The Syllabus: How to Prepare for Going Back to College in the Fall

By on June 27, 2018

It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end and that it is almost time to head back to school! Starting a new year of college is an exhilarating experience, unfortunately, preparing what to bring and mapping your academic year can be mind-boggling. Whether you are a college freshman or returning senior, a little college planning will go a long way to have a successful year from Fall thru the Spring semester.

College students (and their parents) should take actionable steps that will ease the fast-approaching admissions, housing and financial aid processes. If you are a headed to college in the fall or know somebody who is, review this syllabus for putting all of the administrative and financial responsibilities in order.

Course Title: The Principles of Preparing for College 101

Course Objectives: This course is designed to help students reach their academic and financial goals through thorough planning and strategizing at the beginning of each fall semester or sooner.

Select Courses with Your Advisor

Before the beginning of each year and each term, it is imperative students set their course selection to make sure that it matches a comprehensive college planning strategy. For example, if your academic advisor suggests that students take prerequisite classes or progressing through a series, make sure that you are on track to fulfill those recommended minimums.

Make sure you check with your school counseling office to see if you are able to make needed adjustments once the school year has begun. Your advisor will help you select the courses you need to take before going to register online. They may also discuss requirements for your degree. Schedule an appointment with your academic advisor before school starts so you can start the year off in a positive direction.

Pay Tuition Fees on Time

Most universities allow you to pay online with credit cards or electronic checks, while other directly receive your financial aid award at the start of each term. Make sure you pay by the deadline on your financial aid documentation. To pay in person, go to your campus Bursar or Registrar Office.

Remember, if you register early, you will have more time to pay your fees, and you will have a better selection of courses. If you need assistance with your fees, talk to our financial aid office. If you are on a very tight budget, there may be programs which allow you to pay your fees in two installments with no interest.

Set a Budget for Supplies, Living Expenses and Supplementals

Making a budget is the first step to being an independent adult; without it students could find themselves short on cash and missing out on fun. The first step to creating a college budget is considering expenses. There are many costs to take into account, including room and board or rent, books and supplies, food and groceries, transportation, personal care (cosmetics, toiletries, prescription medications, etc.) and more. Do not forget to set aside funds for entertainment and fun — things like dining out, going to the movies, fraternity fees, birthday celebrations or travel plans.

Purchase Your School Supplies

Now that you have a budget it’s time to get the basics: a backpack, pens, pencils, highlighters, staplers, notebooks, composition books for tests and any number of various odds and ends. It all depends on how you study and what materials are required by each professor.

Other Recommended School Supplies:

  • Laptops – If there’s one thing that seems to be consistent from college to college, it’s that desks are small and cramped. A desktop computer will be taking up most of your desk space making it impossible to use it for real studying when finals time rolls around. Also, mobility is key when it comes to finding quiet study places or taking notes in class. A laptop suitable for wordprocessing will do the trick at a reasonable price.
  • USB Flash Drives – It is imperative that you get your hands on a reliable USB flash drive before heading off to college. USB sticks are used on a daily basis – from bringing work to class, toting files to print out at the library, storing data to use in a computer lab, grabbing notes from a friend and more. Thankfully, USB sticks have dropped incredibly in price over the last 5 years, so you can find a 4GB stick for around $15 – 50.
  • Headphones – The first thing you learn about living in a dorm is that with several roommates to respect it’s nearly impossible to listen to your music out loud. Not to mention the hours you will spend in the library will be much more bearable if you have some ambient noise. As a result, most students choose to listen to music with headphones.
  • Power Strips – There is never enough outlets; especially in buildings built before the last century. A power strip will allow you to make sure everything can get plugged in.
  • Earplugs – You may want to bring a set of earplugs, because you never know if your roommate is going to snore.
  • A REAL Alarm Clock – While you smartphone’s alarm clock is convenient, sometimes your phone dies, is damaged, lost or turned so low you don’t wake up; and there is nothing worse than running into class late. Put a digital alarm clock besides your bed and use it!

Grab Your Textbooks Early

Once you have your basic school supplies it is time to purchase or rent your textbooks. Each campus has a bookstore, get your books early when the lines are shorter and the chances of getting the books you need are greater. I cannot tell you how many times someone has waited until the first day of school only to find there are NO books available for a popular or full class.

You can save lots of money on textbooks by buying used or borrowing from someone who just completed the class. Check out Amazon, and for great deals! Be sure you are purchasing the correct edition requested by your professor(s) and allow for shipping time.

Attend to Your Administrative Duties: IDs, Parking and More

Get your Student ID cards, parking passes, library cards and other administrative duties out of the way before the year begins. Your ID will let you attend student activities and take advantage of student discounts, as well as give you use of labs, libraries and more.

Then, get your parking decal for access to parking on campus. As universities begin to pinch pennies they are pulling out all the stops to collect fees from parking tickets. The average student can expect to pay a few hundred dollars for parking on or near campus. You will need your student ID and vehicle information.

Get Ready for the First Day of Classes

For anyone going back to college this fall, you are ready to start your academic adventure! Start the semester off right by doing some easy preparation and planning prior to day one of class. Once classes begin you should have no concerns other than managing your time and money so you can concentrate on studying and achieving good grades.

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About Amanda Jensen

FSN college advice columnist - Amanda gives parents and students knowledgeable advice on college planning, tuition financing and scholarships. With up to date and accessible information covering everything from personal finances to federal government policies, she is determined to make the college experience a painless one for all party's involved. You can find Amanda on !

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