While the summer is just about to begin for many students across the country, it is never to early to start preparing for how you can use this summer to your advantage. Today on the blog I am sharing 10 things you need to do to prepare for college this summer, because who doesn't love some good preparation. This is a post specifically made for graduating seniors, but you can use these tips during most summer breaks between years of college in my opinion.
1. Get Ready to rock orientation
Orientation is a fun way for you to get to know your college, get registered for classes, and get pumped to attend in the fall. It's time to shake your nerves and really get out there as much as possible so you can make connections with people:
Play the ice breaker games
You will be playing a ton of them for orientation and throughout your entire welcome week experience. Once you get over the fact that you are playing them, they really aren't as bad as you think. So brave the BS for just a few minutes and get excited to play those trust building and bonding games.
Follow Your Schedule
Once you have your schedule set up, try to take some time to follow it. How long does it take you to get from your residence hall to your classes? Where are your classes in relation to each other? Obviously you are walking a lot during orientation, so the route will probably be a little harder today. If you can do it today, though, you can do it any day.
Make a goal to talk to a certain number of people
Whether you want to talk to at least one new person or five new people–set a goal before you attend orientation. Have that goal in your mind and try to meet or exceed that goal. This will keep meeting people at the top of your mind, especially if you are an introvert and your natural tendency is to not talk.
Remember, no one knows you here
You can sit and mope about this fact all day, or you can make lemons out of lemonade. No one can judge you based on your behavior because no one knows you. They don't know what you were known for in high school and frankly they don't care. Don't let those insecurities seep into your orientation at a completely different school.
Wear comfortable clothes
Yes, you can look cute, but don't try to rock heels or get too dressy. Orientation is hot and sweaty. It's usually during the summer which means it's hot AF outside. You will also be doing a lot of walking. Be comfortable because no one has time to listen to a person who is nagging because they didn't plan properly. On that note, still check the weather because the summer brings crazy weather and sometimes crazy rain and you want to be prepared.
2. Purchase a laptop/Perform Maintenance on your laptop
I hate to break it to you, but there is a good chance that you need a laptop to survive in college (or a desktop if you are okay with that.) I am obviously a big fan of MacBooks. I used to love Microsoft laptops, but I could never find the right ones. Microsoft Laptops are built by so many different companies and there are way less regulations on what constitutes a good PC laptop. On the other hand, MacBooks are only made by Apple so the quality of computer is a million times better on a MacBook. At the end of the day though, it is all about your budget, and even a Chromebook can really help you out during the college process.
Your college library probably has tons of resources to keep you connected, but if you like studying from the comfort of your home or anywhere on campus, having your own laptop is crucial. I didn't carry my laptop to class a lot or out and about while I was on campus unless i needed it for a project. When I was in the library, I normally used their computers and laptops in undergrad. It is so important to have your own stuff, though, because you don't always want to study in the library. When you have your own computer you can study whenever and wherever you want.
If you already feel comfortable with your laptop or desktop of choice, be sure to do a little maintenance on it during the summer. Run an in-depth virus scan on it, clean your computer of as much stuff as you don't need anymore (and store stuff you need but not at the moment in the cloud or on an external hard drive so it doesn't take up space on your computer), and just update it as much as you can to make sure that it is proper working order. You never want to work on a faulty laptop because being closed out of a test or losing all the hard work you put in on a paper at 11 PM is never acceptable.
3. Connect with your roommate
You need to take some time this summer to connect with your roommate. Starting the relationship before you move to college if possible is key. Chances are you will be able to find out beforehand as your college will send this information to you (probably via your Housing Portal on your campus website.) Check out this information and find ways to bond with your roommate:
- Talk or text with each other on the phone.
- Pick a similar orientation date and meet before the first day of class.
- Meet each other in a city that is about halfway between the both of you. Bring a friend or parent for moral support if you don't want to be alone with them just yet and you are still scoping them out.
