Starter Guide for Incoming Students

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Congratulations on your journey to Carlson, and I couldn't be happier to welcome the incoming international students of the class of 2023. Transitionary periods are always challenging and moving overseas could add additional layers of complexity to the process.  

To help with this transition, I have compiled information from my own personal experiences as well as other online sources in putting together a starter guide to help you get a jump start once you arrive. 

This guide is split into four sections (Getting Settled, Housing Options, Transportation, and Miscellaneous) and is hyperlinked with useful links and information. 

  1. Getting Set Up 

Phone Number 

The first thing you probably need to do once you get here is to get your hands on a local phone number. Setting this up early will not only help you avoid costly international service charges but may be imperative in setting up other accounts (banking, utilities, ride-sharing, etc.)  

You have three choices when it comes to cell phone plans: 

  1. Using an unlocked cell phone from home and purchasing a new SIM card in the US 

  1. Buying a new phone and setting up a pre-paid plan 

  1. Buying a new cell phone and setting up a contract plan. 

For option 1, it's important to note that most international phones are unlocked, and hence you can just purchase a sim card at one of the cellular network providers, as detailed below.  

For option 2, pre-paid plans require you to pay a fee each month upfront but do not require a contract. In general, they cost more per month but do not require a Social Security number (SSN) or a credit check. 

For option 3, contract plans generally last two years and require either an SSN or a credit check, which most international students cannot provide. 

Most international start with option 1 upon arrival and then transition to option 3 once they are settled in or are ready for a phone upgrade. 

Cellular Network Providers 

  • AT&T 

  • Verizon 

  • T-Mobile 

  • Mint Mobile (cheaper option) 

  • Sprint (cheaper option) 


Pro Tip: Try forming a group to get on to a family plan. The family plans are substantially cheaper than getting an individual plan 


Having a US bank account will make it much easier to manage your finances, get access to money quickly without crazy fees, and easily pay off your credit card bill. 

Because most international students generally don't have cars or don't want to take an Uber every time they need to get cash, it's best to check out which banks have ATMs/cash machines on campus and/or which banks have branches within walking distance of the campus. In addition to proximity, you'll want to do a bit of homework on what types of bank accounts they offer and what the requirements are. Usually, you will need a photo ID, such as a passport or Minnesota State ID, to open an account, and you may be asked to provide a Social Security Number (SSN). However, please note that you are not required to have an SSN.  

There are basically two different types of accounts: 

Checking Accounts - Many institutions offer free checking if you keep a balance of $100 to $300 in your account; a few (e.g., TCF Bank) offer free checking with no minimum balance. Banks that do not offer free checking may charge you a small fee per check you use or a basic monthly fee. 

Savings Accounts – These accounts earn interest. You can withdraw any amount at any time during regular hours. Some institutions will charge a monthly service fee if your balance is below a certain amount or if you make more than a certain number of transactions per month. 

In general, you're looking to set up a checking account that has low to no monthly service fees, doesn't require a high minimum balance, and has a modest transaction limit that safeguards your account if your debit/ATM card gets stolen. 

Below are a few banking options that have an on-campus presence: 

  • Chase 

    • $12 monthly fee unless you maintain a $1500 minimum balance 

    • Great customer service 

  • Wells Fargo 

    • No minimum balance requirement 

  • TCF  

    • No minimum balance requirement

    • Student offers 

  • US Bank

    • No minimum balance requirement 

    • Student offers 


It is possible that with the appropriate clothing you can enjoy each season that Minnesota has to offer. For both fall and spring it is always a good idea to have a light jacket with you. The day usually starts and ends with cooler temperatures. Otherwise during the day, you may only need to wear pants and a long-sleeve shirt. When it comes to clothing, dressing in layers is your best bet and you can easily respond to your environment, adding or subtracting layers as you get warmer or colder. 

The three fundamental layers are: 

  • Inner layer (next to the skin): Your base layer should wick sweat away from your body to keep your skin dry. Cotton should not be used - save your t-shirts for other purposes.  

  • Insulating layer: This layer will keep you warm and can be shed once you warm up. Wool, fleece, and pile are all good materials for an insulating layer shirt or vest; a down jacket also works. 

  • Outer layer: To protect you from the elements, a windproof and water-resistant jacket should be worn loosely. 

If the sun is out, you don’t need to wear your outer layer. If it starts to get windy, however, you can put the outer layer back on with little fuss. The beauty of layering is that you can adapt to the weather around you. 

Winter Essentials: 

  • Coat or Jacket: A thick coat is vital. Choose one that is lined with down, or a technical man-made insulation. A waterproof outside and a hood are nice features. Some people prefer longer coats (above the knee) for extra warmth. 

  • Boots: Most Minnesotans have snow boots for outdoor activities, and a more basic boot (like a hiking or sheepskin boot) for day-to-day wear. 

  • Mittens & Gloves: Waterproof insulated gloves are a good investment if you plan on spending more time outside. Mittens tend to be warmer than gloves but offer the wearer less flexibility. 

  • Hats: A large percentage of body heat is lost through your head, so a nice warm hat is strongly recommended. Look for a fleece, wind-resistant hat or a wind-proof bomber that that has pile-lined flaps to pull over the ears.  

