going to college

Summer Before College: Getting to Know your School

This is the third in a series of posts that college finance expert, Laurie Peltier, is writing about her own experience going through the college application and enrollment processes with her kids. Her previous posts focused on how to stay organized during the college search and final decision-making processes. Here, she discusses how to get to know your school before the fall semester begins.

Once we had deposited at the two colleges my twins would attend, we breathed a sigh of relief.  The tough decisions were over.  We thought we could sit back, relax, and wait for move-in day, but we learned the hard way that we should have spent that time getting to know their schools better.  The summer months are a good time to get to know your college, now that you know your child will be attending.

Dorm Room Supplies and Transfer Credits

Being a bargain shopper, I started to pick up items for my son’s dorm room—a comforter, set of sheets, laundry bag—when I saw them on sale.  Then, in July, his college sent us a flyer advertising an entire dorm room package – at a cost much less than purchasing each item individually!  And they were all boxed up and ready to transport—no shopping or packing needed.  I wish I had known they offered such a deal prior to purchasing the other items.

His college also offers a robust co-op program.  We knew that it may take longer to graduate if two whole semesters were spent working at a co-op instead of earning credits.  To help offset this we made sure that he transferred as many AP course credits as possible and signed him up to take a class at a local state college in the summer before freshman year.  The college could not tell us exactly which classes would transfer, but they did direct us to an online list of courses that had been approved for transfer in the past.  We then reviewed the summer course offerings at the local school and the curriculum outline for his major.  The day after he graduated high school he began a U.S. History class at the local state college for $700 and, in July, those credits were transferred to his college.

Health Care and College Meal Plans

For my daughter’s school, I wish I had researched the health center options.  I would have learned that there were no nurses or doctors on campus, and to get medical help, she had to walk six blocks to a neighborhood clinic.  I don’t think it would have changed our decision to attend the school, but in October when she hurt her foot and needed a doctor, we would have been prepared to take the steps necessary to seek treatment.

The college she attends also operates their meal plan on a declining dollar system and not a number of swipes per week.  It took about three weeks into the semester for her to realize that if she continued using the college meal plan the way she had, she would run out of funds for the semester around Thanksgiving.  So instead of using her dining dollars for breakfast, she purchased cereal and milk at a local store and ate in her dorm room.

Keeping in Touch and Coming Home

In order to send my kids care packages, I needed their mailing addresses.  I had to call the colleges to get these addresses, as the websites didn’t seem to have every dorm listed or include zip codes in the addresses.  Before they left for school, I shared their mailing addresses and email accounts with aunts, uncles, and grandparents, so they could stay in touch, and was able to use the addresses when the students ordered books online.   The Academic Calendar was also important, especially to schedule transportation to and from college for winter and spring break.  We didn’t know exactly when their final exams were at first, but we could determine when the last final for the semester was and plan travel accordingly.

At times, it seemed that the colleges spent more time and effort wooing us in the application process then ensuring there was continued contact once we deposited.  It was up to us to make the effort to call and email to get our questions answered and become an informed consumer. I highly recommend you do so over the next few months to make your child’s transition to college much smoother!



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Written by Laurie Peltier
Laurie Peltier is a college finance expert at College Coach. Before joining College Coach, she was a Senior Financial Aid Officer at Becker College and Anna Maria College.