Beginning your college career is certain to be exciting, exhilarating, and probably even nerve-wracking. These feelings are normal, but they can also be overwhelming – the time spent obtaining a higher education is life-changing, identity-impacting era. You can keep your anxieties under control by preparing thoroughly for this new chapter of your life.

To begin, pack carefully, yet sparingly. If you are leaving home for college, trying to figure out what you should bring is a stressful experience in itself. You will probably be afforded small living quarters, and you will be challenged to use them judiciously. Use storage bins that can fit in a closet or under your bed, and consult with your roommates-to-be about items that can be shared.

Having roommates at all may prove to be a significant transition. Sharing space is not easy, particularly when it comes to visitors, noise, and cleaning issues. For the best possible relationship, set some ground rules as soon as possible. Discuss your personal limits, create a cleaning schedule, and perhaps even the instatement of quiet time. You don’t need to agree on every matter, but negotiating a reasonable compromise will certainly promote harmonious living.

Your next step is to create a budget and stay faithful to it. You may be well aware of the high cost of your education, in addition to living expenses, books and other supplies. Many other costs aren’t so obvious. Nights out with friends, for instance, quickly drain bank accounts. Keep track of your expenditures by recording everything you spend. Minimize costs when possible, too. A great opportunity to do so comes in the form of textbooks. The average college student spends more than $600 on course materials per year, and investing in used items can substantially reduce this number. You may even be able to borrow some books from the library or your professor – free of charge.

In addition to taking care of your finances, take care of yourself too. This may seem obvious, but it can be especially challenging when you are balancing social, educational, and sometimes emotional demands. Be sure to maintain a consistent routine, and get sufficient rest, nutrition, and exercise. Cultivate a trustworthy support network that includes friends, family members, a doctor, your academic advisor, and possibly a counselor or therapist. Relaxation activities like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga are particularly effective.

Then think about which extracurricular activities interest you most. If a particular sport or club captures your attention, learn as much as possible about it. Find out about meeting times, requirements, and financial needs. Consider whether they might interfere with your academic responsibilities. Greek life is another option with which you may be presented, so balance the pros and cons of this as well.

Take advantage of technological opportunities as well. With such busy schedules and so many accounts to manage (banking and financial aid, program and class requirements, social activities, etc.), new developments in educational technology have never been more useful. Most institutions have applications available for managing obligations, which can be downloaded on most mobile devices.

Finally, get to know your professors and their office hours. Meeting individually with your instructors may not be required, but it is highly beneficial. Office hours are prime opportunities for getting clarification on assignments and discussing grades, for instance. Professors appreciate these visits as well, and cultivating relationships with them opens doors for support and resources that can last well into the future.

Preparing for your freshman experience is the perfect way to start your college career on the right foot. Being aware of and utilizing available resources, following a budget, setting personal boundaries, and taking good care of yourself are just some of the ways to pave the way to a positive, life-altering experience.