A Survival Guide for College Move-In

Dr. Angela Seabright
Natalie Bennett

| 4 min read

Young man smiling with proud dad watching in background
Heading to college, whether it is your first year or not, is a stressful time. From making sure you have the right paperwork filled out to packing the essentials – there is a lot to do before the school year starts. Being prepared is vital to a successful school year, both academically and mentally, so let’s talk about the basic to-dos before heading back to school.

Complete Paperwork

It’s important to make sure all necessary paperwork and forms are completed before starting classes. Along with making sure you are registered for the correct classes, you may have to fill out FAFSA (financial aid), forms for a student loan request, housing lease, immunization forms or any other type of health documentation your university requires. This information can be found on your school’s website.

Set Goals

Setting personal goals is a great way to stay on track. Is there a certain GPA you want to achieve? Are there events on campus you want to attend? Do you want to get a part time job or join a club? Putting your goals on paper, rather than having them in your head, is a great way to stick with them. Keep your goals realistic, but don’t be afraid to have high standards when setting goals.


Ensuring financial stability can be difficult in college. There are endless expenses like tuition, rent, groceries, books and school supplies, clothes and dues for clubs. It may not seem doable, but with some smart budgeting it can be done. When you get to college don’t be tempted to spend your money all at once. Speak with your parents, do some research and find a weekly budget that works for you. In your budget, include all expenses and how much you plan to set aside for each category. Covering expenses on your own can be stressful – getting a part time job is a great way to cover these – and it looks great on your resume.

What to Pack

What you should pack when heading to college may depend on whether you are living on or off campus, but no matter where you are living, there are many essentials students should bring with them to college. Moving.com has a comprehensive list for every area of your on-campus living space. While it’s easy to get caught up in packing everything you “need” (which is obviously important), make sure to pack some sentimental items such as framed photos to remind you of home – seeing loved ones can help you get through bouts of homesickness or loneliness.

Staying Healthy

While in college, it can be difficult to keep up with your mental and physical health. This should be a priority, however, no matter how busy you are with school and extracurriculars. It’s important to set realistic goals, like exercising a few times a week rather than every day. There are many ways to get exercise in college like riding your bike or walking to class, going to the gym – most schools have free or inexpensive recreation centers – going for a run or joining an intramural sports team. Find people to exercise with to make it more enjoyable!
In addition, healthy eating can be hard in college when you are surrounded by unhealthy options in the cafeteria, instant noodles and pizza. However, there are ways to eat healthy in college. If you have a mini fridge in your dorm or apartment, keep healthy snacks on hand like Greek yogurt, hummus and veggies or cottage cheese. While at the dining hall, load up your plate with salads, protein and whole grains. If you are spending several hours at the library, bring a healthy protein bar with you instead of ordering food. It is possible to enjoy yourself without overindulging.

Managing Stress

It is easy to get stressed at college – you have hours of homework, you’re trying to make friends and you might be homesick. These are all factors that can lead you to feeling anxious and stressed. Here are some helpful tips in keeping your mental health and stress under check while away at college:
  • Manage your time so assignments aren’t left until the last minute
  • Don’t overbook yourself – you don’t have to say yes to every invitation you receive
  • Don’t over-study
  • Find a good group of friends you can talk to – schools offer organizations for everyone, so find one you like
  • Take time to meditate, do yoga or exercise
  • If you think your stress, anxiety or depression is out of control, most schools have mental health facilities and resources – take advantage of them
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Photo credit: XiXinXing

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