How To Start Preparing For College (The Ultimate Beginners Guide)

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How do you prepare for college? By being organised and setting some time aside for this in the run up to it, then the last weeks before the move won’t be so chaotic. Here’s a few tips.

  • Accommodation
  • Supplies – Laptop, stationary 
  • Household items
  • Budgeting
  • Life skills
  • Emotions

I am just about to leave for college. It has been a tough summer trying to prepare for the move. Nervous, excited, anxious. All these feelings building up inside. Here’s how I prepared for the big day.


Obviously if you are moving out of home, you need a place to live. This is something that needs to be heavily researched. Where you are living will determine most of your decisions to do with college life. There are a few options available.
1. On-campus
2. Rented accommodation near campus
3. Family friends or relatives

If you are interested in reading more in depth about the different types of college accommodation and some pros and cons of each, I have written the following posts

Should I join a sorority?

Where do college students live?

Living in dorms- 5 tips to survival

Do you get to see your dorm before you move in?

On campus

Many colleges prefer/ and possibly insist that freshman spend their first year on campus. There is good thinking behind this. The dropout rate in first year is enormous.
Colleges have researched this and found that by living on-campus within walking distance of classes and amenities, students are more likely to attend class and get involved in student life.

Living on campus is not a cheap option, however, everything is bundled together, including tuition and so you only have one bill. It is the ideal solution but there are pros and cons.
The pros being, instant social life, everything catered for, including meals, close to your classes and everything is bundled into one bill. However this is not a cheap bill, and you can expect to pay upwards of $11k per year.
There are also cons attached to dorm life, it can be noisy, you more than likely will have a roommate (you may not see eye to eye!) and your accommodation will be basic.

Rented accommodation near campus

Renting a room off campus is also an alternative. However, this is in line with the cost of living on campus. The main difference being, you are paying rent and tuition separately.
You also have to find this accommodation, and usually there are plenty of extras, electric, wifi, and also you will have to sign a lease, so you can’t just decide to leave.
Decide on your budget and stick to it. It will be a long hard year if you have signed a lease and you spend most of the time working to pay your rent!

Family friends or relatives

You possibly have friends or relatives living near your college that you could live with. Your parents would possibly choose this option over any other as they know that it would be like you living at home.
You’re going to have a nice warm house, with meals and clean laundry but you have to think about not just the study academic aspect of going to college. If you have made the decision to move away from home then you want to be able to enjoy all aspects of college life, including the social side.
So, consider whether Aunt Mary would be cool with you partying and out all night, or would she be hounding you about your assignments? Ultimately the choice may not be yours, as more than likely it is your parents that will be paying.
But at the end of the day, this is where you will have to live for up to four years so make sure you voice your opinion about where that will be.


You don’t want to arrive at your first day of college with nothing. So be a little prepared and start stocking up on some supplies during the summer. These don’t need to be anything more than some paper refills and a good selection of pens and pencils.
You may however need to check with your course coordinator as to what kind of laptop you may need. Some are quite course specific depending on what you have chosen. But many will just need you to have a basic enough laptop.
There is always the option to go and work in the library on college computers, so if it’s a case where funds are just not available, then put it on a wish list and try to start saving for one.

Don’t be pressured into buying the most expensive one in the shop because the sales guy tells you this is the one you will need! It’s his job to sell the most expensive one. Have a budget and don’t go over.
The other item that you will need, but unlikely that you don’t already have is a cell. Make sure that your plan covers the state that you are moving to and that your costs are not going to skyrocket.
It might be worth shopping around to see if you can get a better deal depending on your location. Just because you don’t call your parents now, believe me you will once you move!

In relation to this, you may also be interested to read my post should I go to college out of state?

Household items

I hear you say, what? I’m moving on campus, what could I possibly need? Well, there is an array of items that you will need. Starting with bed linen, duvet covers, pillows, study lamp, laundry basket, enough clothes and underwear to get you through at least the first 10 days.
You will have enough to do without having to worry about laundry! If like me, you waltz into the bathroom at home and everything is just there, ie shampoo, conditioner, soap, etc, then you might want to think about the fact that you will no longer have the luxury of someone else going and restocking these items.
This will now be your responsibility, and little things like these pave the way to you becoming a responsible adult.
If you are living in a rented house, this responsibility goes a large step further, as you will also need to consider, items like toilet paper, detergent, bin bags… It is unlikely however, that you will be in a house on your own, so the load will be shared with a few others.


