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College Checklist for Incoming Freshmen

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Jessica Black College Coach Finance Consultant

Written by Jessica Blackon July 20th, 2023

My career in higher education administration began at a public state college when I was a work-study student at the financial aid office while pursuing my undergraduate degree. After getting my B.A. in Psychology with a minor in Business Administration, I worked for state government employment services. However, my true calling led me back to my roots in financial aid. As the Assistant Director of Financial Aid at a private liberal arts college in Portland, Oregon, I fostered educational access by overseeing a wide variety of daily operations. These included processing aid applications, establishing cross-departmental partnerships, matching scholars to endowment funding, and meticulously managing multiple funding streams for a diverse student population. Coming from a disadvantaged background as a Vietnamese immigrant and first-generation college graduate, my passion for improving student access to postsecondary educational funding runs deep.
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by Jessica Black, former financial aid officer at Lewis & Clark College You’ve finally decided on where you’re going to college. Now comes the adventure of packing up your life. This big move can be daunting, but we have some tips to prepare you for a seamless and stress-free experience. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Authorization Review your financial aid checklist in your university/college portal to ensure you’ve completed all the necessary steps for your funds to disburse in a timely manner. Once you are matriculated, certain departments will require your written consent before discussing your records with any family members. Familiarize yourself with your college’s FERPA policies and locate any authorization forms that may need to be completed. If you anticipate that a parent/guardian or another third party will be assisting you with bill payments, investigate how you can grant proxy access to your billing account. Student Health Insurance Ensure that you have the most up-to-date copy of your insurance card. Colleges may mandate active enrollment in a health plan, leading them to charge upfront for the school’s offered insurance. The Student Health Insurance department should furnish guidelines on how to waive the college’s insurance if you already have comparable coverage under a parent’s existing policy. Waiving the school’s health insurance will allow the charge to be credited back to your account in the next billing cycle. Opting out should not hinder your access to on-campus health services but reach out to your school if you have any concerns. Budgeting Developing strong budgeting skills is essential for students. Track your expenses using budgeting apps or simple spreadsheets. This will help you identify unnecessary spending habits while making wise financial allocations. Textbooks can be a financial burden. Explore alternatives such as renting, buying used books, or utilizing online resources. Consider sharing textbooks with classmates or opting for e-books. Additionally, it’s prudent to have some cash on hand when you arrive on campus. To enhance your money management abilities, take advantage of the financial literacy programs offered by many educational institutions. Records Safekeeping Maintain medical records when relocating to facilitate any future healthcare needs or emergencies. Gather essential financial documents such as your ID, driver's license, social security card, bank account information, and any other important paperwork. Keep them all in a secure place. Take a picture or scan your documents so you can have digital copies. Practice proper information security to safeguard your digital files. Declutter & Donate As you start packing, this is a great time to take the opportunity to declutter and donate. Sort through your belongings and decide what you truly need and what can be donated or discarded. Consider selling some of your items to make an extra bit of cash! Shipping & Transportation If you will be attending college in a different country or if you're traveling long distances, consider shipping some items ahead of time to relieve the burden of carrying everything with you. To make an informed decision, compare the costs of shipping versus the cost of extra baggage fees or renting a larger vehicle. Residence Hall Amenities Find out in advance what amenities are available in the residence hall of the college you’ll be attending. Check the Campus Living website or contact the Student Housing Department. For example, do the dorm rooms provide what you need to store and heat up food? Some schools may have a connection for mini fridge and microwave rentals. Breaks & Time Off Cross reference the school’s academic calendar and campus housing policy for breaks and time off. Can you stay on campus for winter or summer break? Are there any additional charges you need to be aware of? Will the dining halls be closed or operating on limited hours? Plan your budget if you will be responsible for providing your own meals during these break periods. Student Discounts As a student, you may be eligible for various discounts on transportation, software, entertainment, etc. Always ask if a student discount is available before making a purchase or paying for a service. This can significantly reduce your expenses over time. As you embark on your journey to college, take the time to review the details on your invoice and statements. Reach out to the billing department if you need clarification. Your financial situation, particularly if you qualify for federal need-based grants, might present opportunities to waive certain fees. There may even be optional fees that any student can waive regardless of financial need. It never hurts to inquire about the options available to you. By staying informed and proactive, you can make confident decisions that contribute to your financial wellness.

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