Tips for Incoming College Freshman & Transfer Students

Since it’s the middle of summer and it’s the time when many new college students are visiting campuses and taking tours, here are three practical tips, that will help in making daily life at a new college easier.


A rolling cart that’s been semi-folded.

Grocery Shopping: To make grocery shopping easier and faster, consider buying your own folding rolling cart.  If–like most students–you don’t plan on buying and bringing your own car while attending college (especially if it’s in an urban area with an okay public transit system), getting your own rolling cart saves so much time because you won’t:

  • Be constantly juggling bags while walking back home. So many of my friends (and myself during the first week) would have a difficult trek back home, dropping our bags, fruits, and other things we bought. It’s an unpleasant experience that a rolling cart can alleviate.
  • Have to make repeated return trips to buy more stuff. In order to avoid the difficulty of juggling heavy grocery bags while walking, most people will just buy smaller amounts but make more trips to the store. But people will have to repeatedly walk back-and-forth to the store and stand in the check-out line, wasting a ton of time that can be used  for studying or having fun. But a regular-sized rolling cart takes care of this. And

  • Always having to bring friends along. Grocery shopping with friends is the other common way of doing groceries more efficiently, but this is also problematic. First of all, other people will have different schedules or daily habits that makes planning grocery trips annoying and time consuming. And on the slim chance that you wind up with roommates whose schedules and habits match yours, there’s always the off chance that they will get sick or have a sudden conflict in schedules. Having your own small rolling cart is pretty handy during these times.

Also, the extra benefit of having a foldable rolling cart is that once you’re done using it you can fold it up and put it away in the corner, saving space in a crowded dorm or apartment. It’s surprising that more students don’t have their own carts, but it’s a habit I developed on my own.

Getting Around: I–and most of my friends–never bought a car while attending college because we lived in an area with fairly good public transportation. But public transit has its limits and there’s always the possibility of a strike or rail accident that derails the entire system for long periods (ranging from a day to a few weeks), so having a car can become a necessity. There are a two options for these instances: ask a friend for a ride or use a car rental or sharing service. The most widely available–and reliable–rental car services are RelayRides and Zipcar. Both have their advantages (Zipcar is more widespread and probably has more availability, while RelayRides is cheaper and allows people to rent from each other). I’ve preferred using RelayRides because renting directly from other students and neighbors has generally cost less and it’s been easier to talk to real people (instead of talking to customer service representatives or sales people). Whichever service you decide to choose, you should check their website or your college’s website to see if they offer special discounts or promotions for students, since many universities have agreements with various car companies.

Get Used to Email: As ubiquitous as Facebook and other social media platforms have become, email will be the primary mode of communication in college. Your professors, graduate student instructors (GSIs), and the university’s administrators and offices will contact you through email to send you important information and updates. Often times, before even classes start (especially for high impacted courses), the professors will email the class’s first assignment one or two weeks before the classes actually meet. Then, during the semester, most of a class’s information will be sent through e-mail–whether it’s a handout, assignment, review sheet, or project. It’s also a good idea to make sure you have a forwarding address set up, just in case the college’s email is down. So, make sure to check your email frequently, and read and keep track of your messages throughout the term.

These are just three simple ideas that can make the transition to college a little easier. If you want more tips, have a question, or want to share your own advice, leave a comment below!


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