Most teens going off to college will not have the experience of managing a budget. It’s actually quite difficult to buy food and supplies for one person. Especially if you are buying fresh produce.
Loaves of bread go stale, cartons of milk go sour, purely because there is too much for one person.
If you are living in rented accommodation then it is best (but not always practical!) to have a jar of petty cash, that can be used for items that can be shared, such as bread, milk, washing detergents.
But if you are living on campus well then chances are all your meals will be eaten in the canteen, which takes some of the burden away about managing your money. If you are managing a monthly budget then try not to live like a king for the first week and then like a pauper for the following three.
The majority of parents are subsidising a college budget and their wallet is not a bottomless pit, well certainly not in our house! As a student, you are supposed to be living on noodles and pasta, but try and be a little creative when it comes to food.
Every pasta dish can be made interesting with a few extra veg!

Accepted to college but can’t afford it, is another of my posts that covers student loans, scholarships and other financial option for college.

Life skills

So you’re about to leave home and you probably think that you got this. But you have to ask yourself a few life questions. Can I feed myself? Can I iron a shirt? Can I use a washing machine? For those that are living on campus, again most of the above won’t apply to you.
It will be like you are still living at home. You can eat in the cafeteria, and realistically not really have to think about much. However, if you are renting somewhere, then you will have to take care of all life’s mysteries!
The laundry, the cooking, the cleaning, putting out the trash… for most young adults these are chores that they have never had to consider before. So before you leave for college, ask those who know!
My mom’s friend had to show her son two days before he left for college how to change his bed linen, as he had never before changed a duvet cover! This i s not the teenagers fault you understand, but the mothers, for allowing him to get to this age without doing simple household chores.
So if you are pretty handy around the house then you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. The main objective while in college is to be clean, and be fed! If you can achieve these two things then you should survive semester to semester.


The hardest part of going to college is dealing with the emotional side. The lead up to leaving, to actually getting there, and being comfortable enough to stay. I spent most of the summer in knots of anxiety.
What if I get there and no one talks to me? What if I don’t like my course? What if can’t manage my course? What if no one likes me?
The biggest fear I had was the ability to make friends. I actually was feeling physically sick at the thoughts of it. And as the day for my induction grew nearer, I was thinking of anything and everything that would mean I didn’t have to go. I don’t really want to do that course. I’m too young to leave home.
How am I going to cope living in the city? The more I thought about it, the bigger the problem got. My mum would sit me down on a nearly daily basis and say that everything was going to be ok. But her advice was this.

On my first day, not to have my cell in my hand. Look approachable. Smile at everyone. And when allocated a seat, turn to the people either side of me and say, “Hi, I’m Holly!”. That everyone in the room is feeling the same way. Everyone is anxious about meeting new people and making a friend. It is possibly the hardest thing I have had to do.
The day of my induction arrived. All I wanted to do was turn around and go home. How was I going to do this? I am not an outgoing, extroverted person. But I also knew that my mum was right. I didn’t want to be the standoffish one. Or the weird one.
I just wanted to fit in, and the only way that was going to happen was by taking on her advice. It took every bit of my being not to run from the line for registration. People were calling course numbers, to go this way, had I missed my course number being called…? It was horrendous. I tried to talk to the girl beside me in the line, but she was in a different course.

When I got to the top, I asked the guy where I needed to go and he told me to go to the balcony area, but when I got there, the lady said no I was supposed to be downstairs.
This was a nightmare. I wanted to just run screaming from the building! But then I found the correct room, sat down and turned to the girl next to me. “Hi! I’m Holly!”. “Oh thank God” she said, “I’m Jess”, and in an instant everything was Ok.
All the stress of the past three months lifted from my shoulders and all was going to be good. It wasn’t as bad as I had worked myself up to be. It was in fact, quite exciting. They were calling us scientists, and I was thinking, this is it. This is what I have worked so hard for. I have arrived.
Starting a new chapter in your life, no matter what it is or what age you are. It is huge. But the more you stress, the bigger the elephant gets. It becomes so enormous, you nearly can think of little else.
But everyone has someone that is looking out for them. Listen to their advice. Most of it is probably worth taking, and nothing is generally as bad as you think it is going to be.
It is the unknown. The mystery. Once you grab the problem by two hands and be as confident as you can be, all it takes to break that barrier is “Hi, I’m Holly”.Budget Food[/cs_content_seo]

Holly Cunningham

Holly Cunningham is a college student. She is studying a Bioscience degree. She has a great work ethic and very driven and self motivated. I hope that some of my insights in to study and college life will help with any issues you might have.

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