The class of 2020 has shown resiliency and courage in navigating remote schooling, making college decisions without visiting campus, and missing hallmarks of the high school experience like crossing the stage at graduation. Despite these tremendous hurdles, you made it! While you relax this summer, take some time to prepare for your entry into college life. Here’s a to-do list for you to consider:
- Set up your student portal. As a college student, faculty and staff will communicate with you through your student email and the student portal. If you have not done so already, be sure to create your account soon! The student portal will give you access to billing, class registration, electronic forms, email, and orientation information. Without a student account, you may miss your first bill which arrives in June or July.
- Sign financial aid documents. If you filed the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you are eligible for Direct Stafford Loans from the government. If you plan to use these loans to help pay for college, you must complete Entrance Counseling and the Master Promissory Note (MPN). Entrance Counseling educates students on how to be a good borrower ‑ you’ll learn about your rights and responsibilities, read short articles on topics ranging from managing spending to repayment, and answer short comprehension questions. The MPN is essential because, without it, loans cannot be disbursed to your school. The form only takes about 30 minutes and you will need your FSA ID (the username and password created to file the FAFSA), the name and contact information for a reference, and the name of your college or university. The links to both the MPN and Entrance Counseling often come to your student email, so be sure to check regularly!
- Complete required paperwork. You may have received “new student” paperwork from your school, either virtually or in the mail. Check-in with the school to see what you need, but know that you can expect a form concerning health insurance. If you plan to waive the school-offered health insurance plan, you will need to complete the waiver form and provide proof of insurance. If you plan to use the school’s health insurance, you will need to opt-in. We also recommend memorizing your social security number and your student ID number; you’ll need both for many forms!
- Attend orientation. With Covid-19, orientation programs will likely look a bit different than previous years. Remember that colleges will communicate changes, dates, and helpful information through your student email or student portal. Regardless of location, orientation introduces you to campus services, begins the course registration process, and allows you to meet other students. Social media is also a good place to learn about changes in programming ‑ many schools will have a Facebook page for the upcoming class which allows students to ask questions and meet one another. You could also find your roommate through the Facebook page!
- Apply for a job on campus. If work-study was included in your award package from financial aid (or if you are interested in getting a campus job), you may be able to apply online for open positions. Sometimes schools will place work-study students in open positions, so it is best to inquire with the campus employment office or college website for more information. Keep in mind that you will likely need to complete paperwork, like the I-9 or the W-4, to become an employee.
- Have a conversation with your parents. As a college student, the school is unable to speak to your parents regarding your educational record (academics, wellness, financial aid) without written permission from you. This is called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Talk to your parents about their involvement in your life as a college student ‑ also know that you can change your mind at any time, so your decision is not final the day you walk on campus. The FERPA agreement is often found in your student portal, but if you have any questions your advisor can help.