101 Essential Tips and Resources for College Freshmen

With hundreds of thousands of college freshmen starting school this month across the country, I wanted to share some of the best tips, tricks, and insights I’ve found and compiled so that nobody turns into a delusional college student.

Starting life alone for the first time can be a challenge on multiple fronts – educational, financial, social, and more.  With their safety nets gone, college freshman have to figure it out alone.  Here is a great guide to help them find the information they need to be successful.

101 Essential College Freshmen Tips

To navigate the list, here are the main topics:


Financial Aid

FAFSA Dept of EducationGetting financial aid isn’t just something that you do before you start your freshman year.  You typically have to re-apply for financial aid each school year, and sometimes each semester.  Keep these links handy so that you can easily track down the resources you need.

  • FinAid – FinAid is an amazing resource for everything related to financial aid, from scholarships to student loans.
  • FAFSA – You need to submit your FAFSA (Free Application For Student Aid) every year you attend school.  Not filling it out one year can make it harder to get financial aid the following year.  This form is also mandatory to get Federal Student Loans.
  • CSS/Financial Aid Profile – This application from The College Board allows you to apply for non-Federal financial aid.
  • Top 10 Financial Aid Tips – This resource from Scholarship.com is the best resource I’ve found for getting financial aid for school.  They have many of the traditional tips, but also some out-of-the-box tips as well.
  • Know Your Expected Family Contribution – US News and World Reports looks at how you can know your Expected Family Contribution, which determines how much financial aid you may be able to qualify for.  If you’re looking into financial aid, this is a great tool.
  • What Can You Do If Your Parents Refuse To Pay for College – FinAid has an excellent article on what you can do if your parents refuse to help you pay for college, and what your options might be.
  • Cheap College Finder – Frugal Dad has a great “Cheap College Finder” that you can use to find great and inexpensive school options.
  • What If I Can’t Afford College – College View has a great article on the myths of not being able to afford college, and the options that individuals in that situation have to get to the school of their choice.
  • Does Soaring Tuition Matter – This is a great look at the rising cost of education, and the potential return on your investment.  A must read from the Yakezie for anyone who cares about the cost of education.
  • 10 Tips for Paying Back Your College Financial Aid – It is essential that you start thinking about paying back your financial aid as soon as you get it.  Otherwise, you’ll feel like you don’t have an exit strategy.  These are great tips from College Financial Aid Advisors.
  • What To Do If You Can’t Afford Your Tuition Payment – If you run into a situation where you can’t pay your tuition payment, College Express has some tips that can help you stay in school while you sort out the finances.
  • Get Professional FAFSA Help – Sometimes you may want to get some professional help filling out the required forms on your FAFSA and Student Financial Aid Services is the best company in the business.


Student Loans

apply for student loansThe sad fact of life is that most college Freshmen will either have student loans or will need to get them before they graduate.  Here are some essential resources for college students when it comes to dealing with student loans.

  • Free Student Loan Debt eBook – This have everything you need to get into student loans the smart way, and ways to get out quickly when you’re out of school.
  • Student Loans.Gov – This is the Department of Education resource for getting student loans and keeping track of them once you have them.  Bookmark this for the future.
  • National Student Loan Data System – If you don’t know who owns your loans or where you send payment, this is the website for you.  It is maintained by the US Department of Education, and keeps track of all your student loan data.
  • 6 Things Every College Student Should Know About Private Student Loans – This is from the folks over at Wisebread, which always has solid financial advice.
  • Understanding Student Loan Repayment Plans – Don’t know how much you’re going to pay when you graduate?  Here are the main repayment plans for student loans and what each will cost you.
  • Ways To Get Student Loan Forgiveness – Depending on what you do after graduation, there are some cool programs that can get your student loans forgiven.
  • Mastering Student Loan Deferment – While you’re in school, your student loans are deferred (meaning you don’t have to pay, but the interest still builds).  Here’s everything you need to know about student loan deferment.
  • The Best Way to Avoid Student Loans All Together – The bottom line is that it can be done, and here’s the best way to do it!
  • Learn How to Consolidate Your Student Loans – Only the Federal Government offers consolidation student loans, and this is where you can learn more about it.
  • What If You Can’t Afford To Repay Your Student Loans – It happens sometimes, and Business Insider has a great article on what you can do if you can’t afford to pay your student loans each month.
  • TransUnion – Before you get student loans, you need to know your credit score, and there is no better service that offers a free credit score check and resources to help you improve it.
  • Simple Tuition – This is the easiest online student loan application and lender on the Internet, and they’ve funded over 20 million student loans.


