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Education Planning > Get prepared to go back to school

Get prepared to go back to school

With summer coming to a close, it's time to get back into school mode. Whether you'll soon be a freshman entering college for the first time or a returning student, there are a variety of things to prepare for. Here are a few to dos to add to your back to school checklist.

Check on the status of your financial aid

Did you know that it's your responsibility to monitor your award progress and eligibility? This can be done by logging in to your school's Web site or by calling the financial aid office. It's important to ensure that your aid is lined up for the fall. If you find that it's not, be sure to ask if there is anything else you need to do to qualify for your aid.

This is also a good time to check if any grants or scholarships you may have qualified for are all set.

Other college financing options

After you confirm your financial aid with your financial aid office, you may need to evaluate options for how to pay the rest of your tuition bill. One such option is a monthly payment plan. These plans allow you to spread education expenses over smaller installments instead of making lump sum annual or semester payments.

It's easy to enroll in a monthly payment plan that is tailored to your individual budget and minimizes unnecessary borrowing.

As a final option, you can look into borrowing money for school. A monthly payment plan can be combined with a loan of your choice to cover the cost of attendance. Take a look at and understand all your loan options for school so you can match the best loan to your needs.

Buying your books shouldn't have to cost a small fortune

There's no doubt that you'll be needing textbooks for your classes. They do cost money, but you can be smart about how and where you buy them. According to Survival Secrets of College Students,1 wait to buy textbooks:

  • If you and a friend can take the same classes different semesters and trade books
  • If there's a reserved copy or two in the library – unless lots of other students have the same idea

You may also want to check your campus bookstore's used textbook selection. Sometimes you can get a good deal on used books. Prior to purchasing, make sure it's not an older edition than the one your professor or lecturer is requiring.

You'll need a few essential supplies, too

Make your college supplies list early enough so you can start shopping for deals long before you have to purchase everything last-minute, the night before classes begin.

Have extra time in your schedule?

While your first priority is to get an education, you'll find that being a college student has its share of out-of-the-classroom opportunities for you to enjoy too. Extracurricular activities are a sure way to network with like-minded students and make new friends who can serve as a support system when the stress sets in. Your campus should have a list of all the organizations you can join on its website or displayed somewhere on campus.

Some students will opt to work on or off campus to earn extra money when time permits. Local restaurants and retail stores, pizza delivery shops, the campus library, or the campus cafe – all could be hiring students like you. This is another great way to meet new people as well as help to pay for the things you'll be buying along the way.

1 Mary Kay Shanley and Julia Johnson, Survival Secrets of College Students (New York: Barron's Educational Series, Inc, 2007), p. 228.


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