Back-to-School Tips for College Freshmen

A special post dedicated to new college freshmen.

Whether you’re moving away to live on or close to campus, or checking out the local community college, let’s face it – a new world lies ahead. Below are a few, quick tips to help freshmen prepare for their new college life.

Explore your new neighborhood
As a former CSU freshmen and UC transfer student, I cannot stress this enough. Take the time to tour the campus so you become familiar with the essentials like the library, student administration building, student store/common areas, nearby restaurants/coffee shops etc. This also includes scoping out the nearest parking structures (if you plan to commute or expect to have frequent visitors). Also, become familiar with public transportation like bus routes.

Extra tip: Take the time to find the nearest convenience stops – grocery stores, drug stores, nearby ATMs. Don’t forget to use the ILWUCU ATM locator!

Use the best financial tools to purchase school essentials
Credit cards, especially those with high interest are the last of your worry, but this doesn’t mean you should be careless about your finances either. When purchasing school essentials, be smart about it. For example, look for a low-interest credit card that will build your credit at the same time, like the ILWUCU Secure Credit Card – an ideal option for college freshmen. You or your parents choose the credit card limit, which can be as little as $500 or as great as $2500. The next step involves using the card as you would any other and paying your balance on time. You and your parents can also access all card information and activity online, 24-7.

Extra tip: When purchasing school items like books, check out sites like Amazon or, or rent your textbooks through Chegg or Check out a full list of buying, renting, selling and swapping textbooks here. Avoid purchasing/renting the cheapest book – you may be buying an old edition. Remember to also take shipping dates and costs into account so you avoid last-minute headaches.

Pack well
If you’re moving into a dorm/apartment, take only what you need. Moving day can be hectic in many universities – traffic, limited parking, crammed/busy elevators and staircases. I’m sure the process has changed since my college days, but it never hurts to stay organized. Make a check list so you don’t overpack, but don’t pack too light either. You want to avoid running to the local store multiple times and making unnecessary/expensive purchases.

Inquire about laundry machines and other amenities 
Unless you plan to send dirty laundry to your parents every weekend, get in contact with the dorm/apartment staff to ask about laundry machines. Quarters are sacred among most college freshmen and transfer students since you can’t operate the dorm’s laundry machines without them (in most campuses). Ask about the laundry areas, bathrooms, cafes, computer labs, study areas and inquire about freshmen activities, socials, etc. Last but not least, don’t forget to ask about prohibited items within your living space.

My first night in the dorms was scary and exciting – I was in a new environment surrounded by strangers, and for the first time in my life, I was away from family and friends. Don’t freak out… okay, maybe freak out a little, but learn to brush things off quickly. Venture out, hang out with your roommates, your neighbors, check out various associations or clubs until you find one that you like. If you’re local, avoid going home every weekend. Explore your new city and begin to learn the power of networking at an early age. The relationships you make now will help you for years to come.

How are you preparing for the best time of your life?

[Image credit: Robert S. Donovan]

About the Author

Alejandra Gutierrez Alex is the new Social Media Specialist for the ILWU Credit Union. She's a 'nerd' at heart who enjoys community building. Her obsessions: baked goods and old mariachi ballads.