Leading at College… The Ultimate Pre-College Checklist

OK, so you were prom queen or super shy or both and now you are preparing for your latest adventure… COLLEGE!

On one hand you are excited about stepping into adulthood yet on the other you are super nervous about stepping into adulthood (crazy right?).  Have no fear!  The best prep list ever to get you ready for college is here. I put the top tips that some current/former college students either did or wish they did before they started their freshman year.  You are officially ahead of the game. Enjoy!


1. Create your resume
Even if your only job was babysitting or asking, “would you like some fries with that shake”, you need to have a resume. List your academic achievements, your clubs, even the time volunteering you did at church or at the Y. Take inventory of what you have been doing, make a list and create a great introduction for yourself.  Want it done by a pro? There are many great services that make beautiful eyecatch resumes if you want to take your brand to the next level. It’s worth the investment to make a stellar first impression.

When you get to college, having your achievements listed will help you so much with getting a part time job, scoring brownie points with your professors and even if you decide to join clubs on campus.  Still don’t have much to write down?  It’s still summer, get cracking. Do some community service or help out around your parent’s office to beef up your resume.  Also, get a couple of your favorite teachers to write a reference letter for you.   Don’t have the cash for a pro and need help putting it all down?  Don’t stress.  Go to your guidance counselor, local career center or search for free online tutorials.  However you do it, having a document that speaks for you when you aren’t there, shows that you are prepared and polished and ahead of the game.

Having a document that speaks for you when you aren’t there, shows that you are prepared, polished and ahead of the game.


2. Get Social
If you are reading this, you are already aware of what a computer is and that internet whizamgizer is about.  But, are you fully vested in tweeting, tumbling, pinning, Four Square-ing,YouTube-ing and the good old reliable Facebooking for your college/adult life? Clean up your Facebook page and be responsible in what you post. Almost every employer will check your online profile when you are ready to get your “real job”.  Make sure that the person that sits in the interview chair is also represented well online.  It Matters! Be ahead of the trend by setting up all your social media accounts now and monitor your online footprint. Google yourself to see what comes up, because the new connections you meet and your future employers will definitely check out your online life.  This is a good time to start a LinkedIn page as well.  Even if you don’t use it as often, it will help you track the behaviors of people in your field of study and can also help you with choose what you want to study.

Guard your online image. It will be the first impression people have of you before they even meet you.


3. Get your MD’s approval
Many colleges require that you get a full exam and some require a vaccination record before you start classes.  Make sure to check with your school.  It also a good time to prepare your own first aid kit. Before now if you had a cold or tummy ache your mom or dad was right there with a stocked medicine cabinet. Now it’s up to you to be able to have an Advil at arm’s reach at 11pm. An ounce of prevention is always better.  Bring a notepad with you while you are getting your physical.  Ask your doctor what you should put in your first aid kit. If you want to get one already made and ready to go I found the DORM DOC 125 piece kit that will have you well stocked.This will help you so much when you are at school and that 4 day old pizza that seemed like a good idea at the time, begins to disagree with you.

If you have prescriptions, you will want to know where you can get them refilled while you are at school as well.  Check with the school and your doctor about who you should contact if you need a doctor in your new city.  Many campuses have medical facilities, but having a reference from your own doctor is an extra level of security in an emergency situation.  Having these things taken care of early will save you so much stress when you are already not feeling good.  Believe me!

Be able to have an Advil or the pink stuff at arm’s reach at 11pm.


4. Take a self-defense class
We have all seen the different things that can happen on college campuses and it pays to be prepared. Ease your parents worries (and your own) by showing that you can karate chop with the best of them. This can be super fun with girlfriends and is an amazing workout.  Kickboxing can come in really handy at 1am.  This doesn’t mean you forego all safety concerns and head over to the scariest part of town by yourself, but this will make you more confident and better able to defend yourself.  Check your local YMCA, gym and online to see if any local martial arts studios are offering classes. In some communities  local police stations have self-defense classes that can help you hone your Ninja skills.


5. Read/Watch the News
Before now you may have gotten all of your current events from your history teacher, favorite blogger or YouTube channel. Now you are entering the big leagues. Get acquainted with local, regional and world news. If you are going to a new city, check out their local news as well. Infuse reading the news into your daily routine. I am not saying camp in front of CNN or Fox News with a bowl of popcorn and a notepad, but take a few minutes each day and actually find out what is going on in the world. Try reading the news as part of your daily morning routine. When your teachers bring up current events in class, you will dazzle them with you keen mind. Your smart friends will also be so impressed with your ability to reference The New York Times.


6. Know Where To Go!
So, you have read all about your new school and have been on a campus visit, but what do you know about the city or the region? If you love Starbucks, where can you get a cup of study juice the fastest? If you are living off campus, where is the best place to get healthy home cooking when you really need a dose of mac and cheese? You will have four years to get to know this wonderful city, but having an idea about awesome restaurants, great hairstylists and the best place to get a mani-pedi, will make you a star with your new friends and ease the pangs of homesickness.