  • Ear Warmers/Scarves:  When the wind blows, unprotected ears and necks are soon in agony. Ear warmer or headbands cover up exposed ears, while a fleece or knit scarf covers your neck and lower face. 



The purpose of getting US identification documentation is so that you will not have to carry your passport around. One great option to quickly secure valid US identification is the State ID card. Securing this ID is relatively straightforward and easy. 

You will have to go to the nearest DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) office and apply for a State ID. This doesn't require any test but requires the following documentation 


Immunization Record 

International students who are not carrying their immunization records must get tested for past immunizations and then get the required immunization hold removed. Immunization holds will affect your ability to sign up for courses 

This can be done at Boynton Health located on the East Bank Campus 


Health Insurance 

U of M student health insurance is mandatory for international students, therefore please don't go searching for other options. 

Information about the U of M's health insurance can be found here. If, for some reason, you have your health insurance covered (ex. through spouse employment in the US) you can opt out


  1. Housing Options 

Before you arrive in the US, you may want to consider both short-term and long-term housing options. Below is an extensive list of options that current and previous international students have recommended. 

Short Term Housing (assuming you arrive early and need temporary housing till you find permanent options) 

  • University of Minnesota Housing Options

    • You can submit a request for 'International Early Arrival Housing' using the following link

    • Rooms include linens (bed sheets, blanket), towels, and pillows. Meals are not included in your room price. 

    • Pricing: $35 a night for a single room at one of the university's housings options 

    • This cost will be charged and reflected on your student account in September 

    • Housing will be located on the East Bank campus (usually at Centennial Hall) and will thus involve a short commute or a walk to get to the Carlson School of Management located on West Bank 

    • Temporary housing at the university must be vacated before 15th September   

    • Bring your University ID number, University email address, and/or confirmation email for reference at check-in 

  • Hotels (Close to Carlson) 

  • Graduate Minneapolis 

    • Address: 615 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis, MN 55414 

    • Telephone: +1 (612) 379-8888 

    • Price: $75 to $150 


Long Term Housing  


  1. Transportation 

Minneapolis has several public transportation options to get around the city 

  • Light Rail 

    • Possibly the easiest and quickest way to get around the city when you don't have your own transportation 

    • The blue line and the green lines are the most important routes and the ones that you will use most often 

    • Several green line stations are located within the UMN campus, and commute between these stations is free of cost for enrolled students as long as you have a valid Light Rail Access card that can be acquired free of charge at the University's Transportation and Safety Building located near the East Bank Station 

  • Bus Service 

  • Ride-Sharing Platforms: Uber/Lyft 

  • Cycle and Scooter Rentals: NiceRide, Bird, Lyft 

When you arrive for the first time at the Minneapolis−Saint Paul International Airport (MSP), your best bet to get into the city quickly and safely would be through Uber(your international account should be functional as long as you have added a credit/debit card in the payments tab) or Lyft. However, you could also consider taking the Blue Line of the light rail into Downtown Minneapolis if your destination is on or close to a light rail station. 


  1. Miscellaneous 

Recurring monthly budget  

Expenses, in general, are very subjective, but the below table should give you a rough understanding of what month-to-month expenses may look like. The first couple of months may involve significantly higher miscellaneous expenditure on account of one-time expenses (winter clothing, furniture, etc.), but this should stabilize soon.  

Expense Item 

Rough Estimate 

Rent/Lease (single bedroom in shared apartment) 

$700 - $1350 


$75 - $200 

Utilities (electricity, internet, etc.) 

$50 - $100 


$50 - $100 

Cellular Plan (unlimited data) 

$40 - $75 

Miscellaneous (eating out, Spotify, Netflix, etc.) 

$50 - $300 


Fight your desire to sleep during daylight 

Your first instinct coming off the plane may be to sleep. Unless you cannot physically keep your eyes open because of jet lag, it's best if you fight the desire to sleep during daylight hours. First off, all the places and businesses that are important to your first week generally aren't open outside the hours of 8 am to 6 pm, so daytime sleeping can have the negative effect of delaying essential tasks from getting done. 

In the broader sense, getting into a consistent, eight-hour sleep routine as early as possible will be beneficial to your health once classes begin. Research states that it takes the average person a week for their sleep patterns to adjust. 

Once classes start, make sure you try and stick to a consistent sleep routine as much as you can. All-nighters and sleeping through the day aren’t the best way to boost your productivity. 

Groceries and Food Delivery 

Online Grocery Delivery  is probably the most convenient option but may involve a minimum order value ($30) and an annual subscription fee ($60 -$100). Options include Amazon, Walmart, and Instacart 

Offline Stores: Target, Walmart, Trader Joes, Cub Foods, Fresh Thyme, & Aldi 

Indian Grocery Store Options: Pooja Grocers and  Little India International Market 

 Food Delivery: Uber Eats, Grub Hub, & Door Dash 


The last and probably the most important piece of miscellaneous advice I would like to leave you with is that you didn't get here by accident! 

You're smart, determined, and full of potential. There will be bumps along the way, but everyone is here to help. Speak kindly to yourself and the people around you. If you're having trouble, don’t hesitate to reach out to a peer! And please enjoy your MBA life! 


Harsha Reddy, MBA '2021