No matter how you meet or “meet” them be sure to reach out before Welcome Week. This way you are able to get a better sense of the type of roommate they will be. Also, be honest in all communications. Neither of you gain any points for lying because the truth will come out in some form or fashion. Instead of lying about how clean you are or how many times a week you will want to have boys in your room, let them know upfront. If this is an issue for them, they will be able to find other living arrangements and if it is not an issue for them you will both be on the same page. You don't have to be crude about your behavior, just be upfront and honest so your roommate can decide how they feel about these issues before you put them in a difficult situation and vice versa. Encourage your roommate to be honest with you so you can decide if you would feel comfortable living in their environment.
It is important that you don't just decide to put yourself in a bubble. Living with people who are different than you can be an eye opening and wonderful experience. At the same time, you must know what crosses the line for you. For example, if they have a service dog and you are allergic to dogs–that would be something you just couldn't budge on unless you wanted to be uncomfortable in your own room the entire time.
4. Hang out with your friends from home
You may simply not have as much time with them during the semester, especially during your first semester as you are trying to find your footing at your new school. Spend time this summer hanging out with them and spending as much time as possible with them:
- Make friend dates a frequent thing: Go to the movies, get a pedicure together, go to the water park, etc. Try to spend as much quality friend time together during the summer as possible.
- Throw a joint party: If your friend is also attending college, throw a party together to celebrate both of y'alls college careers.
- Make plans to visit each other: If your colleges aren't too far apart, make some plans to visit each other's universities. Make it a fun event and show each other around your respective college towns.
Above all else, just make time for your friends this summer. When the fall returns it will not be the same. You won't see them in all your classes and you won't be seeing them at lunch. This is going to become a new normal for you so make sure that you are taking the time to get used to the college process before you go.
5. spend time with your family
Just as you need to spend time with your friends, you also need to spend time with your family. I don't want to stretch your time too thin, but you can't be a shut in all summer. Your family is dealing with their own emotional baggage (even if they are trying to act tough and strong so you are tough and strong) so soothe their worries by spending time with them.
- Set aside a family night each week: Even if you hang out with various friends, have a job, or whatever else you decide to do during the summer–make sure you set aside some time to spend time with your family. Cook dinner together, see a movie, play some awesome board games. Do one super involved family activity a week.
- Be open with your conversation: You will probably have some difficult conversations with your family during this time. Be open, honest, and caring. Listen to your parents concerns and try to do the necessary research to lessen their nerves.
- Set up a communication schedule: When you spend every waking hour talking to your family, it can really haunt your experience at college. To be honest, hanging out with your family is often a lot more fun than being waist deep in college school work. So be upfront about your expectations with each other. Set up communications boundaries, but also check in with your family regularly. Don't be so busy living that you forget to check in with the people who love you most.
Spending time with your family is crucial in my opinion so get to planning those family game nights.
6. comparison shop for your textbooks
Comparison shopping is so important, because let's face it–college textbooks are SO expensive (especially when you decide to purchase from the college book store.) The college bookstore is expensive for a couple of reasons, but honestly I feel that it is mainly due to the fact that it is convenient and allows future financial aid to be used as a payment. Many stores are allowing you to use financial aid at least in the way that they are allowing you to order now and pay later (with your credit card on file.) Here are some alternatives to the campus bookstore:
- Your College Town's Off Campus Bookstore (think Textbook Brokers)
In order to further save money you can decide to rent applicable books or buy them used. You don't have to pay full price unless it makes financial sense. For example, I brought my Spanish book new because I would be using it for three semesters straight and I wanted to make sure that my book would bode well over a year and a half time span.
Also consider factoring in what you could get back in return for the book. If you have to buy it used or new there is a good chance you can sell it back to the bookstore or somewhere else for money. It's always good to shop around, but I knew quite a few people who would purchase their textbook off campus or on line and then sell their copies back to the university bookstore. This is a good way to capitalize on your college because you will pay less but the university is likely to pay more for the book because they sell it for more than the average store.
- If you are truly interestested in selling, consider selling your book to another student taking the course after you. They are likely to feel comfortable paying a higher price than what you can sell it back for as long as it is under the purchase price or around the same purchase price as the lowest priced version of that product.
7. Purge and pack
You need to be very careful when deciding what to pack for college. You don't need everything that you needed when you were at home. Think of ways that you can downsize your necessities. For example:
- If you like to read–don't bring your whole stash of books. Learn, instead, to live with a digital library on your Kindle or iPad.
