The summer months between high school graduation and your first semester of college will fly by. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the time you have to prepare for college. Of course, you’ll be packing your things, visiting your new campus, registering for classes, attending orientations, and getting used to the idea of being farther away from your family and friends.
But there are many other things you can do over the summer to make your transition from high school and living at home to dorm life and college classes room an easier one.
Tips for Preparing For College:
Buy Your Books Ahead of Time
Once you’ve signed up for your fall classes, there’s no reason to wait to buy your textbooks and other reading materials.
Contact your campus bookstore to get information about the required reading for your classes. By finding out this information ahead of time, you can also shop online, compare prices to those in your campus bookstore, and possibly save yourself quite a bit of cash.
Once you have your books, there’s no reason not to get a jump start on your reading.
Look for Course Information Online
Many professors and instructors will post course outlines or even full syllabi on the web. Explore your college’s web site and see if this is the case for some or all of your courses. You’ll know when major reading assignments and papers will be due and when you’ll be taking major exams before you even set foot in the classroom.
Get Familiar with Your School’s General Requirements
Familiarizing yourself with your schools general academic requirements is one of the best ways to prepare for college. Even if you haven’t yet decided on a major, you can start planning your academic schedule.
General requirements are courses that are required for your degree regardless of your major. Almost every college requires students to take courses in various subjects outside of your major. While these requirements vary from school to school, they usually involve some combination of arts and humanities (literature, theatre, music, art), social sciences (psychology, history, economics, political science), math and physical sciences. Your college might also include foreign language or computer literacy.
You can find out information about your school’s general requirements in their online or print catalog. Read up on these requirements and start browsing through course schedules and catalogs to identify courses you’d like to take to meet them.
Brush up on Your Math, Science, Writing and Language
Your high school writing, biology, chemistry, math and foreign language courses are the foundations for the classes you will take in college. Think of them as the building blocks your professors will expect you to have in place as you go on to more advanced material.
You’ve heard the expression “use it or lose it.” Review and brush up on the material you covered in those courses, particularly in areas where you might have struggled. Having a solid foundation when you walk into your first lecture will help you get a good start and stay on top of your college classes.
Also familiarize yourself with or review the basics of APA writing style. This is the format most colleges will require for writing assignments.
Learn the Basics of Laundry
Maybe laundry has been one of your household chores for quite some time. But if you live in a household where Mom has always done all the laundry, now is a great time to learn to do it yourself.
If you’re living on campus, you don’t want to have to spend your weekends lugging home laundry, or find yourself out of clean clothes when you can’t get home. Learn the simple basics of taking care of your own clothes, and your college life will be much easier. Learning to replace lost buttons yourself is a good idea, too.
Figure Out How to Get Around
Many college campuses don’t allow freshmen to have cars on campus. So even if you have your own wheels, you might be reliant on public transportation once you move to campus.
Find out whether your college will allow you to have a car on campus. If not, learn whether they have a campus shuttle bus system or other easily accessible public transportation.
Research the Local Community
Is your college in an isolated rural area, or will you be located in the middle of a small town or large city? Spend some time learning about your soon-to-be surroundings.
How far will you be from local movie theaters or eateries for when you want to escape campus food? Where will you go to pick up personal care items? Will you have to wait until you go home for the weekend to get a haircut, or is their a local salon nearby?
The more you learn about the area where you will live while you’re in college, the easier your transition will be.
You should also research crime statistics both on campus and in your local community. Know before you start exploring your new surroundings which areas are generally safe and which might best be avoided.
Find Out About Clubs and Organizations on Campus
One of the best ways to meet people and make friends once you’re on campus will be to participate in activities that interest you.
The college’s web site and literature should provide lots of information about campus clubs and organizations. Whether you’re looking for recreational sports, writing clubs, volunteer organizations or gaming clubs, chances are your campus offers something of interest.
You don’t want to overload yourself with social obligations during your first semester. But identifying one or two groups you want to explore once you’re on campus is a great way to prepare for college life. Making friends who share your hobbies and interests and can help you explore new activities is a critical part of the college experience.
Get Into a Fitness Routine
In high school, you may have participated in a sport. Chances are, you at least had gym class regularly. Most of your meals were probably prepared by your parents, and a healthy snack was as close as your fridge.
You may not have gym class every semester in college. So unless you’re participating in a team or recreational sport, you’ll have to make sure you get enough physical activity. A life of attending classes and studying can easily make you sedentary. On top of that, mom’s healthy meals will be replaced by dorm and cafeteria food. While most colleges make a conscious effort to provide healthy meal options for students, burgers, fries, pizza and fatty snacks are always readily available and sometimes the easiest thing to grab. No wonder many college freshmen find themselves packing on the pounds while they adjust to college life.
In preparing for college, it is important to consider your body as well as your mind. Start a regular workout routine this summer, whether it is swimming at a local pool, working out with weights or just taking brisk walks in your neighborhood. Your college campus will most likely provide you with access to workout facilities, and you’ll be much more likely to make use of them if exercise is already a habit.
Find Healthy Snacks You Enjoy
You may not have a microwave or other cooking appliances in your dorm room. Rather than give in to the urge to grab a candy bar and a bag of chips to fuel your late-night study sessions, you’ll want to have healthy and tasty snack food on hand.
Start getting into the habit now of picking up and storing healthy, low-calorie, tasty snack items on your own.
Get on a Schedule
High school forced you to live on a schedule. In college, you’ll have a schedule too, but it will be of your own choosing. You’ll plan when you take courses, and may find you have long breaks between classes several days a week.
In addition, in large college classes your professor may not regularly take attendance or penalize you for not showing up. There will be lots of fun activities going on across campus, and the urge to skip class and hang out with new friends, attend a social event, or just catch a few extra hours of snooze time while your roommate is out can be overwhelming.
But you’re paying for the privilege of attending class, and the assumption is that you’ll be there because you want to learn. There won’t be as many people looking over your shoulder to make sure you hold up your end of the bargain. But if you don’t, you’ll only be cheating yourself, and your exam grades will most likely show it.
To prepare for college, where you’ll be responsible for your own schedule, you should plan and stick to a routine over the summer. Set your alarm and get up on your own. Figure out when you’ll work out, when you’ll spend time reading and doing other college preparatory activities, and when you’ll just relax and hang out with your friends.
Live on a Budget
In college, you’ll most likely have to learn to live on a weekly or monthly budget, and factor in not only your entertainment but personal care items, food, and school supplies.
Learn now to get the things you needs on a budget and use them sparingly. Talk with your parents about managing your expenses and personal needs while in college, and start mapping out a budget that will work for you.
Get to Know Your Roommate
One of the biggest aspects of preparing for college is realizing that you’ll be living in close quarters with at least one other student. Chances are, this student will be someone you haven’t yet met.
Many colleges will help roommates connect with each other months or weeks before move-in time. Exchange emails, instant messages or phone calls with the person you’ll be living with once the semester begins. Talk about your interests and personal habits. Are you both night owls or is one of you a morning person? Do you both prefer a quiet environment, or is one of you more likely to be often playing music or having friends stop by? How will you manage differences? Will you agree on a certain way to decorate your room, or will you each just make the most of your limited personal space?
You’ll never be able to get the full impression of what living with your roommate will be like before you actually do it. People who have been friends for years learn all sorts of new things about each other if they find themselves living together. But by getting to know each other and talking about the basics early on, you’ll get a head start in forging a friendship or at least a congenial living arrangement.
By brushing up on your academics, researching your school’s academic programs, getting to know your roommate and your new community, and learning to take responsibility for your own budget, schedule and fitness, you’ll be well on you way to a successful first semester at college.