College Freshman Fundamentals

Whether you’re stepping on a college campus as an incoming freshman, or you’re a more experienced student, this is a super exciting and busy time! The first week of college is the perfect time to acclimate, plan and learn all you can about your campus. There are lots of things you can do to start off on the right foot and we’ve got you covered!

Attend Orientation

Most colleges provide a new student orientation with the goal of educating students on financial aid and the billing process, safety and security measures, academic support, and available resources on campus. Orientation is a great time to meet and socialize with other freshmen, visit with upperclassmen who can provide experienced guidance on how to navigate your new surroundings, and learn about professors, courses, and your first year in higher ed. New student orientation is also a venue for colleges to set expectations, rules and guidelines for their student body.

Map Out the Campus

You’ll feel more confident on your first day if you know in advance where you’re headed and how to get there. Take the time to map out your route to each class and where the nearest available parking can be found. Make note of where the financial aid and bursar’s offices are located; drop by and ask any questions you may have and make sure your financial aid paperwork is in order. You’ll also want to find the student union, cafeteria/food court, library, campus health services, and the bookstore.

Be a Smart Textbook Shopper

A 2022-23 study by College Board found that college students spend up to $1,200 a year on course materials and supplies, including textbooks. It’s possible to reduce that amount by being a smart textbook shopper and following these tips.

  • Resist the urge to purchase new textbooks before you even step foot on campus. Professors often provide the course syllabus before the class starts, and it usually lists required textbooks and materials. It may be beneficial for you to speak to students who’ve recently taken the class and hear what the professor typically requires. Don’t be shy about asking or emailing the professor to find out about the necessity of the textbook and how much you’ll use it.
  • When you do buy textbooks, don’t always consider the campus bookstore and a brand-new text your first choice. Sometimes it’s unavoidable according to the requirements of the course, but most often you can find cheaper options.
  • Campus bookstores ordinarily have “used” textbooks that are low cost, but you can often find them online for even less. Do an internet search for “used textbooks” and several options will pop up. Many online vendors “rent” textbooks and require students to return them by a specified date. This can sometimes be an even cheaper option than buying used. If you follow this path, make sure to follow through and send the textbook back on time or you’ll be paying for it!
  • Buy textbooks from students who have previously taken the course. There’s often a message board in the student union where you may find a fellow student offering to sell a used book. You can also check your school’s Facebook groups.
  • The college library may have copies of commonly used textbooks that you can check out. This method will sometimes work if the professor indicates the textbook isn’t used often and if it’s available for checkout.

Be proactive your first week on campus and be a savvy textbook shopper to set yourself up for success. You should also review our College Freshman Checklist to confirm you’re taking the right steps as a new college student. Good luck!