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Countdown to College

Paperwork, orientation, roommates and more

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The applications are done, the fat envelopes have arrived and the big decision has been made. Now all that's left are the piles of paperwork, frantic dorm shopping and plenty of anxious excitement - in short, four months worth of prep work, from doctor's appointments to roommate questionnaires, promissory notes, and orientation. Here's a countdown to get you through the process and keep everything on track.

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1. April: Sign Up for Campus Housing

Father Helping Daughter Move into Dormitory
Fuse/Getty Images
Some colleges guarantee housing for all four years, some for freshman year only, and still others take the first set of housing applicants and everyone else is on their own, scrambling to find an apartment or room rental off campus. So your family's first priority after getting that college acceptance, should be filling out that housing application, which is typically due on May 1. Here are answers to parents' most frequently asked questions about college housing, as well as tips on going to college while living at home.

2. May: Reserve an Orientation Spot

College orientation tour
Photo by Jackie Burrell
College orientation is more than a cursory introduction to a university. These one to two day sessions give new freshmen and transfer students - and their families - an overview of what to expect as a new college student. Signing up early for orientation is a good way to get your child's college career off to a good start for a number of reasons.

3. May: See the Doc

Doctor's bag
Courtesy Sanja Gjenero, Stock.Xchng Photos
Your college-bound child just sent in his deposit for freshman year. Now the deluge of paperwork begins. First up, make an appointment for your teen to visit his doctor and get all his immunizations updated in May of senior year. But you'll have other things to discuss too: prescription refills, emergencies and preexisting conditions.

4. June: Send Transcripts & Test Scores

Photo used courtesy of Hannah Boettcher, Stock.Xchng Photos
Transcripts need to be sent, along with any explanation for academic plunges or course disappearances, before your child's high school shuts down for summer. It's time to send advanced placement paperwork and test scores too.

5. June & July: Shop for the Dorms

Photo by Jackie Burrell
When it comes to outfitting the college dorm, you can ignore those glossy shelter magazines with the fabulous dorm layouts. Here’s what you actually need to buy, plus a handy downloadable list to take along.

6. July & August: Go to Orientation

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Headed for college orientation? Maximize your time there. Go off the grid and find answers to these questions about prepaid textbooks, birthday cakes and dorm room measurements too.

7. August: Choose a Dorm Meal Plan

Cafeteria
Photo courtesy of Keith Syvinski, Stock.Xchng Photos
Unless your child is attending a commuter college, chances are he'll be living in the dorms and eating in the dining hall. Here's how to keep your college kid well fed, without spending too much on dorm meal plans.

8. August or September: Move in to the Dorm!

Photo by Yellow Dog Productions/Getty Images
You’ve done the dorm shopping, loaded up on towels, totes and extra-long sheets. Now it’s time to pack. Here are nine tips for streamlining the dorm move-in day process.
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