First Week of College Checklist

Your first week of college can be a lot of things: a social debut, a drunken haze, or a well-polished machine. It could probably be any combination of those, depending on who you are as a person. But one thing it shouldn’t be is stressful. Moving back in, finding new classes, making new friends, and connecting with your campus is a lot to do at once, so schools should probably just have a mandatory week for you to get your life together. Unfortunately, they haven’t listened to me, and they don’t. So in the spirit of the move-in checklist, here’s a first week checklist to keep you on-task for those first few days.

First Week of College Checklist

The first week of college is definitely a learning process - make sure you start your semester right with this list!

Unpack Completely

I was going to put this on the move-in checklist, but I was being realistic – you’re not going to want to unpack all day. But if you blow off unpacking too long, and live out of boxes for a week, you’ll probably end up doing it all semester. Actually, that might be really helpful for moving out… But I don’t think it’s worth it. Unpack essentials first, and save fun stuff like dorm decorations for later, as an incentive. Set a deadline to get all your stuff unpacked, and then stick to it.

Talk to Your Advisor

The beginning of a new semester is kind of insane, so talking to your advisor will ensure you aren’t missing any important deadlines or making mistakes. They can also give you a few pointers for your harder classes and start giving you ideas for next semester’s schedule. But keep in mind that the first week is busy for them, too! I’m sure they’d love to talk to you for a few hours, but even just a fifteen minute meeting is great. Think of it like a check-up for your academic health.

Sort Out Textbooks

I have never hated anything more than I hate the racket that is college textbooks. Crazy price markups, impossible bookstore hours, poor availability… I could go on, but I won’t. If you don’t have your books preordered, figure out which ones you actually need. If they’re out of stock, talk to your instructor, see if they have any specific recommendations on how to get them – and then listen, even if you don’t like the solution much. Sharing with a random classmate shows dedication, and will keep you from falling behind so soon.

Just pretend these are textbooks, not atlases from my library. They yell at me when I try to take pictures in the bookstore.

Just pretend these are textbooks, not atlases from my library. They yell at me when I try to take pictures in the bookstore.

Visit Office Hours

This one seems like a lot of extra work, but it’s so essential to establishing good relationships. Pick your favorite class, your hardest class, or your favorite professor, and just go to office hours. This doesn’t have to be a long meeting, but go prepared with a few questions about class material or the professor’s field of study. Asking for extra information on subjects that interest you is a surefire way to make a good impression on professors, and you’ll have more time to actually follow up on your request now, before the semester gets busy.

Go to Student Organization Meetings

Student organizations are one of the best ways to meet like-minded people. Not just “at college”, but ever, in the whole world. Your friends are at these meetings, you just haven’t met them yet. So go to a meeting or two, try something new and exciting. SO’s are one of the best ways to do what you love in college without majoring in it. And there’s usually free food, so, you know, get out there.

Check Your Syllabus

I’ve gone over how to use a syllabus right before, but now’s a good time to put that knowledge to use. Most professors will want to know about conflicts early, so compare your class schedules and make sure nothing overlaps. If it does, let your instructors know right away and start working on a solution. It’s also nice to have a warning when a particularly busy week is coming. Nothing’s worse than waking up on Monday and realizing you’re about to have a terrible week.

If you have an insane conflict in your schedule later this semester, you definitely want to know that the first week of classes.

If you have an insane conflict in your schedule later this semester, you definitely want to know that the first week of classes.

A new school year doesn’t have to be stressful, and tackling small tasks will help you keep it all under control. Even if you just do one of these tasks a day (and take a day off!), you can have a more successful and relaxing first week – and even semester. What did (or will) you do the first week to get ready for your semester?

  • Definitely a good bit of advice! I’m part of the camp of people who likes to wait and see which books are really necessary, but that’s kind of come back to bite me, as I’m still waiting for some to come in…

  • Space Station Mir

    For textbooks, I found that buying used on Amazon was typically cheapest and buying used from the college bookstore wasn’t bad. However, I recommend doing both as far in advance as possible.