- If you like shoes a lot, figure out the type of events you would feasibly be going to, and narrow your shoe choices down as much as possible. You will learn quickly that you probably don't need five pairs of tennis shoes or heels.
- If you like makeup, give yourself a make up bag. Figure out exactly what you need to make the looks that you think you will need to make. Then bring exact items.
You are not pigeonholed to what you pack. If you ever feel like you are going without something important ask your parents to ship you the things you are missing, go home and get the item if it is a feasible option for you, order it online, or go to a store in your college town to purchase the item.
We talked about connecting with your roommate earlier–connect with them again during this process and get some of the essentials sorted. Who is bring the television? Who is bringing the fridge? There will probably be certain bigger items that you can split among the two of you. This will save you a lot of time and money when it comes to getting everything packed and ready to go.
understand that you will probably have to take it back yourself
During the process of move in, at least at my alma mater, the entire community came together to help everyone unpack their cars as long as you came within the scheduled time for your residence hall. That is a really nice gesture and definitely made the process of moving into my college a million times easier, but please do not expect this courtesy on move out. You can bring all the things that you want to college with you, but you have to understand that you are on your own when you go back home. So–pack with intent.
Also, if you can, start taking things home as soon as possible. You may not go home often, but if you make the trip home during any big breaks like winter or spring break, take a couple of things with you. Evaluate the items scattered around your room and take things home if you don't use them.
8. Get comfortable right outside of your comfort zone
I know what you are thinking, Amanda, this comment makes no sense. How do you get comfortable right outside of your comfort zone? I mean, it's a comfort zone for a reason–correct? Yes, you are correct, but nothing good has ever come from living your entire life within your comfort zone. I hate to get a little basic on you, but this is so true. You have to be comfortable with the fact that your comfort zone may need to be abandoned for a good portion of your college career. It doesn't mean that you will live most of your life outside of your comfort zone, but that a good portion of the best moments in your college career will take place outside of it.
For example, on a whim I decided with my roommate my freshman year that we would go through formal recruitment in the spring of my freshman year. That was a small moment outside my comfort zone that produced massive results when I became a member of Tri Sigma. After finding my home I was able to return for the most part to my comfort zone, but that brief stint outside of it really changed my life.
You need to be okay and comfortable with the fact that sometimes you need those brief moments where you live on the edge a little bit. You don't have to get a house and a mortgage outside of your comfort zone, think of it as a brief hotel stay.
9. get lots of rest
College is a force to be reckoned with. When you are attending college it is amazing, but it also feels like a constant hustle until you are able to come up for air for a little bit to take a small break. The four years of college pass fast. One second you are moving in to your dorm during your freshman year and the next second you are walking across the stage at graduation. From the outside looking in, it doesn't seem fast, hell from the inside looking in it doesn't seem very fast. Then, you look back at your collegiate memories, and you wonder where all that time went.
Sleep is important across the board, but I really suggest that this summer, you get some rest. Staying up until 3 AM every night is tempting, I know I basically did that every summer. Instead, though, get quality rest. Take your time, slow down a bit, and sleep at a normal hour. This helps in a lot of ways, mainly in the fact that you will be a lot less anxious about school starting back because you will have a normal sleeping schedule. It is also beneficial, because you need to stockpile as much rest as possible. I mean, you can't stockpile rest and use it later, but the more refreshed you are before you start classes the easier the entire process will be. Getting a good amount of rest is imperative
10. Make a game plan
Going to college without a plan is one of the worst things you can do in my opinion. Having a plan of attack for how I wanted Welcome Week to go as well as where I saw myself on the university campus was so important to my first semester success. When you don't have a plan (or maybe even a couple of plans), you wander around aimlessly thinking about all the things you could be doing at home, which creates unnecessary homesickness, and can cut college careers way too short.
Instead, use this worksheet to make a college attack plan. This worksheet is completely free for you to use, and I encourage that you fill it in as much as possible. You can re-do this worksheet every semester or you can just do it once while you are preparing to transition.