when it comes time to rent an apartment or apply for a job (employers often look at a version of your credit report as part of the application process). You can see an overview of your free credit report, updated each month, on Credit.com.
6. Consider a credit card
A credit card is a great tool to have in case of emergencies and there are student credit cards designed with you in mind. Just make sure you aren’t missing payments or racking up too much credit card debt, as these are things that can harm your credit score. Keep in mind that if you’re younger than 21, the Credit CARD Act of 2009 requires that you have an adult co-signer or provide proof that you are able to repay the debt.
7. Find out where a local ATM is
Whether you need cash to pay your friend for the concert tickets or for copies at the library, it’s good to know where you can get funds if the bank is closed.
Read more: Hidden dangers of debit cards
8. Pay your housing deposit
If you’re living in campus housing, many schools require you pay a deposit before they assign you a room. It’s a good idea to check with your school for specific requirements.
9. Coordinate purchases with roommates
With your housing assignment typically comes your roommate’s name and contact information. No dorm needs multiple microwaves or mini fridges, so coordinate with the person/people you’ll be living with to see who will bring what items that you can all share. You may also want to check with your campus housing department to see what items are already provided.
10. Chat with your parents about a budget
Up until now, your parents have been the ones figuring out how to allocate their money for the things all of you needed around the house, from food to that seemingly endless supply of toilet paper. But now it’s up to you. Instead of winging it and hoping you figure out how to do this, talk with your parents and get their advice on how to create and stick with a budget. If they’re helping you out financially, be sure to discuss their expectations for how you’ll spend money.
Read more: How to create a budget
11. Get a job
This could be the source of income you use for your savings or checking account. You may consider looking at short-term or seasonal positions near home that you can return to on breaks. But if you plan to work while going to school, look for a gig that would be flexible with your school schedule. You may also want to ask your college or university about any on-campus positions.
You can find the full list of things to do before you head to college on Credit.com.
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