Personal Finance

personal finance financial planning jobCollege may be the first time that you may have to deal with personal finance issues on your own.  You’ll have to budget, you’ll encounter sales people chucking credit card offers your way, and you’ll have to navigate the financial world on your own.  Here are some simple tips for college Freshmen when it comes to handling personal finance topics.

  • 5 Steps to Choosing Your First Credit Card – I signed up for my first credit card while I was in college, and many 18-24 year olds are going to be doing the same, regardless of the new rules imposed on credit card marketing.  Here are some simple tips from the Dough Roller on how to be smart about it.
  • The Best Free Online Money Management Tools – When you’re in college, you don’t want to be bound to any software – you want to have everything online.  Even better, you want free.  These tools are free options that let you manage your money online, so that you can keep track of your accounts and maintain your budget.
  • 40 Money Tips for College Students – Jim over at Bargaineering has a great list of money tips for college students, but the biggest tip is the first tip.  Check it out!
  • How a Frat Party Can Teach You Personal Finance – Everything in life has lessons, and looking at the fun times you’re going to have at college parties can definitely teach you more than just how to feel better the next morning.
  • 70 Super Easy and Practical Ways to Save Money – We all want to make saving money easy, and Jeff Rose from Good Financial Cents has some amazingly simple tips that college students can use right now.
  • 10 Tricks to Get Cheaper Textbooks – Textbook costs are what really get you in college, especially since you typically only use that $100+ book for a single class.  Here is a great resource from Free From Broke on how to get cheaper textbooks.
  • 15 Financial Tips for College Students – College students can qualify for some great perks, and here is a fun list from Daily Finance on how to maximize your college student status.
  • 27 Money Tips for College Students – This is a great article from our friend JD Roth at Get Rich Slowly, and breaks down what every college student should know about budgeting and planning.
  • The Best Discounts for College Students – Many stores offer special programs for students, and college students are poised to take advantage of these programs.  If you want savings, check out this list from the Christian Science Monitor and find the best discounts on stuff you’re going to buy anyway.
  • Stores Offering Discounts for College Students – Another great list from Brad’s Deals of stores that offer discounts to college students.  This list also highlights places that give discounts by showing student IDs.
  • The Best Student Checking Account – Everbank has the best checking account for college students because they offer free online checking accounts with ATM reimbursements.  Online banking is great for college students since they are home sometimes, and at school other times.
  • The Best Student Credit Card – The Discover it Card for Students is the best student credit card I’ve found in terms of rate, fees, and cash back incentives.



investing in oil and oil companiesThe key to wealth is saving and investing.  And to gain even more wealth, you should start as early as possible.  Here are some simple tips and resources for college students to start investing, even with just a little bit of money.


Dorm Life

tuition insuranceDorm life is a completely new experience for college freshmen.  It’s a huge change from living at home, and it opens up a ton of new experiences.  Here are some simple guides to making the most of dorm life for your first time away from home for a long period of time.

  • Dorm Room Checklist – Every store and shop has a different dorm room checklist, but I like this dorm room checklist from Dorm Smart to make sure you bring everything you need to college.
  • Reality Check: I Wasn’t Prepared For College  – I’ve personally been there: the stress, the unexpected.  This is a great article to reassure those who don’t think they were prepared.
  • Avoiding Craigslist Scams – I think college was the first time in my life I was ever swindled, and it happens to a lot of people.  Make sure that you read this list on avoiding Craigslist scams, since most college student rely on Craigslist to buy and sell their stuff.
  • How to Live Alone Without Going Broke – College life and living alone can be expensive, so you have to know some tips and tricks on living alone before you go away to school.
  • Why Costco is Great for College Students – You need a deal in college, and Costco is the place for college students to stock up their dorm and do it on a budget.
  • Rules to Know For Splitting Rent with Roommates – Chances are, you’re going to have roommates in college, and even after college.  Here are some great rules to live by from the BankRate team.
  • 6 Survival Tips for Living in a Suite – Many Freshman will have to live in a suite dorm, meaning more than just a single roommate.  Here are six amazing tips from Campus Explorer to help you adjust.
  • Meal Planning 101 – Figuring out how to leverage the best meal plan vs. going out with friends is tough.  Hack College shares some great tips on how to maximize the college meal plan.
  • How to Choose the Right Meal Plan – My College Guide shares some secrets to picking the right meal plan for your tastes and diet.  Since many colleges give multiple meal plan choices, here is a great tool to help you choose the right meal plan.
  • Five Tips for Getting to Know Your College Roommate – Your first few weeks of college are made or broken by your relationship with your roommate.  Here are some great tips from Teen Vogue on how to get to know your roommate so you can enjoy your college dorm experience.
  • The Basics of College Roommates – The College Board has a great video interview that shares the basics of getting to know your roommate and how to set rules to be successful.
  • Roommate Problems – Need to vent?  Check out this great Tumblr blog on roommate problems for fun stories and free venting.
  • 10 Reasons Why You Should Study Abroad – Studying abroad is a great way to further your education and learn about other cultures, and here are 10 reasons you should consider it.
  • Tips, Tricks, and Advice for Studying Abroad – The Intern Queen has some amazing tips and tricks for studying abroad that you should bookmark for the future when the time comes to make the trek across the pond.


