For many college-bound teens, preparing for the start of the semester can be chaotic. Buying textbooks and necessities, socializing and staying healthy at college can be stressful for many students.
And unfortunately, there's no manual. But here are some helpful tips for kids heading off to college:
* Buy Used Books When Possible: The average student spends $700 on textbooks yearly, but used books from the college bookstore can save you 25 percent. Plus, it's easier to return books to the campus store than to another retailer or Web site. This comes in handy should you drop a class.
"College stores strive to provide as many used textbooks as possible and to make course materials as affordable as possible, but they often sell out quickly," says Charles Schmidt, spokesman for the National Association of College Stores. "Shop the store early or buy directly from its Web site to take advantage of your college's book sales."
* Consider Renting Books or Electronic Texts: More college stores are offering these options, and rentals can give students temporary access to course materials for about one-third to half the price of buying new texts.
* Connect Online: Thanks to sites like Facebook and Twitter, college-bound students can now meet roommates before orientation and figure out who's bringing what for their dorm room.
Students also may be able to virtually meet professors and upperclassman by connecting to the college's social networking sites. Many college bookstores maintain their own Facebook page or Twitter feed, so check them out for money-saving deals.
* Eat Well, Stay Healthy: For many college freshmen, the first time away from home means ice cream before dinner. While, there's no crime in that, a balanced meal helps keep off the dreaded "Freshman 15." Intramural sports also are great for staying fit while socializing.
* Buy Local and Make Friends: While it's tempting to buy books, dorm supplies and electronics from the Internet, this can prove more expensive (especially when you add shipping). Buying locally usually is cheaper and can help new students become acquainted with their new home. In fact, college stores nationwide employ approximately 30,000 students, making them great places to meet peers or get advice from upperclassmen who know the professors.
You also can be sure you're getting all needed course materials in one place and are taking advantage of local discounts.
* Get What's Coming to You: Students should keep receipts and be aware of tax credits they can get for academic-related expenses.
"Textbooks, as well as tuition and fees not covered by scholarships or grants, can be claimed as a tax credit of up to $2,500 on that year's tax return under the American Opportunity Tax Credit," says Schmidt.
For details on applying for the tax credit, visit textbookaid.org.