7. Connect with your roomie
Though you may want to leave the heart-to-hearts until you’re moved in, take the summer to get to know your future roomie. Whether you want a face-to-face encounter or you’re more comfortable with texting, tweeting or facetiming, make sure to get the conversation rolling! The first few days will be less awkward if you share information about family and likes/dislikes.  You guys can start a friendship before you actually move in.  This will make you a dynamic duo as you face FreshO (freshman orientation) and the start of your new journey. If things don’t spark well in the beginning, don’t fret.  Just like siblings, roommates may not have a lot of common interests, but they become “family”.  It is good to lay down roots early.

Be the best version of you. Typography poster. Motivational Background

No matter how much fun or how many failures you had in high school, college is a different experience. This is where you get to discover who you are and how you want to make a life for yourself. Be inspired by people that have made a difference in your life or in the world. Make a Pinterest aspiration/inspiration board. I actually have a Hall of Fame board where I post people and quotes that inspire me.  The list grows all the time. You are in a position to decide how you want to shape the rest of your life. Take some time to  look around and see what fits.   Remember to stay true to who you are, and what you believe.  Let this exercise help you find out how to be your own kind of Superwoman.

Remember to stay true to who you are, and what you believe 


9. Start a Journal
I tried so hard to keep from stating this because almost everybody talks about journaling.  So much so, that it is almost clichéd.

But, it is so important!

You are about to embark on the first four years of your adult life. The way you look at life us about to change.  Next year, you will be amazed at what you wrote today.

Keeping a daily, weekly, monthly or even quarterly record of how you are feeling, what transpired and your future hopes is so important.

You will be able to see how much you have grown, and refocus on what you really want when the pressures of school and life get distracting. This is one of those times when I have to say… just trust me on this!


Need help? I have the DayOne Journal app on my iPad and it reminds me to stop and write my thoughts for the day.  Perfection!

Prefer to write by hand, and but don’t know if you will have anything to say?  Start Where You Are   is an interactive journal designed to help  you be more creative and self-motivated.  It also helps you cut through the day’s clutter and chaos with simple reminders to take time for yourself and your dreams.

Best thing, it’s less than $10!


10. Have a Money Plan
Your first real life wake-up call, is when you are; hungry, off campus and don’t have enough money for a dollar menu item. You can’t go home and raid mom’s fridge and it is too late for dinner on campus. What is one to do???

How about, not letting this happen?  You are going to be ahead of the game by being a great money manager. Your parents may give you an emergency credit card. Make sure that you both agree on what an emergency is.  A 75% off sale  does not qualify (although it kinda feels like it).

Make sure to budget your money to last longer than the month does. This is your profit, and you can roll it into an emergency fund/savings for next month.

Count up what it should cost you for food, gas, clothes etc., and make a budget before you get on campus.  You can download this free basic budget  to get started.

During the first couple of months, reality will set in and you will see how you need to amend that budget, but be really careful.  Once you see your expenses, decide if getting a part-time job is right for you.   If you’re fortunate enough to have your parents give you a budget, discuss your spending restrictions before buying that new bag to reward yourself after a night of studying.

Also, I don’t advise getting credit cards in college unless you have a lot of experience at paying them off each month.  The thing you don’t want to do is be late on your credit card and start off your new post-college life with bad credit.



This is an adventure, a rite of passage, a journey. As you prepare for college, spend the summer stretching your boundaries and doing things that you have never done before. If you have the budget to do a road trip with your girls, have safe fun.  Take a skydiving class or teach a social media class to seniors.   Build up your confidence at new things so that when you leave for school and everything is new, you have a history of success to keep you encouraged. If you’d like to get a quick 5-day confidence boost, I have a great bootcamp that is waiting for you! #CAMPCRUSHIT You get 5 days of email motivation to help you get your mojo activated for your new journey!

Get used to being outside of your comfort zone BEFORE you leave for college. 

African American mother helping daughter pack for college

12. Spend time with your parents
This is another one of those things that you will have to trust me on.  Your parents are going through serious pre-withdrawal about not having you at home every night. You may not know it yet, but you will miss them too.  Take this time to hang out and do movie nights, shop and make memories.  You may want to ask for cooking lessons and how to change your tire.  Your parents will cherish this time with you.  Give it to them and to yourself!.

Have you ever used your jumper cables or made your grandmother’s “secret recipe” chicken soup? You will need this info and it is a great chance to bond.

You are all set.  Start early, and enjoy your pre-college days.  You are living in the best years of your life. ENJOY!

P.S.  If you ever want to chat or need other info, let me be your college coach. You can make an appointment with me or get other resources here.  #newbestfriend

If you have a pre-college tip, please share!  FYI if you choose to use the 411 Kit or the resume service they will provide me money for fries to go with my shake!   I would love to hear from you. Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below and help me spread the love.  Share and spread the love.  –MJ