College and Careers

internship career services centerThe whole point of college is to set yourself up for a successful future career.  As such, you need to take certain steps while you’re at college to get on the right track.  Here are some essential career resources for college students to get an internship and eventually get a real job upon graduation.

  • Building a Skill Set That Employers Want – Coming from experience in my own day job, I can’t tell you enough how unprepared many new college graduates are.  Here is a great lesson on how to understand what employers are looking for.
  • Don’t Do These Three Things When Signing Up For College Classes – Too many people take classes based on their major and career path, but that can be a mistake.  Make sure you check out these three tips on signing up for college classes.
  • The Ups and Downs of Seasonal Jobs – If you’re only going to work part time (such as over breaks or during the summer), here are some essential tips you should know from Money Ning.
  • 8 Simple Steps to Networking Like a Boss – Beyond the classes you take, the single most important thing you can do in college is network with your peers, professors, and alumni.
  • How to Make the Most of Your Internship – Chances are, if you’re not going to work during the summer, you’re going to get an internship.  I had a summer internship, and I’m glad I did it.  Here are some great tips from the Bargaineering team about making the most of your internship.
  • The Ultimate College Internship Guide – Everything you need to know about getting a college internship and making the most of it in one place.
  • A Few Thoughts on Unpaid Internships – Lauren Berger shares some great thoughts on whether or not you should consider getting an unpaid internship – remember, the bottom line is that it’s about the experience.
  • 14 Insanely Easy Ways to Look Busy At Work – Look, we all have times at our jobs that suck, but we need to keep the boss off our backs…here are some fun tips from PT Money about how to do it.
  • How and Why to Get an On-Campus Job – Sometimes, getting a job on campus is one of the best choices for working in school.  US News shows how you can get a job on campus and how it can be a great experience.
  • Summer Jobs for College Students are a Smart Move – If you’re thinking about getting a summer job, hopefully this article will seal the deal and highlight why you should be getting a summer job.
  • Figuring Out Your Major – The toughest college decision of all is figuring out your major and deciding what path you want to take.  Just remember, it’s not a final choice, and you can always change later.
  • A College Grad’s Guide to the Job Search – Your first job search after graduation can be the toughest, but these simple steps can help you make it a little easier.
  • Your College Major Doesn’t Matter – A simple reminder that your major probably doesn’t matter, but rather what you make of yourself during college.


Love Life

college love lifeCollege is also a time for you to experience your love life in a way that you’ve probably never done it before.  As the first two articles below share – you must date in college or else…  Here are some fun quick tips for making the most of your college love life.

Dealing With Parents

dealing with parentsOnce you head off to college, the dynamics with your parents change forever.  You’re now an adult, and they now have less and less control over your life.  It can be a hard and awkward transition, and these tips can help you navigate the path towards a real adult relationship with your parents.


Prepping for the Future

Future Financial EmergencyFinally, even though you’re a college freshmen, it never hurts to start looking towards the future.  Here are some simple steps you can take when you start college to make the most of your future – even if it just inspires you and gives you motivation to succeed.

What other essential resources and tips do you have for college freshmen heading to college this fall?

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  1. says

    My advice is general, but important. Like life, you can have a good time without overspending or spending a lot of money. I thoroughly enjoyed college on a very modest budget. I was in a fraternity, met my future wife and did not have a car. I picked what was important to me!

  2. says

    Wow – serious post Robert. Good job on creating such a useful resource! It must have been amazing when you went back to see how many different aspects of the student experience you have written about. Great job putting this beast together!

  3. Stephen says

    This is a great resource list for college students. Another helpful category would include a list of websites that college students can use to make money such as blogging like this one, selling stuff on ebay, or freelancing. Keep up the great posts.

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