Student health insurance and more for new college freshmen

While the summer is a time to relax and play for most teenagers, it is recent high school graduates who cannot entirely rest. Sure, summer is still a holiday, but they have to prepare for one of the biggest changes of their life: going to college.

The college transition begins long before a high school senior graduates. College and scholarship applications are due in January, which means preparation for entrance exams and resumes must begin long before then.

My sister recently went through this transition. I patiently (and sometimes not so patiently) sat beside her and helped her rifle through application after application while preparing for her college choice. After receiving her college acceptance letters, I helped her go through the painstaking task of determining which school was right for her. The decision was ultimately hers, but it was nice to have a recent college graduate help her navigate through the ins and outs of college.

After she made her decision, the busy part came. Now, as an incoming freshmen, she had to find housing, pick her class schedule and figure out a meal plan. So summer has not become a time to rest, but a time to plan.

If you, or someone you know, is going through this transition: here are some things to work on.

  • Schedule. While the first semester is not make it or break it in terms of credits to graduate, it can make a huge difference on the impact on whether the freshman will come back or not. I recommend that a freshman spend that first semester taking a few basic intro classes, but also a class or two that is fun or interesting. College is meant for exploring and your first semester can be integral to that exploration.
  • Housing. For most freshmen, the first year of college is the very first time they are living outside of home. Not only is this a huge developmental growth personally for the student, but it a great social experience for the student. Finding good housing can be a pain so it is best to start early. Like three months ago. If you are a procrastinator and this is the first time you are thinking about it, you are not alone. (My dear sister is in the same boat.) Check local online classifieds. Many students have signed contracts for the fall, but as their plans change, they will need to be released. This is the perfect time to pounce on that great housing. Ideally for a freshmen, the closer to campus, the better. I would ultimately recommend the dorms to help you get a better sense of your school and to meet new people, but just get as close to campus as you can. Many colleges have dorms and activities are created and designed to help freshmen acclimate to college. This is a great way for a freshman to get comfortable with college, but more importantly, make friends. I can say this from personal experience, my biggest college regret was not moving out. Living at home with your parents does not give you the experience you would normally get while living away from home. Even if you only do it for a semester or two, and move back in during the summer to save (or vice versa), it is an integral part of college.
  • Take mom and dad for a shopping spree to adorn your apartment. Just kidding. As a freshmen, you only need the basics. Unless you are already really into cooking, you can pass on the panini press and get a student meal plan. You will not have time to eat a ton, so this is a quick way to ensure you are getting some good eats. For your dorm, remember that less is more. Usually college apartments are small and do not have much storage place. Leave your ceramic unicorn collection at home with mom and dad.
  • Get the necessary extra perks on campus. Freshmen should take advantage of the food plan on campus. Most basic dorms will have limited or no kitchen, requiring a food plan to get the necessary nutrients a freshman needs. (And no, Cheetos do not count.)
  • Take advantage of college deals. As a student you can receive discounts on meals at local restaurants, cheaper tickets to sporting events and even discounted tickets to concerts and productions on your campus. Grab a bunch of friends and make an event out of it. You are a student, remember. Take a discount whenever you can.
  • Get student health insurance. You might question why health insurance is necessary for a student. If you are reasonably healthy, it would seem like a waste. However, (not to scare you) dorms are going to offer a new breed of germs. Combine that with poor eating habits and lack of sleep and you have a recipe for disaster. Colleges and universities offer student health insurance plans for a discount, and some even require that you are covered by one plan or another. Usually this plan will give you access to the student health center that can provide you a quick doctor’s visit, preventative care and more.
  • Avoid the freshmen 15 with healthy eating. Healthy eating and college truly do not mix, but you do not have to gain the traditional 15 pounds during your first semester. Eat good brain food to help keep you healthier.